Entertaining in Hospitals – Tips for Performers by David Fox

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Biography

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Photograph courtesy of Ritchie Sumpter Photography

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.

Visit David’s website at: www.magician-midlands.co.uk

Follow him on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/davidfoxmagician

Instagram: David Fox Magic

Twitter: @DavidFoxMagic

Why Perform?

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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.

Best wishes

David Fox

Hospital Entertainment

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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!

Useful Contacts and Links

Equity – Entertainers and Actors’ Union – www.equity.org.uk

For a Basic DBS Check, visit the Government website  – www.gov.uk/government

Air Arts – innovative charity bring the arts into hospitals – www.airarts.uk

David Fox Magic – for entertainment options at events: www.magician-midlands.co.uk

Win a Marvellous Magic Set!

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Do you want to learn magic? Or perhaps you know someone who would like this amazing magic set as a gift?

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Simply follow the instructions below to enter our competition.

  1. Like David’s page on Facebook to enter: David Fox Magician
  2. Solve the riddle and send us your answer through the link on David’s magic website ‘Magician Midlands’ – highlighted below.

The Riddle

I go by four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three in the evening. What am I?

Send your answer to the riddle, including your name, email address and contact mobile number, by clicking on this link: Magician Midlands

Good luck everyone!

The deadline for entries is: Midday on Saturday the 29th February 2020.

The prize draw will take place on Sunday 1st of March 2020 and the winner will be announced at 12pm that day on David’s Facebook page and on this blog.

Terms and Conditions

  1. The competition is only open to UK residents.
  2. Entrants must be over the age of 16.
  3. You must ‘like’ the Facebook page and enter via the contact form on the website to be included in the prize draw.
  4.  Deadline for entries is Midday (12pm) on Saturday 29th February 2020.
  5.  The winner will be announced at midday (12pm) on Sunday 1st March 2020 on David’s Facebook page and on this blog.
  6. The judge’s decision will be final and the Magic Set will be sent by Royal Mail first class special delivery to the winner on Monday 2nd March.

 

Art, Photography and Nostalgia – Nick Elliott’s Extraordinary Journey

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‘photography is, was and will always be an art to me’

Acclaimed throughout the world for his iconic rock images, Nick Elliott has established himself as one of the most talented and avant-garde photographers in the business. Persistence, passion and a never say die attitude have driven his continuous quest for ne plus ultra. Yet despite achieving tremendous success – as well as frequently entering the orbits of the illustrious and the influential – Nick remains fiercely proud of his roots.

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Happy Family. Left to right: Brother Gary, Mum Coral, Dad Gordon, and Nick. Nick cites his Dad as the major influence in his photography.

Gordon Flanders Elliott (Nick’s father) was the defining influence on his path to becoming a professional lensman. A projectionist at the local cinema, Gordon instilled a deep appreciation of the art of photography in his son. As a child of the pre-digital age, Nick’s earliest memories are of capturing idyllic moments on his Dad’s Brownie camera. These were magical times, when spectral steam trains, romantic rustic vistas, and enchanting English villages would mysteriously materialise within the clandestine chemical-scented confines of Gordon’s darkroom. Halcyon days indeed, Nick savoured family holidays along the alluring Norfolk coastline during the 1960s. Those care-free summer-time sojourns would later inspire his critically celebrated project: Ice Cream & Sun Cream.

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Nick began his career capturing stunning rustic vistas around the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk areas.

An inspirational school teacher so often intervenes in the formative years of the outstanding, and Nick cites Tim Raynor as being instrumental in cementing his decision to pursue photography as a career. A visionary, Raynor appreciated and understood the value of offering opportunity to students. His bold decision to provide photography classes at Stanground Comprehensive School (now Stanground Academy) allowed Nick to hone his skills and contribute to the school magazine. Suddenly the immense power of the captured image became apparent, and Mr Elliott would soon progress to the employment of the Peterborough Evening Telegraph and the Peterborough Advertiser.

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A maverick by nature. Nick remains true to his roots and celebrates photography as an art.

After courageously embarking on a freelance career, Nick was catapulted into the tumultuous world of motor-sport, serving commissions for prestigious titles such as Auto Car and Car Magazine. It was during this period that the formidable figure of Barry Sheene entered his life and would leave a long-lasting impression.

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The legendary Barry Sheene. Nick followed the racing champion throughout his career and documented his most famous victories.

Nick fondly recalls how the racing legend trained close to Peterborough and was a larger-than-life character. Sheene would endure a horrific crash in 1975 at the Daytona 200, but Nick proudly captured his sensational victories at the 500cc Grand Prix in 1976 and 1977. The motorcycle legend’s phenomenal desire to win against overwhelming odds, coupled with his propensity to overcome career-threatening injuries, left an abiding influence.

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Halcyon holidays – ‘Ice Cream & Sun Cream’ was shortlisted in the prestigious Vienna Photo Book Awards.

Over a three year period from 2014 to 2016, Nick embarked on a ground-breaking project to recapture the innocence and magic of his formative years. Published in May 2017, and aptly entitled Ice Cream & Sun Cream, it was subsequently shortlisted in the prestigious Vienna Photo Book Festival. It was both an emotional and highly cathartic experience as he sought to recreate his childhood holiday experiences along the Norfolk coastline. Find out more about this seminal production on Nick’s website at: Nick Elliott Press Office.

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Like father like son. Gordon with baby Nick on the promenade in Greater Yarmouth. Family seaside holidays remain an integral part of Nick’s heritage and identity.
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The author with Nick Elliott

Nick Elliott is available for commercial photo-shoots and special events. His website is: www.nickelliott.photography and phone number: 07881 650883

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. His website is: www.magician-midlands.co.uk and phone number: 07946 686258.

Nick benefited from an exceptional school teacher. At present, funding for the arts is being cut around the country. Please visit this site to stop school funding cuts: www.change.org

 

Win A Fantastic Magic Set!

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Do you want to learn magic and amaze all of your friends, family and work colleagues? Enter our competition to win this sensational magic set! A fantastic gift for someone special.

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What you need to do in three simple steps…

  1. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/davidfoxmagician to enter
  2. What famous Abbey did David Fox perform at in 2015? The answer is on www.magician-midlands.co.uk
  3. Send us your answer on this link: Contact Us

Rules:

  1. All entrants must be over 18 years of age.
  2. All entrants must live in the UK.
  3. The prize draw will be made at 12pm on Monday 30th April.
  4. Our decision is final and the winner will be sent the prize by special delivery.

Good luck and thank you for entering.

<a href=”https://www.loquax.co.uk”>Listed On Loquax</a>

An Evening with the Shadow Master at Winderton Church, Warwickshire

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The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Winderton, Brailes, South Warwickshire

I was delighted when Carole Foster invited me to perform magic at the beautiful church of St Peter and St Paul in Winderton, South Warwickshire. This elegant Victorian edifice has been cherished by the local populace for over a century and continues to be utilised for special events. Despite being declared ‘redundant’ in 1976, the community rallied and conserved the building for future generations to enjoy – a truly tremendous testimony to their collective spirit.

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Ready for the show. The local community have worked hard to preserve this fantastic building.

This was to be a mysterious night of magic, ghostly tales and shadowgraphy. The locals were treated to the exceptional knowledge of Civil War expert Martin Russell. Dressed as a seventeenth century soldier, Martin recounted the details of the Battle of Edgehill, which was fought close to Winderton, on 23rd October 1642. This would mark the start of the First English Civil War, and the ghosts of the fallen are still said to haunt the highways and byways of the county…

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Drew Colby is an exceptional master of his art!
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Drew’s shadowgraphy has to be seen to be fully appreciated and enjoyed! Incredible talent!

Shadow master Drew Colby was also on hand to mesmerise everyone with his incredible talents. As a professional hand shadowgrapher, Drew amazes audiences throughout the world, and his exceptional act has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The Winderton audience was captivated from start to finish by his wonderful performance, and his unique interpretation of ‘The Highwayman’ was truly breathtaking. Find out more about Drew now at: www.shadowgraphy.co.uk

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Stage magic is always a pleasure to perform, as well as close-up.
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It truly was a fantastic family event in Winderton. Thanks again to everyone.

It was a tremendous privilege to share a stage with Martin and Drew, and to perform magic for such a warm and friendly audience at Winderton. Thank you again to everyone in the village for making it such a magical occasion, and I do hope to have the opportunity to return in the future. A special thanks to Carole Foster for both directing the event, and for being such an outstanding Master of Ceremonies.

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David Fox is a professional magician and freelance writer who is based in the East Midlands. His website is: www.davidfoxmagician.co.uk and his telephone number is: 07946686258.

 

Carriages Cafe, Newark – Distinctive Dining That’s First Class

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A tranquil and friendly cafe. Visit Carriages when you are next in Newark.

Newark Castle Station is one of the most vibrant transport hubs in the East Midlands, and it now boasts a truly exceptional dining facility. Carriages Cafe provides a first class service from within the elegant interior of the station building.

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There is ample space for functions such as parties, business events and club nights.

The friendly team are now serving an extensive range of hot and cold beverages, as well as a mouth-watering array of delicious meals and snacks, from 7.30pm to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 8pm to 5pm on Saturday. Why not pop in for a tasty treat when you are next in the area? The cafe is perfectly situated for local business people, commuters and visitors to enjoy.

Suzie Jones has invested much time and effort in restoring and enhancing the beautiful building. Her fantastic artwork is on display throughout the cafe and function room, and has created an enchantingly magical ambiance. Relax and watch the world go by at Carriages… but make sure you don’t miss your train!

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Suzie’s elegant artwork adorns the walls of Carriages and it has a truly unique character.

The venue also offers ample function space for social events, business promotions and family gatherings. With plenty of parking space available, contact Suzie and the team now to find out more about how you can make your next red letter day function in Newark one to savour. Their website is: www.carriagesnewark.co.uk Telephone number: 01636 676129.

David Fox is a professional entertainer and freelance writer who lives in Nottingham. Website: www.davidfoxmagician.co.uk  Telephone number: 07946 686 258.

 

Happy Birthday Helen and Su!

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Su and Helen hosted a very special birthday party with a difference!

I was profoundly flattered when Su Roys asked me to perform magic at a very special birthday party at the West Retford Hotel, Nottinghamshire, in December 2017. I first met Su at the offices of Siren FM, Lincoln, two years ago and I was delighted that my magic had left a lasting impression. Su and her twin sister Helen celebrated a very important birthday this year, and I was very privileged to be part of the proceedings.

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The sisters greet their guests in the wonderful surroundings of the West Retford Hotel.

The sisters had selected a wonderful venue for their celebrations. Situated in close proximity to the major A1 artery, the West Retford Hotel is perfect for parties, weddings and corporate functions. Indeed, Alice and the exceptional events team at the hotel ensured that Helen and Su’s birthday bash went down a storm!

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It was an immense pleasure to entertain Su and Helen’s lovely family and friends.

I am a very fortunate man to be invited to such momentous occasions. It truly was a tremendous experience to perform close-up magic and table-side illusions for Su and Helen’s nearest and dearest. In this fast-paced internet age we seldom have the opportunity to gather friends and family together to celebrate – so this was definitely a moment to savour. The sisters are blessed with a lovely group of relatives, and the exceptional Alistair Crust (Su and Helen’s brother) and his fiancée Holly Hardman were on hand to capture everything on camera!

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All generations came together to celebrate Su and Helen’s very special birthday.

After a fantastic meal, everyone present was treated to the prodigious talents of vocalist Dan Hadfield. This certainly was a birthday party with a difference and all the guests – from the youngest to the eldest – had an amazing time!

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The sensational Dan Hadfield ensured everyone was dancing well into the evening.

Happy birthday Helen and Su – and hopefully I will have the opportunity to entertain you again soon. Thank you for calling upon my services, and I wish you both all the very best for the future.

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Bridget, Su and Helen share some magic together.

The West Retford Hotel’s website is: www.westretfordhotel.co.uk

Hotel telephone number: 01777 706333

Dan Hadfield’s website is: www.garybarlowlookalike.com

For magic at your special event visit: www.davidfoxmagician.co.uk