From Harry Potter to Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie to Franz Kafka, and Stephen King to Shakespeare – you will find the publication you are looking for at Books and Pieces, West End Arcade, Nottingham. All genres of fiction and non-fiction are in stock – along with an extensive selection of classic comics.
For students and teachers searching for academic study guides and curricular texts, Jean will offer expert assistance, and even source specific titles for you. I have been tremendously grateful for all GCSE and A Level publications she has provided me with over the years which have helped in the delivery of my English lessons massively.
Books and Pieces is a treasure trove of popular contemporary fiction, biographies, historical tomes, encyclopedias, classics and those more obscure titles you may have been hunting for. Indeed, as a fan of horror and mystery, I have been greatly impressed with many of the books I have discovered in Jean’s shop over the years, such as the fantastic ‘Jungle Magic’ by James H Neal – see book review here: Jungle Magic Book Review.
Jean is now selling books online too, and is always more than happy to assist you with her exceptional service.
Age UK have done a magnificent job in providing a lock-down lifeline for thousands of older people across the length and breadth of the country. Since March, the charity has been offering invaluable support by ensuring essential medical and food supplies are delivered to people’s homes.
I have been well aware of the exceptional work Age UK does throughout the community for many years, and I have been very fortunate to have performed magic at their lively fundraising events. These occasions are always very well attended and are opportunities to celebrate their work supporting isolated and vulnerable people.
Indeed, I was delighted that the charity accepted my application to assist with food and medical deliveries when the lockdown started. There are a lot of people around Nottingham in the over 70 age group who have been confined to their homes since March, and it has been a tremendously challenging time for them to say the least. Some elderly people may not have friends or family close at hand, so Age UK has provided an essential network for them. I have been very fortunate and privileged to have been part of this team and witness first hand the difference the charity makes.
‘Without the help of Age UK, I have no idea how we would have coped’ reflected Mrs Fletcher, whose husband was hospitalised during lockdown and has thankfully since recovered from the virus. ‘The weekly food and medical deliveries have taken a large weight off our minds and really helped to reduce the stress levels!’
Working with Age UK has been a hugely enriching experience and has provided me with some much needed structure each week during this chaotic time. I always look forward to the deliveries, chatting to different people and listening to their experiences and perspectives. The crisis has made me even more thankful for being fit and healthy, and also revealed the tremendous amount of good will within the community. Local food store employees and pharmacists have been very keen to assist, and gone above and beyond to ensure that vital supplies reach the people who need them most.
Well done to Age UK in coming to the aid of so many people during the crisis, and for all the other fantastic work you continue to do! Why not volunteer, donate or find out more about Age UK at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/
Like thousands of people all over the UK, I was very disappointed to miss the ‘Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery due to the pandemic. Egyptology has fascinated me since childhood when I read about the mysterious ‘Curse of the Pharaohs’.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the tale, English archaeologist Howard Carter made arguably the greatest antiquarian discovery of all time on the 26th November 1922. After scouring the Valley of the Kings in southern Egypt for two decades, the intrepid scholar had finally managed to locate the tomb of Tutankhamun which had lain concealed beneath the rolling desert sands for over three millennia. Spectacular hieroglyphics, priceless artefacts and the majestic golden sarcophagus of the boy king greeted Carter and his team as they prized open the solid stone gateway to the antechamber.
But the euphoria from the discovery would be short lived. Many people associated with the archaeological feat began to die in mysterious circumstances; most notably Lord Carnarvon who had financed the enterprise. It was believed that he had contracted an unknown disease at the tomb, and at the moment of his death all of the lights in Cairo inexplicably went out and his favourite dog had a seizure and died!
Local people spoke openly of a curse which the ancient Egyptian priests had placed upon the tomb to prevent grave robbers desecrating the final resting place of the Pharaoh. The famous writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – who was a believer in spiritualism – insisted that Carter and his men had angered ‘elementals’ or spirits who had been summoned to guard over the antechamber during the funerary rights of Tutankhamun.
The story had echoes of the notorious ‘Unlucky Mummy’ which was found in Thebes and acquired by the British Museum in 1889. Most people who came into contact with the mummy would either die mysteriously or be met with severe ill luck. The original owner lost his fortune and passed away suddenly along with the men involved with transporting the artefact to London. Some said that the ‘Unlucky Mummy’ even found its way onboard the Titanic and the curse was responsible for the disaster! But this theory was quickly debunked as it still resides in room 62 of the British Museum: serial number EA 22542.
Indeed, the far-fetched tale of the ‘Unlucky Mummy’ perhaps reveals how the notion of a ‘curse’ or some sort of supernatural occurrence can quickly be distorted and exaggerated. Is it indeed possible to ‘curse’ or ‘hex’ someone? Or perhaps the process is somewhat psychosomatic? That is to say, if someone ‘believes’ himself or herself to be cursed, then they will start to ‘invite’ misfortune into their lives?
The debate about the efficacy of curses is interesting, but one thing is certain, Howard Carter’s incredible find, along with the mystery and majesty of ancient Egypt, will continue to capture the popular imagination.
David Fox is a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Visit his website for more details: www.magician-midlands.co.uk
It is always a tremendous privilege and a pleasure to work alongside the immaculate photographer Dave Fuller. Dave is based in Nottingham and is available for weddings, parties, special occasions and corporate shoots across the East Midlands and beyond.
I was delighted and extremely flattered when Dave told me he had decided to include my magic in his latest blog article! Dave has taken time to create a guide for couples planning their weddings and looking for entertainers. Visit ‘Awesome Wedding Entertainment in Nottingham‘ to read his recommendations.
The exceptional images on this blog post are a fitting testament to Dave’s talent, dedication and commitment to his craft. The gifted lens-man captured me in action at Gem Vending’s summer celebrations at Langley Mill United Cricket Ground in 2018.
Contact Dave Fuller now for your next red letter day event!
Robin evaded the Sheriff of Nottingham by hiding in the limestone caverns
Robin Hood is Nottinghamshire’s most famous and enduring celebrity. An international icon, the mysterious man from Loxley has been honoured in popular culture since the late fourteenth century. From rousing medieval ballads, to multi-million dollar Hollywood movies, the archetypal champion of the underdog continues to capture hearts and minds.
Legend has it that Robin evaded the Sheriff of Nottingham by hiding in the limestone caverns of Creswell Crags. Indeed, to this day, one of the caves still bears the name of the famous outlaw. This area of Sherwood Forest would have been perfect for renegades such as Robin and his men to remain undetected for long periods of time. As well as plentiful supplies of fresh water, master bowmen would have enjoyed a sizeable selection of wild game to hunt. The caves themselves offered welcome sanctuary from the prying eyes of the Sheriff – as well as the harsh winter gales and snows.
However, Robin was not the first inhabitant of this magical limestone gorge and was merely following in the footsteps of his ancient ancestors. Creswell Crags boasts the northernmost displays of pre-historic cave paintings and etchings to be found in Europe. Evidence of habitation within the caverns dates back to Neanderthal times during the last Ice Age – well over 40,000 years ago!
Fossilised tools and weapons have been discovered in excavations since the Victorian era, and this incredible area of Nottinghamshire continues to yield priceless details about our ancient forefathers. Organised tours can now be taken deep into the caves, and visitors can marvel at Great Britain’s sole exhibition of Ice Age Cave Art! The Museum and Heritage Centre also offer a fascinating array of carefully preserved artefacts from the gorge.
Savour the mysteries, legends and enchantments of Creswell Crags during your next visit to Nottinghamshire. The Museum and Heritage Centre is readily accessible from the M1 (Junction 30) and within a five minute drive of Worksop town centre on the main A60 route.
Follow in the footsteps of the swashbuckling superstar and learn more about Robin Hood’s county! The gorge is also in close proximity to Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre and National Nature Reserve (the site of the famous Major Oak) and just over 30 miles from Nottingham city centre itself.
James Woodward’s famous bronze statue and carvings of Robin Hood can be viewed at Nottingham Castle.
The author of the article is David Fox, a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Fid out more about him at: David Fox Magic.
Visit Creswell Crag’s website now at: www.creswell-crags.org.uk and book your exciting tour of the caves.
It was a massive privilege and a pleasure to be part of the prestigious SCR Hospitality Awards night at the Crowne Plaza Royal Victoria Hotel in Sheffield last month. The awards evening celebrates the finest in the hospitality industry around the Sheffield city region.
The atmosphere was electric as the elite of the service industry came together to enjoy ‘The Greatest Showman’ themed event. Tom Ingall of BBC Radio Sheffield was in fine form as the host, and ensured that the evening was a resounding success. For a list of all of the exceptional winners, please click the link:
Close-up ‘ice-breaker’ magic and table magic was provided by yours truly, and hopefully livened up the proceedings a little. As you would expect from South Yorkshire’s finest, the guests were a wonderful group to entertain and I thoroughly enjoyed this magical evening at a majestic venue!
This year’s good cause was the Children’s Hospital Charity which provides vital support and assistance to young people around the South Yorkshire Region and beyond. Well done to everyone for raising over two thousand pounds!
Special thanks to Michelle Bartle and all of the first class team at the Crowne Plaza Royal Victoria Hotel, Simon Dewhirst for sharing his fine photography, and to Bonner and Hindley for organising such a superb evening. Hope to see you all again next year.
David Fox is a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Visit his website at: David Fox Magician
Are you seeking an exceptional venue for your next special event in South Yorkshire? The Crowne Plaza Royal Victoria Hotel is a wonderful choice for corporate events, weddings and social functions. It is perfectly situated in close proximity to the M1 and M18 arteries, as well as being within walking distance of Sheffield’s vibrant town centre.
Elegance and class abound in this unique hotel which has most recently enjoyed an extensive makeover – recapturing the halcyon Victorian era when it was built. The spectacular ballroom is ideal for large gatherings and the Royal Victoria boasts no fewer than 14 meeting rooms – perfect for presentations, product launches and corporate functions.
David Fox is a professional entertainer and freelance writer who is based in the UK. A highly experienced performer, he often provides magic at hospitals.
In 2012 David was invited to entertain celebrity guests and dignitaries at HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London, and in 2015 he provided a unique magic show at Westminster Abbey Choir School’s centenary party.
The winner of the Wedding Industry Expert’s 2014 poll in the category of ‘Best Magician’, David secured the most votes worldwide for his act. In 2018, David won Luxlife Magazine’s accolade of ‘Magician of the Year’.
A member of the prestigious Magic Circle and Equity, David creates his own unique magical effects and routines to suit all types of audiences.
Providing entertainment on hospital wards is one of the most enriching and fulfilling journeys an artist can undertake. Whether you are a seasoned performer seeking to hone and improve your act, or someone who is yet to test yourself in front of a live audience, it is an opportunity to be seized upon.
It has been scientifically proven that exposure to the arts will greatly assist in both the treatment and recovery of patients. The prospect of a stay in hospital is daunting for the convalescent; as well as for their friends and family. However, the appearance of a cheerful entertainer can significantly lighten the load and offer much needed pleasure and amusement for all parties concerned.
Regardless of age, culture or background, everyone can enjoy entertainment in a hospital, and it can help to instil a strong sense of camaraderie on the wards. It is an added bonus if staff members and the friends and families of patients get involved too. The performer can invite those present to step outside of themselves for a few priceless moments – despite the obvious gravity of the situation.
The life-experience and expertise you will encounter in a hospital is vast. If you are keen to improve your performance and delivery, it is indeed an excellent learning environment. Your audience will not only be delighted to see you and respect your art-form, but they can offer invaluable advice to help you continue on your journey. For example, I recently had the pleasure of entertaining an elderly magician who had once worked alongside the legendary Tommy Cooper. It was a massive honour to perform magic for him, receive some excellent advice, and listen to several hilarious anecdotes about the master!
I have been immensely privileged and fortunate to have entertained on hospital wards for many years. Indeed, I really hope that this little guide will open doors: granting you the confidence and inspiration to go forth and share your talents with new audiences.
Have you got what it takes to entertain on a hospital ward? If you do, you’re made of sterner stuff than most. A hospital is one of the most challenging places to entertain, but also one of the most rewarding.
Before accepting a booking at a hospital, it is very important to consider the following points:
1. You will be entering a high pressure environment where staff are making life and death decisions on a daily basis. You must be mindful of this at all times.
2. Some patients may be recovering from complex surgery and/or have life-threatening illnesses and conditions.
3. Family members and friends of patients may be in a state of distress and be affected deeply by the condition of their loved ones.
4. The condition of patients, as well as the working environment in a hospital, can change suddenly and is in a constant state of flux.
5. Doctors, nurses and hospital staff are often working long hours to ensure patients get the best treatment. They may be coming to the end of a shift when they meet you.
Indeed, it could be said that it takes a very special type of entertainer to deliver an effective and appropriately customised performance on a hospital ward. You will need to think on your feet at all times; and outside the box too whenever necessary.
Before discussing the nuances of performance, it is vital to follow these golden rules:
Rule One – Find out as much as you can about the patients you will be entertaining prior to your visit. What is their profile? Age grouping? Condition? How could you customise your act to suit them effectively?
Rule Two – Health and Safety issues. Are you required to conduct a Risk Assessment? Do the hospital need copies of your Criminal Reference Check or insurance? Is there anything in your act which represents a health risk for patients? For example, I always thoroughly clean my props before entering a hospital. Think very carefully.
Rule Three – It is vital that you secure the name, or names, of staff who will be onsite to guide you to the ward(s) you will be entertaining on. Get a mobile number or two that you can text/call on arrival. Hospitals are often huge places and it can be easy to get lost. Your contacts can also introduce you effectively to staff on the wards.
Rule Four – Appearance. Make sure you dress appropriately for your visit. Smart attire and good personal hygiene go a long way – especially on a hospital ward. This will allow you to make an instantly positive connection with staff and patients which will greatly increase your chances of an excellent performance.
Rule Five – Always arrive VERY early at the hospital. Parking can often be tricky at such establishments and you may need to pay (so take plenty of change and find out about parking levies in advance). I normally arrive at least an hour prior to the start of my performance as it gives me plenty of time to get my bearings. But you can never be too early. Most hospitals have a canteen where you can have a drink prior to the start of your slot.
Rule Six – Always be VERY positive and cheerful in and around the hospital. Remember, your responsibility is to raise morale, entertain and amuse. Make sure you are smiling and in a positive frame of mind as soon as you enter the hospital grounds. From that moment on the show begins and you must rise to the challenge.
Rule Seven – Be prepared for some rejection and NEVER take it personally. Some patients, family members and staff may not wish to participate. You must understand that this is nothing personal about you – they are simply enduring a challenging time. The majority of people will be very thankful for your presence – so keep your chin up!
Essentially you may be called upon to entertain in four distinct types of area in a hospital:
1. Public Space – This could be in a foyer, canteen or lounge area. Visitors, patients and staff may congregate here, or simply be passing through such a space. You will have to pitch your performance to suit a wide range of people and accept the transient nature of your audience. People will be coming and going all the time, and you will have to work hard to make an effective impact.
Flamboyant musicians, quick witted comedians and colourful circus characters are well suited to working in such a high intensity environment. Whenever I am asked to perform in a public area, I will always perform my most eye-catching illusions and attempt to quickly draw in and engage groups of people. Human beings are naturally curious and will feel inclined to gravitate towards a crowd watching an exciting and unusual spectacle.
2. Communal Area – This is usually a more secluded lounge facility which is located on a ward of the hospital. Unlike the Public Space, such an area is more sedate, and provides a tranquil sanctuary for patients, visitors and staff to spend time together and relax. These are normally long-stay patients who are convalescing. Indeed, the performer must be mindful of their conditions in order to pitch an appropriate style of show.
I find that normally a relaxed twenty to thirty minute performance of magic goes down very well in such areas of a hospital – particularly for groups of up to around twenty people. The show may be impromptu, but it is even better if the patients are aware of your appearance in advance. This means that you are automatically guaranteed a sympathetic audience who have come to see you by their own volition.
Indeed, if you know that the hospital is going to use your act at a specific time in a Communal Area, it is always worthwhile to send them posters and flyers to display around the hospital. This increases the likelihood of a sizeable audience who will appreciate your act.
3. Wards – Patients will be situated in private bays on a ward and will either be in bed or be seated. In the UK most hospital wards are comprised of several rooms with an average of six patients in each at any given time. You will need to be very sensitive when entering such an area of the hospital. Indeed, the first few seconds are crucial when you enter the ward and start to approach and engage patients. This factor is addressed in the following section: Ways to Engage.
4. Individual rooms or bays – You may be invited to perform an exclusive show for one patient along with their close friends and family. This could take place either in a small room on the ward or at an individual bay In a communal space.
Such a performance will typically last for no more than around ten minutes. For safeguarding purposes, it is very important that you are never left alone with a patient. Always make sure that someone else is present at all times.
Ways to Engage
Engaging patients effectively and appropriately on the wards is an art in itself. Seasoned performers tend to develop a sixth sense when it comes to judging who can be approached successfully. However, for an entertainer who is just cutting their teeth in a hospital, the prospect can be terrifying. This needn’t be the case, and here are some tips to help you succeed:
1. Listen very carefully to everything the matron, nurses, doctors and staff tell you on the ward. They will normally direct you to patients who are likely to be the most receptive.
2. Always maintain your composure and never rush on the ward. This can be tricky if you have been entertaining in another part of the hospital already and your adrenaline is running high! Keep your cool and allow the staff present to take the lead. If they decide to introduce you to the patients, this is a massive ‘way in’ to start your performance.
3. Read the patients before starting your performance. Eye contact and a smile is normally a good indication that someone is pleased to see you – but do they want to be entertained?
I find that engaging patients in some light small talk prior to starting my magic is always very effective. I keep the conversation very light at first and ask them some simple questions about where they live, if their family or friends have been to visit, the weather etc…
They are normally very keen to converse. At an appropriate time, I then invite them to participate in a little magic. Usually they are delighted to be entertained. However, if they decline my offer, I never take it personally. I always tell them that I fully understand, but if they change their mind later, I would be more than happy to return.
This keeps everything very positive. Indeed, some patients may be happy to engage in a brief chat with you and not feel like being entertained. In this instance you might not have had an opportunity to demonstrate your talents, but you have helped cheer up a sick person which is a bonus in itself. Always look on the bright side and never take anything personally on a hospital ward. You are likely to receive some degree of rejection each time you visit, but there will always be patients, visitors and staff present who will really appreciate you and what you have to offer.
4. Don’t overstay your welcome. Keep reading the reactions of the audience throughout your set. It is imperative that you are very sensitive to this factor on a hospital ward. I generally find that a slot of around five to ten minutes is sufficient at an individual bed/bay. If you happen to be entertaining several patients in a room, around fifteen minutes is normally a good guide. You will get better at judging this as you gain more experience on the wards.
5. Be dignified if you are asked to cut your set short. Sometimes a doctor or nurse may interrupt you in order to medicate or speak to patients. Family members may appear and want to spend some quiet time with their loved ones. Once again, it is vital that you maintain your composure and do not display any negative emotions. Keep smiling and be positive at all times. You can always return to the area later if this is possible.
6. If you are using humour in your act, keep it light and be mindful of your audience. Your job is to brighten up the day for the patients – not offend anyone.
Keep any conversation upbeat too. I tend to talk about holidays, travel, family, sports, history and hobbies when on hospital wards. These subjects tend to elicit a very positive response and help to take patients out of themselves for a short while – along with the magic!
I do hope this short guide has been useful for you, as well as providing food for thought. Thank you for reading and good luck with your future performances!
I was delighted and very flattered when Jamie and Rachel asked me to perform magic at a very important birthday bash in Nottingham recently! The venue was the fantastic Botti Di Mamma in Hockley and it definitely was a memorable and magical occasion.
Rachel’s family and close-friends were not only treated to the exquisite ambience and exceptional cuisine of this first class venue, but the talents of Nottingham musical quartet The Money ensured it truly was a fantastic evening. Jamie has known the band for many years and was delighted that they could be part of such an important event. They are always a massive hit wherever they perform!
It was a privilege to mingle with such a warm and receptive group of people, and I was also delighted to perform a little customised magic for both Rachel and her father Brian. Indeed, it was very kind of Jamie and Rachel to invest their trust in me for such a big night, and I always hope that I can repay this in my performance.
A very important occasion calls for a very talented cameraman, and Will Slater was present in order to expertly capture the proceedings. As you can appreciate from the photographs proudly displayed in this article, Will’s timing, sixth-sense and attention to detail is immaculate.
Overall, the party was a resounding success and friends and family partied well into the small hours! Happy birthday Rachel! And well done to everyone for helping to create such a tremendous occasion – I hope that you and Jamie had a great time in the USA.
Seeking a unique Nottingham cafe, restaurant or venue? Visit Botti Di Mamma at: 15 Broad Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AJ. Telephone: 0115 924 1112.