Edit - updated Feb 2024 - With BMC 2024 fast approaching, this is a copy of my post from last year that summarised my thoughts on attending BMC for beginners. Much of the original advice still applies. I will not be personally going to BMC this year but wish all attending a good time. I am sure that it will be excellent.
This was third time lucky for me to finally attend a BMC. 2021 being cancelled and then last year, weather issues causing train problems which prevented me from travelling.
Living in the UK, it was relatively easy for me to attend this year. Here is my advice and experiences of BMC 2023 if you are thinking of attending for the first time in 2024.
If you have any experiences or advice to share, please add to the comments at the end of this page. I have attempted to be as comprehensive as possible, dividing the article into relevant sections.
BMC Tickets And Registering
I booked accommodation and my Gold pass a year in advance for BMC. The gold pass being the three day pass to cover the entire convention (+ auction).
Possibly next time the tickets go on sale, I will buy the VIP pass as it guarantees seats near the front of the gala shows. Though I did have good gala shows tickets some 15 rows back from the front. Ticket wise, you can buy individual day passes if you cannot attend the whole weekend.
Passes available are day, gold (for entire weekend) and VIP. Please note that the day passes do not include the gala show. I also understand that no concessions exist for children with all prices the same for each pass type.
Be warned that you have to register on arrival at BMC, regardless of what ticket you have bought. Though I believe that VIP maybe fast tracked. Registrations at the start of day of course have large queues. I was able to register on the Thursday afternoon very quickly. If you can register on arrival on the Thursday it is recommended. I registered before checking into the hotel.
Accommodation wise, you do hear of some people getting messed around and bookings cancelled near the time of the event. Therefore, do read up reviews of hotels. Location is also key and if you can get accommodation close, perhaps within a 5 minute walk, that is ideal. The days are long with 9am starts through to late evening shows. Nearby accommodation certainly allows you to break up the days when you want some quiet time. I stayed at the Premier Inn North Pier which was very good. Location wise, not only near the train station but close to Winter gardens.
For those staying in accommodation further afield, it must prove challenging and not as easy when you want to take a break. I understand that Premier taxis are good to use if needed and they have an app.
I booked my hotel accommodation about 9 months in advance.
Travel wise, I originally planned to travel up on the Thursday and return Sunday. The advantage of going on the Thursday allowed for quick registration without much of a wait. Those registering on the Friday had to wait much longer in the queue at start of day.
The convention is held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. A massive conference venue with arenas, halls, theatre, bars etc. The Winter Garden site is here if you want to know more.
For those travelling by train, you need the North Pier Blackpool train station that is very central and within walking distance of Winter Gardens.
One learning experience is that if you plan to go home Sunday afternoon, you may end up missing a lot of good lectures, gala and shows. When the schedule was released 2 weeks before the event, I discovered two things. 1. Some of the best entertainment and lectures were booked for the Sunday afternoon onwards. 2. The train schedule is appalling on the Sunday with the main line having engineering works. It was therefore a no brainier to book to stay over the Sunday night and return on Monday.
So be weary of booking trains on the Sunday as it will likely involve bus services and longer travel times. Another disadvantage of the train is of course carry on luggage, as you are limited to your case/bag sizes and what you can handle. Though the journey can be quite stress free. If you plan any larger purchases or many, you may want a car!
Many friends drove and did not appear to have any difficulties parking that I know of.
Planning Your Days/Time
There is also a BMC app and I downloaded the schedules. Reading up in advance what shows and lectures that I wanted to see. When booking the VIP tickets, you get a choice as to whether you attend the early or late gala shows. Your laminated pass then has your gala show seat ticket printed on it.
To make the most of your days, I printed off my schedule and I also printed winter garden maps. However, magicians are a friendly bunch and if you get lost or not sure where to go, just ask. An ideal way to meet people and the BMC staff and organisers are also very helpful.
Be prepared to also plan time to see the dealer halls as there is a lot to see.
Of course, the big attraction for many at BMC is the dealer halls. It is very easy to get carried away and spend a lot of money. In some cases, dealers or magicians announce in advance new products that you can preorder. I set my own rules how I would manage possible purchases, but of course everyone is different. Work in a manner that you feel comfortable with, but do try not to impulse buy!
When doing the rounds of dealers, you will see many famous magicians selling/running demo's and others looking. An ideal opportunity to see some perform close up.
My plan on the first day was to pick up a purchase first an take it back to the hotel. An expensive item that I did not want to get damaged. Once I had scouted around all dealers, I took a little break and gathered a coffee. Seeing all the dealers for the first time can be overwhelming so pace yourself.
Be warned that ruck sacks can be frowned upon, though I saw plenty of them and in fairness, did not cause any issues. I used a draw string bag during the day as compact.
Saying hello and gaining selfies was easy for my website within the dealer halls. I appreciate this partly also depends on confidence but I had the chance to speak to some lovely people. Some of which probably get hassled all the time but are most welcoming. I was able to have some great conversations with many. I was also able to gain signed cards from many magicians as well.
Where possible I tried to be considerate and wait for a natural opportunity.
Lecture wise, if you can find the lecture and queue about 20 minutes in advance, you will get a good position in the queue and place for the show. The only shows that have pre allocated seating is off course the gala shows. It has to be said that the gala shows are amazing and many other shows are available to watch in the evenings also. It should also be said that the Gala shows feature many international artists who may not normally perform in the UK. For magicians, it is a massive highlight.
It has to be said that magicians are the most friendly of people. You can start up conversations with almost anyone. Though this was my first BMC, I did have some advantages as I am a member of a couple of UK magic clubs and having run this site for a few years, it has allowed me to build up many connections. The result being that I met many for the first time, but recognised others due to my site. Also, many magicians that I had met previously.
I would also recommend that if you are meeting up with fellow magicians that you know, meet for breakfast or tea to catch up. Check when others are perhaps attending the same shows or lectures. But make sure you are free to do your own thing so that you are not tied to someone else's agenda or become a hinderance.
Of course, if you are not in a magic club or perhaps travelling from overseas, perhaps online communities and forums can help you meet people in advance. I did read some reports from some on forums adving that they were lonely. In those instances, you could see offers instantly in replies from other attendees offering to meet. But if you do feel like that, just say hello to anyone you want to chat with. Its fair to say all are very friendly.
For many magicians, a key social part of the BMC experience is meeting up in the Ruskin for jamming and catching up with others. The key being to do what you are comfortable with. I attended the Ruskin one evening which was enjoyable but I found that after a full days schedule and evening shows, my priority was to rest in my hotel. If you don't know anyone in advance, the Ruskin is a good place to meet people.
Food And Drink
Food and drink actually within the Wiinter Gardens is quite limited. You can buy coffee and some sandwiches and a large bar is available. A restaurant was having a refit this year.
Food wise, the local area does get busy so restaurants are packed. If you want a meal, you may wish to book in advance. Unless you dont mind the chippy, Greggs or McDonalds. To break things up, I did have a couple of cooked breakfasts at my hotel and lunch one day which was good. The food felt a bit more substantial that way.
Russ Brown's The House Of Secrets is also open with extended hours over the convention serving drinks. I went there a few times. It is a small venue so get their early in the evenings. During the day it can be quite quiet but ideal for an escape from the main BMC convention.
If you blog, posting pictures or video, be warned that the wifi and mobile signal is generally quite poor in Blackpool during this event. I was able to post but I did struggle to send quick updates sometimes. It was then easier to post in the early hours.
I am with Sky Mobile/02 and found phone calls okay as long as I left the Winter Gardens as it is quite noisy there.
I think this covers most of the advice that I would give. I hope that this guide helps and motivates you to book if you are on the fence. I can honestly say that as a magic enthusiast, it does not matter what your background is. As long as you have a genuine interest in magic, you will enjoy yourself. It is like the happiest place on earth for magicians.
Just be organised and if you want to go to BMC 24, book accommodation, travel and tickets as soon as you can. That way, you get the best opportunities.
Please remember to comment if you have any advice you would like to add. And if you would like any advice, please let me know.
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