The Magic Circle
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The Magic Circle Theatre
|Motto||Indocilis Privata Loqui
("not apt to disclose secrets")
|Purpose||To promote and advance the art of magic|
Applicants must qualify for membership, either through a performance exam or by a written thesis on a branch of magic, after which they will be designated Member of the Magic Circle (M.M.C.) Further distinctions may earn them the title Associate of the Inner Magic Circle (A.I.M.C.), a select group limited to 300 members. The Circle was founded in 1905, and was male-only until 1991. There is a junior branch, the Young Magicians Club, which gained popularity through the success of the Harry Potter franchise.
The Magic Circle was founded in 1905 after a meeting of 23 amateur and professional magicians at London's Pinoli's Restaurant. At this founders meeting, chaired by Servais Le Roy, those present decided upon the name of the Society – it was initially felt that the name of the Society should be the Martin Chapender Club, in memory of the noted performer, and founding member, who had recently died at the age of twenty-five. However, it was then agreed that the name "Magic Circle" would be more appropriate and that this name shared the same initials as those of Martin Chapender.
The first official meeting was at the Green Man public house in Soho, but meetings were later in a room at St George's Hall in Langham Place, where David Devant and John Nevil Maskelyne were regularly seen performing.
Devant became the first president of The Magic Circle, and in 1906, Maskelyne edited the first issue of The Magic Circular magazine, a regular feature for members ever since. The Magic Circular claims to be the longest-running regular magic magazine in conjuring history.
The club was male-only until 1991, when more than 75% of members voted to admit women. As of 2010 there were around eighty female members of The Magic Circle, including Paul Daniels' wife, Debbie McGee. In 2014 Megan Knowles-Bacon became the first female officer in The Magic Circle, as well as the youngest person to be elected as an officer; she was elected as secretary.
The motto of the society is the Latin indocilis privata loqui, roughly translated as "not apt to disclose secrets" (lit. "incapable [of] speaking [of] private [things]") ; members give their word not to wilfully disclose magic secrets other than to bona fide students of magic. Anyone breaking this or any other rule may be expelled.
Since 1998, The Magic Circle building in central London near Euston Station in Camden has been available for meetings and corporate entertainment. It was voted the UK's Number One Venue in the hospitality industry's Top 20 UK Venues poll 2008.
The Magic Circle's headquarters houses a theatre, library, museum, a dining room, a clubroom and bars. The museum features magic tricks, props, posters, programs, toys, photographs and artefacts related to conjuring history. Items of interest include, Robert Harbin’s original Zig Zag illusion, Chung Ling Soo's robes, an original Sooty with associated Harry Corbett apparatus, sets of props used by television magicians David Nixon and Tommy Cooper, items and a sound recording of Harry Houdini taken from an Edison cylinder, and a set of cups and balls used by HRH The Prince of Wales when he took his Magic Circle exam in 1975. Visits are by arranged tour.
Magicians who wish to join may spend up to two years as an Apprentice before applying for full membership. They need to have known two current members for at least one year and must be at least 18 years old. These two members are then asked to act as sponsors, or referees, on the candidate's application form and propose him or her as a suitable candidate for membership. Following the receipt and processing of the application, the candidate is invited to an interview with the examinations secretary, usually at the London headquarters. If the candidate proves suitable and sufficiently knowledgeable a performance exam is scheduled or a thesis may be written. The exam takes place in front of a panel of judges, and candidates must demonstrate their skills to members in a rehearsed act.
If a thesis is chosen, it is read by two examiners and a copy is made available in The Magic Circle library. The final stage is by vote by members of the Council, who will approve the candidate as a member. Once the applicant is successful, they are free to call themselves "Members of the Society" and use the letters M.M.C. after their name.
Members may take a further examination to achieve the degree of Associate of the Inner Magic Circle. The designation A.I.M.C. shows this higher membership. The A.I.M.C. degree can also be attained through thesis, and in rare cases – that is when a candidate gains 18 or higher out of a possible 20 marks in the written exam – examinees taking the M.M.C. exam are awarded the A.I.M.C. degree. Those who attain an A.I.M.C. degree as a result of a performance examination are awarded the A.I.M.C. with silver star.
Within the society, there are a number of members never exceeding three-hundred known as the "Inner Magic Circle". Full membership of the Inner Magic Circle is denoted by the letters M.I.M.C. after the member's name. Membership of the Inner Magic Circle is by call of The Society's President. The M.I.M.C. degree may be awarded with a gold star, to signify that the recipient is a performer of magic (as opposed to e.g. an inventor, historian or noteworthy volunteer for the Society). The honour of a gold star does not necessarily signify the holder's excellence as a performer and not all recipients are performers of excellence.
Members must undertake not to reveal magic secrets to anyone except bona fide magicians, on pain of expulsion.
The Young Magicians Club
The Young Magicians Club (YMC) is part of the Youth Initiative of The Magic Circle (the other major part being the prestigious Young Magician of the Year Competition) and is a club for magicians between the inclusive ages of 10 and 18 which was founded in 1996. Sponsored by The Magic Circle, members of the YMC meet for monthly workshops at The Magic Circle Headquarters, the 'Centre for the Magic Arts' in London. The Young Magicians Club has a current membership of around 200 members.
The Young Magicians Club's principal means of communication among its members is its bi-monthly magazine Secrets. The worldwide membership also communicates through a members-only on-line forum on the YMC website.
Membership in The Young Magicians Club requires no interview or exam and is open to all young people interested in magic. There are monthly all-day workshops for members who come from all over the country to take part. Adult members of the Magic Circle take on the responsibility of instructing the members of The Young Magicians Club. Local adult magic clubs will often have a junior magicians club attached to them but The Young Magicians Club is the only such club associated with The Magic Circle. Members of the The Young Magicians Club are eligible to join The Magic Circle at a reduced rate when they reach 18, but then they must complete the examination procedure for full membership.
The Young Magicians Club holds their annual one-day convention every October called 'J-Day'. The convention includes lectures and the finals of two competitions with awards, which include the Home Counties Trophy for stage magic, The Mark Leveridge Cup for close-up magic, Kaymar Komedy Cup and the Peter McCahon Award for Originality. In recent years, the celebrity guest lectures have been presented by Derren Brown in 2010, Dynamo in 2011, John Archer in 2012, Marvin Berglas in 2013, Luis De Matos in 2014 and Dave Loosley and Andi Gladwin in 2015.
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- Simon O'Hagan, "Secret London: Tricks and treats, The Centre for the Magic Arts", The Independent on Sunday, 15 June 2003. Retrieved via subscription 1 March 2008.
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