Being the current chairman of the Leicester magic circle is a true honour for me. I remember when I was about 13 years old walking past The Grand Hotel on Granby Street in Leicester and there was a big brass plate on the door saying Home of the Leicester Magic Circle.
The Leicester Magic Circle is one of the oldest magical societies in the world. In 1924 some half dozen keen magicians began to meet every Saturday afternoon, with Will Sutton as an informal chairman. Eventually, with growing numbers, they were forced to book a series of ever-larger rooms to hold meetings, eventually finding themselves at the YMCA for some ten years. For a short, while waning interest forced the group to stop meetings but the opening of Wilf Hubbard’s Magic Shop in 1935 drew more newcomers, with meetings resuming in the King Richard pub. As the new chair, Cyril Gibbons realised that the reformed Circle could only survive if it ran itself on business principles. This meant new officials, a new location, the White Hart hotel, and a new President, Sir Julien Cahn. Sir Julien’s name is still important to members, to this day the Circle holds a stage magic competition for the Sir Julien Cup. Until 1999 this was held in Stanford Hall, Sir Julien’s home, where he had a fully equipped 352 seat theatre built so that he could perform whenever he wanted. 1935 saw the first Annual Dinner, well attended and a taste of things to come. 1936 was a year of firsts, with the Midland Magical Society’s visit marking the first by another society, and with the Leicester Circle making their own first away trip to the Northampton Magician’s Club. Another move and the Circle found itself in the Victory Hotel, celebrating with a July visit to the Great Levante’s show at the Opera House, with Circle officials presenting him with a special Leicester Magic Circle badge. Inspired members produced another first, a big show for the public, at Leicester’s Little Theatre, the first of many, which were to showcase famous performers like Rex Reader, Billy Wilson and Cliff Townsend. A final first for the Circle in 1936 was their charity performances at hospitals and other venues, an activity which continues to this very day. When the war began in 1939, the Circle was forced to move again, eventually settling for a spell at the Bell Hotel and then the Grand Hotel. Today the headquarters can be found in the Braunstone Civic Centre, but still going strong.
For more information www.theleicestermagiccircle.co.uk