Shows and Talks

Magic lantern shows

There are a few people in the world who present authentic magic lantern shows on a professional or amateur basis. A well-presented performance can be a thing of beauty and wonder and should be magical, with the audience being amused, surprised, thrilled and perhaps moved to tears by a Victorian ballad or melodrama. 

After decades of working as a professional lanternist with academia, museums, festivals, theatres, TV companies and special interest groups, I now present magic lantern shows just a few times each year, either as a ‘magic lantern experience’ or on specific subjects such as the First World War. If you are organising an event that would benefit from a live, authentic magic lantern show, please contact me. Alternatively, the Magic Lantern Society has a list on its website of members who give lantern shows in the UK and beyond.

Talks and seminars

I also give power-point illustrated talks and seminars on ‘Optical Entertainments before the Movies’ (see below) to a wide range of organisations. I’m an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society.

Optical Entertainments before the Movies

For students of art history, media, film studies and visual sciences and groups interested in social history, photography, cinema and Victorian culture

Since the earliest times, artists, showmen and scientists have tried to capture real life (movement and perspective) through art and mechanical devices. The Victorians used the new science of optics to create perspective machines, persistence-of-vision devices, panoramic scenes, three-dimensional imagery and moving pictures in large-scale theatrical extravaganzas and children’s toys.

I’ve collected optical antiques for forty years and have been a professional speaker for twenty. I work with museums; TV companies; academia; festivals; Decorative Fine Arts Societies, U3As and special interest groups. This talk looks at the Victorian optical entertainments ….. peepshows; transformation views; dioramas; panoramas; zoetropes; magic lanterns; phantasmagoria shows and much more ….. that led to the invention of cinema and, ultimately, to the plethora of visual entertainments that we enjoy today.

This one hour power-point talk is a light-touch, lavishly illustrated meander through the history of optical entertainments from cave art to the birth of the movies in 1895. If required, it can be followed by a forty minute ‘hands-on’ demonstration of some of the devices.


Event organisers who booked ‘Optical Entertainments before the Movies’ said ….

“A talk, an experience, an adventure even, that took one back to a pre-celluloid era, giving an intriguing glimpse into the visual entertainment our great grandparents enjoyed. Andrew’s depth of knowledge and obvious enthusiasm guaranteed an enthralling presentation.  Historical devices and optical artefacts from his collection brought additional life to the story and revealed the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Victorian entertainers and showmen.” 

“The show was very informative and entertaining. Students and staff alike enjoyed Andrew’s informative presentation and being able to use some of the items on show. It really helped join the dots of the relationship between the pre-cursors of photography, cinema and where we are now with inventions like the ipad.”

“Andrew led us through the fascinating development of pre-cinema visual entertainment – described by our members as ‘delightful’ ,’wonderful’, ‘unique’ and ‘just the most unusual and interesting presentation I’ve seen in years’, followed by an opportunity to ‘look at and marvel over’ a wide range of original optical devices. ‘I had no idea there were so many’.” 

“The lecture was pitched just right, and was informative and engaging. The audience found Andrew easy to follow through the fascinating history of optical illusions and magic lanterns, from ancient forebears on perspective to early twentieth-century popular and educational displays. The opportunity to handle (and to play with) the optical toys was a particular treat, from the weird and wonderful to the witty and pretty …. especially the beautiful perspective box of the Great Exhibition, which was a favourite.”

“Andrew weaves tales into his talk using surprising facts, anecdotes and humour in a way that would have made the story tellers of old envious. When you see a talk presented by Andrew Gill, you know you are in the hands of a true professional.”

Explore this forgotten world and experience the visual wonders enjoyed by our Victorian ancestors. For further information or to discuss a particular event, project or course, please contact me.

Study days

If you have a group of people with an interest in this subject and would like to combine the above power-point presentation with a practical, hands-on demonstration, plus an authentic magic lantern show, I offer a three-part Study Day, guaranteed to be informative, memorable and good old-fashioned fun!