In April 1938 a small group of magicians formed a meeting in the Talbot Hotel in Goldsmith Avenue, Portsmouth, to establish what was to become a new magical society known as The Portsmouth & District Magic Circle. There had been an exploratory meeting in the home of Albert Reed Ford in the high street, Cosham, but this one was to be recognised as the first official meeting.
Records show that in attendance were Will Ayling, Albert Reed Ford, Jack Hill, Lewis Ganson, Bill Pope, Les Hone, Ray Wickens, Reg Whittaker, Capper (Captain Kettle) and Clive Wilson.
In the months that followed preparation was underway for the Society’s first public show, to be held in the autumn on South Parade Pier. There were to be two shows, one at 3pm aimed more towards the children and one at 8pm for adults. One of the highlights was to be 100 live goldfish produced and given away to children. This show, of course, was a huge success and gained the new Society huge publicity.
In the years that followed, the Society gained a reputation for its friendly approach to visitors and members of neighbouring magical societies, with whom there were to be many exchange visits. The Wizards of the South at Southampton, The Regency Society of Bournemouth and the Moon Rakers of Salisbury were neighbouring societies which were later to form an alliance known as the Association of Magic Societies in the South.
Christmas 1950 saw a member named Hal Feben take on the responsibility of producing a permanent record of events of the PDMC at the time and took the form of a quarterly magazine called The Top Hat, with a modest 12 page first edition. The Top Hat continued to record the events through from 1950 to 1957.
Around this time the meetings of the PDMC were held at the restaurant ‘Below Stairs’ in the hotel of ‘The Tynings’, courtesy of Victor Cutts, having had meetings at irregular intervals at the home of ‘Doctor’ Millard in Victoria Road. Then in 1957, after a very happy stay at the Tynings the Headquarters made a move to the Portsmouth Community Centre and held meetings every Monday night.
Weekend get togethers also continued and the odd sale of props took place. A chance remark of it being a pity the sale was restricted to members led to the idea of a ‘Jumbo Day’, to take place on the Sunday nearest Halloween, where the doors would be open to all magicians for a small admission charge. It was to be a sort of ‘market’ for magicians. A sale and exchange of goods. Later, an auction was introduced and a little show to round off the day. Thus, Jumbo Day was born. It was a huge success and over the years became a firm favourite among magicians. Soon, we outgrew our venue and in December of 1973 the PDMC moved to its current residence at Malins Road.
Jumbo Day continued to grow and year on year saw an increase on numbers. Doors were opened before 9am and closed almost twelve hours later. The hall overflowed with tables piled with magic, old props, new props, some purchased only a month before at the IBM convention!
At the AGM of 1959 it was decided that the production of the Top Hat cease as it had become too costly to produce. However, going back a few years to Christmas 1951 a young man named James (Jim) Breedon joined the society and went on to have a profound influence, bringing renewed enthusiasm, energy and fresh ideas. He took on most duties and in July 1984 he instigated the Phoenix rising of the New Top Hat. It was Jim who shortly after the demise of Lewis Ganson on 22nd December 1980, suggested that the Circle set up a memorial award to be presented each year by the President and so perpetuate the memory of our beloved founding member.
Eddie Gibbs was a significant asset to the club around this time as club Treasurer. Described by Will Ayling as a loyal, quiet, restrained man he brought dignity to financial argument.
Members continued to contribute significantly to the club, including Brian Wright and Bart Harding. New names joined, making their mark including Alan Vandome, Nikki Stapleford, Jane Bawldrey to name but a few.
May 2009 saw one of the PDMC’s largest fund raising events, The Magic Trek. Sean Lobban, the organiser, led a group of magicians on over a 100 mile walk from Portsmouth to London, stopping off at various magic societies on the way and raised almost £6,500.00 for The Anthony Nolan Trust.
Today, the PDMC continues to thrive and while members come and go, friends join us and friends leave us, we are all proud to be a part of a magic society that holds such a rich past and continues to hold its reputation as a friendly, warm and welcoming club.