Is the Twitter Bio for Dr Will Houstoun.
Getting back to what we know best we asked Will for a little of his time so we could chat over his career, so here goes! Enjoy reader…
Thank you for your time Will – How old were you when you first got into magic?
My pleasure. Like so many, I became interested in magic when I was in my early teens. Unlike many, I then stubbornly refused to grow up and move out of the magic phase.
Not many can say that building on their PHD which is in ‘the use of magic as an educational contrivance in the Victorian Period’ has helped shape them – tell us about your interest, what or who was your inspiration?
I have always felt there is more to magic than fleeting moments of light entertainment, though that is how most people do experience it. In trying to explore how magic can be used for something deeper, I have spent time working in film, theatre, education, healthcare and research. My PhD was one aspect of that, exploring how Victorian magic was framed as an education tool that would further people’s professional lives. That positioning was incredibly successful, leading to Magic’s Golden Age and so many of the things I now love, like magic books, magazines and societies. The idea of using magic for something other than moments of wow also now permeates my work.
Do you have a favourite magic trick to perform?
I am currently performing a show via Zoom, called The Secret Connection. We use the technology available to us to forge connections with people around the world, and we also send a package of props out to everyone who buys a ticket. I won’t say exactly what happens, but there are a few moments where thirty people, scattered around the world, all work together to make impossible things happen in their own hands. The power of magic to create connection in those moments is something I love.
You have worked on some really exciting projects, do you have a favourite?
A favourite would have to be my work with Breathe Arts Health Research. In collaboration with a team of fantastic magicians, as well as arts-health professionals and therapists, we deliver a range of clinical interventions that have a real impact on participant’s lives. It is the perfect combination for me: innovative, well-delivered magic that is used to meaningfully impact peoples’ lives.
Performing yourself, lecturing, consulting are all quite varying roles, do you have a preference?
Not really… one of the things I find exciting is the variety of things I can do. There is something terribly exciting about a week that involves teaching an actor magic one day, helping a child gain fine motor skills on another and talking to a group of medical students on another.
What’s the best thing about your career?
I am incredibly lucky in that my career mainly consists of doing things that I find interesting, and that I would probably want to be doing regardless. Of course some hard work is needed, to make it happen and keep things moving along, but I am very grateful to have a job that I truly enjoy and care about.
And the worst?
I truly believe that magic is a powerful tool that can help a large number of people in a number of different ways. The way in which magicians have portrayed themselves during the last century, however, often does not support that idea. It would be lovely if people’s starting point when they hear the word ‘magic’ was broader than kid’s parties and magic in restaurants.
How was Covid affected your business?
Theatres and shows all stopped running, of course. Higher education largely moved to online interactions and work in a medical setting had to take a back seat to more pressing medical concerns. Having said that, it has also been a period for innovation. The show I mentioned earlier, for example, would certainly not have happened without Covid’s impact.
On a related note, at the beginning of the UK’s first lockdown, in spring 2020, Steve Thompson, and I started a project exploring the possibilities of magic on platforms like Zoom. It ran for six months, featuring a mixture of our own work and contributions from people like Max Maven, Jim Steinmeyer and Larry Fong, and was hugely exciting and creatively satisfying. Steve and I are both keen to try and have a positive impact on the world, no matter how small, so all the proceeds, over $36,000 were donated to charity.
If readers are interested in magic and mentalism designed for video-chat performances, the project has been published by Vanishing Inc as Video Chat Magic
Who’s your favourite magician of all time?
That is not a question I can give a simple answer to, as there are many different candidates, for many different reasons. Ignoring my friends and colleagues, who I find hugely impressive, I would choose either Hoffmann or Charlier. Hoffmann, as his work gave me a template for the way I use magic today. And Charlier, for both the mystery that surrounds him and the magic he is reported to have performed with cards.
Do you enjoy watching others performing and what goes through your mind when you watch magic?
There is nothing better than seeing a great performer. There is nothing worse than seeing an awful performer. In the best cases I stop watching their work through the lens of a magician, and simply sit back to enjoy. That most often happens when someone takes genuine joy in whatever they are sharing.
How diverse do you see the magic industry?
Not nearly as diverse as it should be. I think that a lot of the magic we see today is defined and framed by the successful performers and styles of the Golden Age of Magic. In some ways this is wonderful, as there were astonishing creative performers during that period, but it does mean that magic sometime feels stuck in the early twentieth-century. Despite some progress, diversity is one area where that is particularly apparent.
Please tell us about any new projects you have coming up.