Sheffield has played host to many greats of the magic world

Ashton Carter is a magician and storyteller. He grew up in the heart of the Black Country, followed by five years working in London, before escaping to Sheffield 18 years ago. Now aged 47, he spends his time performing and building props for other magicians. He lives in Middlewood, with his partner Mary and a frog called George, and is proud to call Sheffield his home.
Ashton Carter at Magick Enterprises on Broad StreetAshton Carter at Magick Enterprises on Broad Street
Ashton Carter at Magick Enterprises on Broad Street

Magick Enterprises

Hidden on Broad Street you will find a strange and wonderful shop called Magick Enterprises. Many readers will remember this as a fancy dress hire shop, but behind the costumes lived Sheffield’s very own magic shop. It no longer hires out fancy dress but is still one of the best magic shops in the country. If you want to learn magic it’s a great place to visit.

Run by the fabulous Russell, June and Julie, the shop is an Aladdin’s cave of magic apparatus and books, jammed full of strange objects and secret boxes. Open for over 40 years it has supported many magicians, from absolute beginners to the top names in the business. On a Saturday local magicians gather to share tricks and stories and drink tea. Without the support of Russell and every one at the shop over the years I would not be where I am today.

Sheaf and Porter River Trust Megatron. Pic Steve EllisSheaf and Porter River Trust Megatron. Pic Steve Ellis
Sheaf and Porter River Trust Megatron. Pic Steve Ellis

National Fairground and Circus Archive

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When I first moved to Sheffield I worked at Sheffield University and discovered it held the National Fairground and Circus Archive. The history of magic and travelling popular entertainment is fascinating, and within the archive is a vast collection of books, posters, film, ephemera and photographs covering this amazing subject. I’ve spent many hours looking up old performers and their stories in its reading room.

Did you know for instance, that the legendary Harry Houdini got the idea of hanging upside down during a straitjacket escape from his friend and Sheffield steelworker and magician Randolph ‘Randini’ Douglas. If you cannot visit the archive its online resources are excellent and I’m sure will bring back fond memories of visits to the circus or travelling fairs.

Our Theatres

Sheffield has a fine history of putting on magic shows in its many theatres. Over the years they have played host to the greats of the magic world including Chung Lin Soo, Harrry Houdini, Prof. De Lyle, Hamilton Kay, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, Dynamo and Derren Brown to name just a few. Even if a magic show is not to your taste we have so many venues such as the Crucible, Lyceum and City Hall, where you can see a big show, as well as many smaller performance venues like the Lantern, Library Theatre and Theatre Delhi. There is bound to be a show for you.

The Megatron

Sheffield is an old city and has many secret places, but the most spectacular must be the Victorian subterranean drainage system built in the mid-1800s below the city centre. It’s called ‘The Megatron’ and is a huge system of cathedral-like brick archways and interconnecting tunnels to contain the surge of water entering the city during a storm from the rivers Sheaf, Don and Porter. I have never visited the Megatron, but watching online films of those who have, it looks amazing.

Generous Spirit

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Having lived in many places I have never felt a more generous spirit from a city than Sheffield. There is a pride in the city that is unmatched and everyone seems to have a passion about some aspect of the city, be it football, history or simply saving our trees. People are wonderfully unapologetic about Sheffield. It is the only place I have ever been on a packed Tram and regularly see people not using the priority seats so someone who needs them easily use them.

Sheffield Circle of Magicians

I’m sure most readers have heard of the Magic Circle in London, but fewer will know Sheffield has its own magical organisation called the Sheffield Circle of Magicians. It was founded on the 18th of May 1920 and is one of the oldest magic societies in the world. The world famous magician David Devant accepted the post of being our first Honorary President, which was a fantastic honour for the society. The circle has a motto of ‘Ars est celare artem’ which translates as ‘True art is to conceal art’ and exists to help grow magic in Sheffield and as a social space for magicians to share ideas and tricks.

We meet monthly on the first Thursday of the month at Magic Enterprises at 7.30 pm. I’ve been a member since 2005 and was its secretary for 10 years. We are now in our Centenary Year and have a number of events planned to celebrate this achievement including a special public show on September 5, at the Montgomery, tickets will be available from next month.

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