This, really, is where it all began I suppose. It was Christmas morning and amongst the popular gifts of the year 2000 (Stretch Armstrong, anyone?) I also received a Paul Daniels magic set. It seems like a magic set is a hugely common gift for someone of my age – but of everything else I received, that was the one that really stuck with me. Actually, the candy-floss maker was pretty cool as well.
I loved the idea that these little props would somehow give me magical abilities, and I spent the rest of my time trying to work out how to make each one of them work.
The next few weeks were spent with me practicing alone in my bedroom – a habit which continued to become a very common occurrence throughout my early teens (and I was practicing magic tricks in there all those years, honestly).
Such minor miracles as making small red balls appear under brightly-coloured cups, or making three different sized lengths of rope join together to form one long piece became fascinating to me, and I’d work on them for hours to master the basic sleight of hand needed. Admittedly, I was a strange but dedicated child.
After enough time had passed I, now under the self-imposed stage name of ‘Magic Ste’ (cute, right?), decided to perform a show for my family during one of our weekly Sunday get-togethers. I was 6 years old; I thought I was David Copperfield and insisted that my relatives sit down to watch my magic show – as you can imagine, they were delighted.
With as much panache and showmanship as a youthful Stephen Williams Jr could muster – which, let me humbly tell you, was an awful lot – I stepped in front of the gathered 10 or so people and gave my first ever performance.
This wasn’t The London Palladium standard, let’s not kid ourselves; but at least 50% of the audience seemed to be mildly-amused, so I considered it a success. Coincidentally, that 50% rule stuck for the next 10 years or so.
The tricks weren’t earth-shattering; I was using a hairbrush as a microphone and my patter was wooden (“Hello, miss, what is your name?” I asked my mother), but I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suppose something about it just seemed to ‘click.’ Instinctively, I knew that this was going to be what I’d do when I was older. Hopefully by that point, I’d also have also grown into my dad’s black suit jacket that he’d given me to wear.
By the way, if you’re wondering, my dad is also called Stephen Williams – which is why I’m Stephen Williams Jr; although he’s not a magician. In fact, no one in my family does magic or are in the entertainment industry, so I assume they expected the whole thing to be a fad that would probably go away after a few weeks. Now, as I write this, 15 years have passed and I’m still utterly obsessed with it. Thankfully though, the tricks have improved somewhat since then… well, most of them anyway.