I’ve collected optical antiques for forty years and presented authentic magic lantern shows for over twenty and now give talks and seminars, on a professional basis, on ‘Victorian optical entertainments’. I work with museums; festivals; universities; arts societies (including ‘The Arts Society’, formerly NADFAS) and special interest groups to explore the forgotten world of pre-cinema entertainments that amused, thrilled and mystified people in the 18th and 19th centuries and can still do so today.
I’ve had some interesting experiences over the years, including working with TV personalities, telling Victorian tales of death and destruction to a group of four year olds (the organiser told me to expect teenagers!) and almost setting fire to a museum that was lit by real gas lights. I’ve worked with celebrities; elderly, inebriated fun-seekers (don’t ask) and even babies in buggies but mostly with people interested in art, history and film who want to learn whilst being entertained. Making an audience laugh, gasp and cheer with Victorian technology is always exciting and rewarding.
My presentation involves lots of ‘scopes’ and ‘tropes’, devices that created moving or changing pictures, which were the optical and technical building blocks that eventually led to the invention of the movies in 1895. I use digital projection plus hands-on, practical demonstrations of some of the items seen turning, whirring and spinning in my videos. The demos are always good fun, be they film history graduates or young-at-heart U3A groups, as everyone enjoys making still pictures come to life.
If you are an event organiser, programme secretary or university lecturer and would like to know more or discuss a project or event, please visit the Shows and Talks page of my website ‘Magic Lantern World‘.