Illicit Ink and Magic

Feature by David Agnew | 30 Jul 2012

Illicit Ink is one of Edinburgh’s home grown spoken word events, which started as "an accident," says event runner Barbara Melville. A team-up between Writers' Bloc and Napier University creative writing students for an anti-Valentine's night started it all. “It was a smashing night,” says Melville “and people kept asking when the next one would be. So, a bunch of us decided to keep it going.” It’s that simple.

Gavin Inglis of Writers' Bloc describes it thus: “Illicit Ink is doing something quite unique in Edinburgh; it has open submissions but a strong theme which changes every show. This is a difficult thing to bring off because your average writer will just take their latest story about hubcap collecting and insert a couple of words to make it about medicine, or murder, or fairies. But II always seems to work.”  

This year’s theme is magic. But why? “Where there is good writing, there is magic,” says Melville. “I work as a stage magic consultant (think Jonathan Creek but with less money and better hair). The idea of linking magic and narrative performance has been flapping around my head for years. Both forms lend themselves to making the impossible possible. Both share ground in terms of structure, and then there’re overlaps with other concepts and effects, like transformation and misdirection. And of course, both are fun.”  

Both compering and performing can be fun and Ariadne Cass-Maran, who regularly does both, says that compering can be more difficult “because you're never quite 'off.' At least with performing, you get to have a beer and relax when it's over.” So she’ll be performing, reading a story which “should be a little bit magical, a little bit funny, and a little bit scary,” she says, adding that “Unbound is always amazing good fun, and it's so exciting to be part of it this year.”

Gavin Inglis, who will take the role of compere, says “Some magicians of the 'pick a card, return it to the deck – look, I've found it!' variety could learn a lot from writers about engaging their audience's emotions. And of course writers strive for fictional moments of wonder that the best magicians create in the real world.” There will also be actual performing magicians at the event too, but when Inglis says “the audience can expect to see some proper magic on the night.” I’m not sure that he means the conjurors. [David Agnew]