3 illusionists and magicians from Berkshire

PUBLISHED: 15:08 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:24 01 October 2020

Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee 

Photo: Rob Oldfield

Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee Photo: Rob Oldfield

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From the late Paul Daniels to spoon-bending Uri Geller - lots of well-known tricksters have made the county their home

Some of Britain’s favourite magicians have lived in Berkshire and some still do. World-renowned Uri Geller lived here for around 30 years before he decided it was time to go back to his roots a few years ago and set up home in Tel Aviv.

While he was in Berkshire though, he loved every minute of calling Sonning his home in his magnificent Sonning Court mansion, which Uri said was inspired by the White House.

It was love at first sight, he explained, “It wasn’t the house, it was the location. I have travelled all over the world and stayed in some fantastic places, but when I saw Sonning Court it took my breath away.

“I used to spend hours just gazing out of the window at the river, which is really beautiful at Sonning. I never ever tired of the view.”

Uri Geller 

Photo: Dmitry RozhkovUri Geller Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov

Uri made changes to the property, of course. He had an L-shaped, heated swimming pool installed as well as a tennis court, Jacuzzi and helicopter pad - and that was just on the outside!

But the house was only part of the story; it was the county itself that really appealed.

“At first I thought it was just convenient for London and TV studios,” said Uri. “But then I saw Sonning Court and after that I realised what a beautiful and inspiring county Berkshire really is.

“Perhaps it is its connections with history or the whole heritage of royal families throughout the years, I don’t know, but I once described it as the most magical, spiritual and empowering place on the planet and I have never changed my mind about that.

“The whole village of Sonning always had a different feel about it. Perhaps it is that feeling that gets to magicians and people like me. Performing feats as I do is more than sleight of hand, it is a feeling and for me Berkshire always fuelled that feeling.”

The late Paul Daniels, probably everyone’s favourite TV magician for many years until he died in 2016, also loved living in Berkshire in a home that also overlooked the river but at Wargrave.

“I love watching the ducks and swans,” he once revealed. “I have liked feeding the ducks since I was a little boy and it always gives me a kick to do the same at Wargrave.

“We have floor to ceiling windows in the main bedroom so I can actually lie in bed and see the garden and the river. It’s beautiful.

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“I think the whole county of Berkshire reflects that beauty and an atmosphere of serenity. As a magician you need peace and quiet to work out and practice the things you are going to do in public.”

Paul believed that Berkshire did have certain powers, though he did not think of them as being magical.

“It’s just that Berkshire is quite unique in that many go-ahead people live here but it is also such a fantastic haven.

“You can contemplate life here and for a performer that is very important since you are under pressure to give your best night after night – quite rightly so – and coming home to Berkshire is just exactly the right place to unwind. That is it’s magic for me.”

One of Britain’s busiest magicians is Mike Stoner. who also loves living in the county at Wokingham.

“I’ve lived in Berkshire for 20 years and used to work for Yellow Pages in Reading. After decades doing an office job I thought it was time to try something different and I left to become a magician.

“I had no previous experience apart from watching Derren Brown on the TV so I spent the first year learning the craft from books, videos and by meeting other magicians - including Derren himself! At first I did magic for free in local pubs to ‘learn the ropes’ and then set up in business and things took off from there.

Mike Stoner  Photo: EMG LtdMike Stoner Photo: EMG Ltd

“I’ve performed at many venues across Berkshire, at hundreds of parties and weddings, and been on the radio and TV a few times.

“My style of magic is called ‘close-up’, so rather than being up on a stage I’m wandering around mingling with people doing all of the magic right in front of them. Everyone gets to see something impossible happening from just a few feet away.

“It’s almost as if I am one of the party or wedding guests myself, so I’ll chat to someone and then suddenly something appears or disappears or I start to read their mind. It works really well and often the bookers keep me a surprise so nobody knows I’ll be there - great fun!

“There are so many superb venues across Berkshire that I rarely have to travel further afield. Whether I’m working at a stately home, luxury hotel or even a castle it’s always a pleasure.

“We also have a number of celebrities living in the area and I’ve been lucky enough to do some work for them at various events, which is always a thrill for them and me.

“Think of a word - I know what it is. Mix up a Rubik’s Cube - I can solve it in four seconds, one-handed! Show me your phone - I can tell you the unlock code.

“Everyone loves a bit of magic and it doesn’t come any better than in the inspiring county of Berkshire. If you are a visitor - prepare to be amazed!”

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