There are calls to tighten up the regulation of street magicians after a girl in Norwich was levitated and left suspended three feet above the ground for an hour before being rescued by firemen equipped with a small stepladder. And it's not the first time that a member of the public has suffered distress at the hands of an itinerant wizard. A man in Gloucester recently became seriously confused after his phone was inserted into a beer bottle, and a Liverpool woman reported that a street conjuror had sawn her mother-in-law in half while she was trying to do her shopping.
Nottingham in particular has a severe problem with magicians and its market square is frequently overrun with them. "They're worse than the pigeons," said local resident Bernie Suction. "Constantly pestering you to pick a card, making your watch disappear and crapping all over the statues. The council ought to do summat about it. Have 'em all destroyed or summat."
Nottingham City Council has already considered a number of options. "We've tried putting humane traps down," said Councillor Alison Bongo. "Huge boxes baited with magic wands, top hats and crystal balls. They love all that stuff, so they run in, the door springs shut and they're trapped. Except that they're not, of course. Miraculously escaping from locked boxes is something that they seem quite good at."
Nevertheless, the council is aware of the health risks and realises that it needs to take action before some areas of the city become completely uninhabitable. They have decided to adopt a different approach.
"We don't see anything wrong with magic, per se," said Councillor Bongo. "But it doesn't belong on the streets. It needs to be practised in the safe, comfortable environment of a theatre, a nightclub or a children's birthday party. That's why we have opened a number of drop-in centres, where magicians can come, practise card tricks, play with interlocking rings or just sit and talk to someone about pulling the flags of all nations from their top pockets. It's a friendly, supportive environment, and we have a number of ex-magician volunteers who really understand what it's like to be chained, padlocked, trussed up in a sack and suspended over a trough of burning paraffin."
Councillor Bongo explains that the ultimate goal of these centres is to rehabilitate street magicians, show them a different way of life, or at least get them a gig on a cruise ship. It's early days yet, but she and her colleagues believe that it's the only viable solution to the problem.
"This has got to be the most effective and the most compassionate way of getting these magicians off our streets," she told us. "With proper care, patience and consideration, we can give these people a real chance. And if that doesn't work, we'll just have to shoot them."