Guest Blog: Breathe at the Wellcome Collection

We asked Breathe Magician Dr Will Houstoun, who is also Resident Magician at the Centre for Performing Science, to blog about what exciting things he has coming up in the next few months.

Over the last six months I have become involved with The Wellcome Collection’s Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic. The exhibition examines what conjuring can tell us about the human mind as part of Wellcome’s broader goal of challenging how we think and feel about health. I have modelled for their posters (somewhat surreal because my giant hands are all over the London Underground), I performed at the private view, and even contributed a video about magic that will play over 20,000 times in the exhibition. By far my favourite part of the process, however, has been developing an in-gallery performance programme.

Breathe Magician Will Houstoun proses in front of a poster of the exhibition

There is no way of experiencing magic that can compete with seeing it performed live by a top-quality practitioner, so I arranged sixty free performances by world-class conjurers for the exhibition. Each performance has been designed to offer a rare insight into the world of magic, drawing people in with a performance and then highlighting a different aspect of the art that I love. And, given the exhibition’s linking of health and magic, and my longstanding involvement in the Breathe Magic programme, Breathe’s work was something I was very keen to shine a light on.

Between 18 and 22 June, a group of Breathe young magicians, who have all attended our magic camps, as well as some slightly older ones (Breathe magicians David Owen, Richard McDougall and myself) will present six performances, showcasing the healing power of magic and highlighting our young magicians’ achievements. If you would like to join us at the Wellcome, performances take place at the following times:

18 June 13:30 and 14:30

20 June 18:30 and 19:30

22 June 11:30 and 12:30.

Do come early though, as the events are hugely popular (and there is lots to see in the exhibition)!

What should you do if you can’t make these dates? Well, fear not, as you can still catch performances from Richard McDougall and myself, talking about other aspects of our work. Richard will be appearing in the week of July 15 and in his sessions you can learn about some of the techniques magicians can use to control one of the most valuable commodities in the world: your attention.

I will be there in the weeks of July 8 and August 12 and I will take a journey into the “Golden Age” of magic: Discover how, at the end of the 19th century, conjuring was at the pinnacle of popular entertainment and magicians were amongst the world’s biggest stars.

Full details and times can be found on the Wellcome Events pages as well as details of a variety of accessible performances (some events are British sign language interpreted and have speech-to-text services).

I’d love to see you there and do say hi!