The Melbourne Magic Festival is back to put a spell on 2022

Melbourne Magic Festival

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted June 21, 2022

The Melbourne Magic Festival is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Director Tim Ellis explains how Melbourne became spellbound.

Do you believe in magic?  

Tim Ellis does. A magician of nearly 50 years and Festival Director of The Melbourne Magic Festival, he’s got more than one trick up his sleeve.

A famed magician who has broken Guinness World Records, performed at Hollywood’s elite Magic Castle and “rocked the house” of David Copperfield, as a seasoned magician he can perform a sleight of hand trick quicker than you can say 'abracadabra'.  

His idea for The Melbourne Magic Festival began back in 2008, when magic gigs started to dry up during the Global Financial Crisis.

Ellis, who lives and breathes magic through performances, books, videos, and a magic shop, saw this as an opportunity to get the magical alliance together. The Festival would be a place for creating shows, where evolving and accomplished magicians could perform, meet, compete, teach, learn, inspire, and create magic. The Festival soon cast a spell over Melbourne, where it has now become the largest magic festival in the southern hemisphere. 

So, what keeps everyone so enamoured and enchanted with the world of magic?  

Melbourne Magic Festival 2022

Every little thing he does is magic

As a child, Ellis recalls receiving his very first trick from his uncle: a Hanky Panky magic set. He learned quickly, and found he was able to form an identity as the whimsical kid who could bring a smile to the faces of friends and family. 

Rather than put his one party trick aside, Ellis persevered, borrowing every magic book, watching every video, buying tricks from the Melbourne city magic shop, and even going on to buy the store several decades later. For Ellis, life has remained magical – he has even built a theatre in his own house where close-up magic shows are performed every Friday and Saturday night. 

Going on to form the Melbourne Magic Festival, the event now compromises over 130 performances from magicians across the country. 

When asked why Melbourne has become such a hub of all things hocus pocus, he said it comes down to the magical community. “Everyone is so supportive of each other,” he says. “Some other cities, there is a competitiveness. Here, we focus on creative shows for the festival together, and we have lots of support, admiration and collaboration.” 

Like, say… a magician’s alliance? 


Some tricks need to be seen to be believed. Image: Supplied.
There's plenty of fun for audiences of all ages. Image: Supplied.

A magician never reveals his secrets

So, are the rumours true? Is there a secret ‘Magician’s Alliance’ like we’ve seen on television, where members must abide by a strict code? 

Well... kind of.

“Certainly, there are a lot of a lot of ethical codes that we really try to teach our magicians,” Ellis says. These follow acts of “general decency” – don’t copy acts from other magicians or TV, and “exposing” how people do tricks, says Ellis, “doesn't help anybody learn how to do magic.”

There is also their organisation, the Australian Institute of Magic, which is ‘dedicated to furthering the standard and reputation of Australian magicians.’ The Institute is a home for magical members to learn and inform, attend and host classes, share trade secrets, and advertise performances. 

By the way Ellis speaks about the industry, despite what people may think about magic being ‘only a bit of fun,’ it’s a serious craft that takes years, even decades, to perfect. 

“It is also psychology, misdirection, timing, choreography. We train all our lives to do this sort of stuff,” he says.  

There are certainly a lot of “obsessions” that a successful magician must have. Ellis says a lot of it comes down to details. “You may see a group of magicians sitting up late at night in a group - and they're all discussing just the position of the little pinkie when they do a particular card move. Because that will make the difference between the move being successful or not.” 

There’s the practice, the technical rehearsal, the feedback. “But there's also this constant thinking,” Ellis says. “I’m working on tricks all the time. While I'm walking, when I'm sitting watching TV, it’s always in the back of my mind.” 

For my next trick…

While the world was turned upside-down during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many forced to only do online shows, the Institute was lucky enough to be able to fit in their face-to-face Festival during lockdowns. "It was magic," Ellis says ominously. 

So, what can avid magicians and spellbound laymen (a layman is like a muggle on Planet Earth) expect from the Festival? 

This year, there is something for everyone with the largest collection of magicians delivering over 130 performances at the Melbourne Magic Festival. 

For the kids, consider sending them to ‘Magic School’ with Tim Credible, or to explore imagination with Chris Morant’s Magical Circus Show. 

If you have a budding young magician with a trick up their sleeve, or maybe you are ready to say “Alakazam!” yourself, the Magic School also runs classes throughout the year for budding Harry Potters young and old.

Other highlights include Simon Coronel, who made his start with the Festuval and is now based in Hollywood, where he has performed on prestigious magic TV programs such as Penn & Teller. 

There’s also John Chambers, who showcased his powers to the masses on America’s Got Talent and on stage in The Illusionists, and Dr. Vyom Sharma, the doctor/magician (you read that right), who magically balances his act with his real-world role as a GP and medical spokesman.  

There’s stand-up stage shows, roaming magic, a game of poker where you can learn how people cheat with Chi Han, demonstrations of Celtic Illusions, improv ‘MagicSports,’ Open Mic Magic, Houdini, stage galas and more. 

Those who want life to be magical can also enter a competition for the elusive ‘Golden Ticket’, allowing free entry for every show in the festival. 


Spectators just might become a part of the action. Image: Supplied.
Learn spellbinding skills at Magic School. Image: Supplied.

It’s magic, you know

When asked how he would explain magic, Ellis doesn’t miss a beat. “It’s unlocking the child within,” he says whimsically. “It’s allowing you to revisit a place that most people have locked away, because there was a certain age where they were told, ‘You can't do this as a career. You have to get a proper job. You have to live your life. You have to get married, have a family, follow the rules.’ We're saying you don't. Remember the time when you could fly? Remember when you could read people's minds, you'd have x-ray vision? You can still pretend, you can still play, you can still recapture that part of your youth and will go away looking at the world in a different way.” 

Ellis says he still lights up when he converts skeptics who think it’s simple gimmicks. 

“When you’re invested, you don't look at the world the same way, because you go, I did not think this was possible. Clearly, it's a trick but somehow, it happened.” 

“You have to just sit back and go, ‘Well, I guess it's just magic’."


The Melbourne Magic Festival runs from June 27-July 9 at a range of venues around Melbourne and regional Victoria.