How Relevant Is The 'Are You A Member Of The Magic Circle?' Question These Days?
Before we begin. I am not a member. This is a viewpoint of a magician who has never been a member. I have zero intention of joining either. I've tried not to be too biased but I appreciate that I am coming at it from my point of view, rather than a members point of view.
That is the caveat I am putting at the start of this post. I have nothing against the Circle, in fact, it has many wonderful benefits, I am just going to explain the reasons why I am not a member.
At every gig I must be asked at least once 'are you a member of the Magic Circle?'
I get the same face every time I answer that question with a no. It's confusion followed by minor disappointment. I often wonder what goes through someone's head at this point. They have usually seen me perform at this point so I think this is what goes through their head:
'But you're actually quite good, why aren't you a member, unless, you're not as good as the members.'
The Magic Circle is a London based club for magicians. That's it. It may have members from across the globe and it may have established itself as 'kind of a big deal' but The Magic Circle is not a 'magic school', a 'professional accreditation' or even a 'guild of magicians'. It has no ruling over what happens in the magic world.
However, from a non magicians stand point they have positioned themselves as being the defining authority in magic. That isn't the case at all. I think the issue lies in the secrecy surrounding the magic world. The only people who understand what the Circle actually is, is magicians themselves.
To make it more accessible, I'll use a golfing analogy. The Magic Circle is like St Andrews Golf Club. An incredibly important club, but being a member of that club does not define your ability as a golfer.
You don't have to be a professional golfer to be a member at St Andrews, neither do all professional golfers have to be members of St Andrews. As odd as that may sound, that is exactly what some non magicians think of the Magic Circle.
If I don't get asked if I'm a member I will often here 'Oh, my sister's work colleague is a member of the Magic Circle'. They look at me with even more shock when I then say I am not a member.
This very statement shows the threshold for entry. If your sisters work colleague is a member, why does that mean I should be? I'm sure they are a great person and can do a few card tricks, but if they aren't a professional magician then that just goes to show that it is not a professional association.
There is an exam that needs to be passed, so you can't be awful. However, just because you passed an exam doesn't always mean you are good at a subject. I'm sure we all had that friend who scraped a maths GCSE. While they passed, you'd hardly call them a proficient mathematician.
Having said all of that, it is a club that is run by the subs of its members. Less members, less income; more members, more income. The simple economics of that could mean that they would be prepared to let more members in, even if their skill isn't quite up to scratch.
Members are very proud of their membership, as they should be. It is an incredibly important club with loads of prestige and heritage. But, for me, as a professional working magician, I can tell you with 100% certainty, that membership holds no bearing on my ability as a performer, or a magician. Membership does not guarantee you quality entertainment; equally, no membership does not mean poor entertainment.
I hope that gives you an idea into the workings of the Magic Circle. Like I said at the start, I have no issue with the Magic Circle, in fact, I am lucky enough to call many of the higher up members my close friends. However, I have no intention of joining. Membership holds no bearing on your ability as a performer and is not a guild for magicians. In fact, one of my closest friends, superb magician and extremely busy working professionals in the country, isn't a member.
Let's be honest, magic is such a secretive art that if there was a club for the magic's elite, would you know about it and would I ever be able to tell you of its existence?
All the best,