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Waving a wand to give a great display

A truly magical experience is coming to the North East this weekend.

A truly magical experience is coming to the North East this weekend. Liz Lamb talks to one of the stars of the International Magic Festival.

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He's a comedian and TV presenter as well as a magician, but John Lenahan is probably best known for getting kicked out of The Magic Circle.

The father-of-one hit the headlines for being the first person in 85 years to be expelled from the prestigious club when he exposed the three-card trick on television show How Do They Do That?

John exposed the illusion as nothing more than a gambling con, took the rap and was ousted from the Circle amid a blaze of publicity.

"It's not a magic trick, it's a gambling scam," says John. "Getting expelled from The Magic Circle did upset me. This is my job, my vocation, my profession. But I bore the rap and there was a lot of publicity."

John's expulsion does not appear to have harmed his career, though. In 2004 he starred in a new prime-time BBC1 show, Secrets of Magic.

His own BBC2 series, Stuff the White Rabbit, achieved record ratings for the slot, and other TV credits include presenting the travelogue Open Road, playing the voice of the toaster in Red Dwarf, and guest appearances on everything from TFI Friday to Celebrity Squares.

He also fronted Hoax-Busters, an ITV network show lifting the lid on scams and hoaxes, and he was the first person on record to perform magic live over the internet.

John has performed onstage all over the world and has toured alongside household names such as Jack Dee, Victoria Wood, Lenny Henry and Michael Ball.

Jackie Collins has also described him as "extremely good-looking".

"I've done quite a few national tours," says John.

"I've known Jack Dee for years.

"We grew up together on the comedy circuit. But Lenny is my favourite - he's a real joker."

John will perform at the International Magic Festival gala shows in South Shields on Friday night alongside Shoot Ogawa, Daniel Garcia, Ray Alan and Alex Lodge.

On Saturday, Robert Baxt will compere an evening of captivating magic featuring Max Maven, Pete Firman, Marc Oberon and Romany.

John says: "I'm looking forward to taking part in the magic festival.

"I've been up in the North East before. Sunderland Empire is famous for being the most difficult venue in Britain.

"It's famous for people dying," he says with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

Tickets for the gala shows at The Customs House, South Shields, at 8pm, are £11 and £9 for concessions. For the box office call (0191) 454 1234.

Getting expelled from the Magic Circle did upset me, this is my job, my vocation, my profession but I bore the rap and there was a lot of publicity

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