Author Topic: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011  (Read 3807 times)

Graham Lee

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Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« on: June 15, 2011, 09:39:57 PM »
Apologies to everyone as Nippy was meant to answer the questions this week but I forgot to advertise the fact and to put the details up.
Fingers crossed that Darren is OK for next Monday, website details; http://www.magicworks.ltd.uk/
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2011, 08:31:49 PM »
Hi everyone, It is nippy99's week to be interviewed. Ny name is Darren, I hope you enjoy reading the answers to the standard questions. I will try to make them as interesting as possible. Feel free to ask any questions you may have.

1, What road led you into balloon modelling?

In 1994, at the ripe old age of 24, my wife bought me a Marvin’s Magic Set for Christmas just for a laugh. Well did that laugh backfire as 17 years later my magic has out grown our house and the carpet is littered with scraps of balloons on a daily basis. My magic for me just started as a hobby and in the days before the internet the ‘art’ was really a journey of discovery. I did the usual thing that every hobbyist does and stare with wonder at the gadgets and gizmos on display at the magic shop, open carrier bag in one hand, bent credit card in the other. I spent months filling my hobby room with endless tricks and effects that I would never master or use.

My confidence with close-up magic grew and I found myself being centre of attention at pub evenings and work outings when someone asked me to do a magic show for their 5 year old Son. For some silly reason I accepted. They said they would pay me £50 for half an hour and that was the full production budget I had. With a small bag, a chair, a rocky racoon and a bag of modelling balloons I was heading for the big time!

I did the show, nervous as hell and after 30mins I was ready for an encore. I loved it and that was what launched my MagicWorks Show and everything that followed.

In terms of balloons, at that stage each child had the choice of a dog or a sword (big mistake – i learnt the hard way!) and that was all. Balloons were never a priority and played a minor part in my act. In all honesty I didn’t know much about them or even where to learn about them. (Remember no internet – beginners don’t know how lucky they are these days).

Wind on a few years, and I had a massive conservatory built on the back of my house. I hired a tiler to lay the ceramic flooring and he spotted a wizard puppet sitting on my shelf. He was interested to see my magic and it also turned out that he tinkered with balloon models. I remember he had a book (one of Marvin’s I believe) and could make much more impressive single balloon models than me. And that was the push I needed. No way was I going to let the guy tiling my conservatory make better balloons than me.

So I put my magic aside for a while and started to learn more intricate designs. Starting with single balloon models and onwards. I remember being mesmerised and so impressed by the Palloncini books and the making of a multi balloon Road Runner really showed me what was possible.

The rest as they say is history.

Now with over 400 different designs in my photo gallery (some of which are on-line with many more to upload) I still find ballooning exciting. There are new discoveries daily and the wealth of people more talented than me, give me something to aspire to.

So that is what led me to balloon modelling.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
MagicWorks Ltd

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Graham Lee

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2011, 11:49:26 PM »
It's a good read already  :)
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2011, 12:49:54 AM »
2, when did you get started with balloons?

I guess I have answered this in the first question. I must have started with basic balloons around 1996/7.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
MagicWorks Ltd

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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2011, 12:51:15 AM »
3, What’s your best twisting experience?

This is a tough question as there have been so many excellent twisting experiences each getting better as I become more skilled and keep pushing my own boundaries. I have two experiences I would like to share with you and I will explain my reasons why.

The first experience.... my daughter was born in 1996 with a medical condition that required a prolonged stay at Great Ormond Street in London and since then my family have had a long-term relationship with the hospital as we usually visit twice a year. It was during my early visits that I understood the power of balloons within a hospital situation.

I was in my daughter’s side room and whilst she was sleeping I saw a young child walking up and down the corridor pushing his own IV drip on a special stand. I got out my balloons and made him something. His reaction was incredible, his beaming smile and happy face. His mum was so pleased with something so simple. Since then my own personal situation has changed and I switched from being a full time entertainer (still not sure if that was the right move) to become a Director at my local acute hospital. This means I have access to all areas and frequently when I am stressed at work I grab my balloons and magic and head on down to the children’s ward. I spend time making balloons, walking around the beds and making smiles.

Just a few weeks ago I saw a young boy, around 5, looking miserable as he sat in his isolation room whilst he underwent treatment for his leukaemia. Abusing my staff security badge and CRB check, dressed in my suit and tie I entered the room to speak to the parents. They asked if I was a Consultant, imagine their surprise when I pulled out my balloons and completely decorated their room. I spent over an hour with the family, chatting, having fun and they were so pleased I had taken the time to make their little boy so happy.

The second experience... one of the best things about magic and balloons is it really does open up new doors and opportunities when you least expect it. I was performing at a charity black-tie event and I offered my services for free performing close-up magic and balloons. Everything was going well and at one of the tables I was asked how I got into magic. I explained that I had always wanted to perform on the West End stage but because of circumstance, and probably lack of talent, it simply never ever happened for me. When I was working in London I had singing lessons for a few years, attempted to teach myself the piano (I can only play a few Barry Manilow tracks – very sad I know but that’s another story) and went to theatre school in the evenings. My magic is my own mini west-end!

Well to my surprise the guy I was talking to just happened to work for Andrew Lloyd-Webber and was an Executive Producer for many of his shows, DVDs and TV productions. He told me this as if it was just a ‘day job’ and I gave him my card.

A few weeks later he gave me a call as he had arranged for me to go to Pineapple Studios for a week to learn some key scenes from Les Miserables before getting the opportunity to go on the stage at The Palace Theatre to sing one line and to act in the background, if only for a minute or so. The experience was amazing but it didn’t stop there. A year or so later he offered me a part as an extra in the Phantom of the Opera film. The part involved getting dressed up and sitting in the audience of the main Paris theatre but unfortunately, even though I gave it so much thought, the film shoot was the first week I had to start a decent job in the City so I had to turn it down. Saying that, I still got invited to the London film premiere which was an incredible experience. Walking up the red carpet outside the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square amongst the celebrities was awesome so much so I ducked under the ropes near the entrance to the cinema and walked up it again! The after show party was amazing and I still have the gift bag from that night which included a special edition crystal phantom mask which I treasure to this day.

None of the above would have been possible without my balloons and magic.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2011, 12:26:08 AM »
4, What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you during a ballooning/entertaining session?

I could write a book containing many entertainment horror stories from the time when some child charged my magic table and sent all my props flying, when I asked a young girl during a show if her Mum did magic to which she responded “no my mum is dead” to the time I stopped my show mid act to send a naughty and violent child home only to discover his mum was sitting less that 3 metres away from the stage. However, there is one particular event that I will always remember....

A few years ago I was called by a pharmaceutical company who were planning a fun day for a number of their customers and patients. There were many different events planned for this day and for me I was to be given my own marquee to perform a few 30 minute magic shows, perform walkabout balloon modelling and also to provide some face-painting services using a lady who I subcontracted to customers. Being a corporate event and being hired by a pharmaceutical company I took the liberty of charging an extremely high fee which they readily accepted and booked me.

In those days I never had a magic van but used a Renault Megane, a small mini people carrier, to hold all my magic equipment. I remember it being a very hot day so I filled up my car boot with plenty of bottled water and cans of cold soft drinks.

I arrived at the venue, pushed the buzzer at the entrance and a pair of large metal gates opened up in front of me as I drove onto a large field surrounded by a ring of marquees. There were a few people milling about. I found the organiser and parked my car temporarily outside the marquee. I couldn’t believe my luck, my own performance area, it felt good. I opened the boot of my car and unloaded my equipment. It would take a few trips to unload everything.

Everything was going to plan until about my fourth trip to the boot. I was taken aback and shocked to see a grown adult sitting inside the boot of my car drinking out of one of my cans of drink. In fact, it wasn’t just one, he had opened all my cans and had emptied all the bottled water onto the grass! I told him in no uncertain terms to get out my car which he did without any hassle and ran off. A little annoyed I shut the boot of my car and return to the marquee to setup my gear.

I was joined by the organiser who said I could do whatever I wanted to do throughout the day but asked if he could check something. He asked me that if I had any rope or sharp items it would be best if I locked them in my car.  He thanked me for arriving for the gig as apparently the entertainer last year turned up drunk! I was starting to understand why.

I figured something was a little suspect here so I packed all my gear into my car again and decided to just work out of my bag with impromptu magic and balloons whilst my face painter sat at a table working.

Once the car was loaded it was time to drive it back to the car park. Walking back to the car I was approached by a massive guy. He was as tall as he was wide, the same build as the guy from the movie “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” who proceeded to hug me! He then stepped back and tried to knee me in my testicles but fortunately missed. I jumped into my car, he grabbed hold of the open door and tried repeatedly to slam his fingers in my door! I had to push the door really hard to stop him doing it. After a few tries he let go, I shut the door, locked it, started the engine and drove away but everytime my car moved he jumped in front of it! I slammed on the brakes, he would step out of the way, I would then proceed forward, and he jumped in front again! Suddenly these two massive security men grabbed hold of him and bundled him away. I parked my car...

Walking back to my marquee I spotted the catering area. I thought it a little strange to be surrounded by fencing with only a serving hatch to issue out food. It won’t come to any surprise there were no knives and forks so what sort of finger food did they provide, burgers or pizzas? No of course not... chicken noodles!

A little bemused and shaken I returned to my marquee and had a chat with one of the organisers. It turned out that the afternoon was a patient fun day for adults with behavioural difficulties inside a secure unit! From here it went downhill. The balloons I made were eaten or immediately popped, i feared for my safety as I worked the crowd and my face painter had patients fall asleep whilst having their faces painted or freak out when they saw themselves in the mirror.

It was the longest gig I ever did. I told myself I would never ever do it again. The organisers ran me the following year... I doubled my fee... and they booked me again! This was one of those gigs that was really for the money only. I was wiser second time around and for £1200 for 3 hours I took the risk. My face painter wasn’t as brave and hung up her brushes following that experience.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
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Lisa Chester

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2011, 10:05:01 AM »
:shock:   That says it all really!!!
Can't believe they didn't let you know their expected audience beforehand!!!

I did like this one though   :lol:
Quote from: "nippy99"
the time I stopped my show mid act to send a naughty and violent child home only to discover his mum was sitting less that 3 metres away from the stage.

Lisa
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »

nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2011, 02:49:37 PM »
Hi Lisa,

I know the golden rule is to know your target audience but this particular client clearly knew the trouble they would have booking someone to entertain patients from a secure unit. It was an experience.

The child I sent home from a party kept hitting other children and did the same to me. I stopped the show midway through my monkey puppet act and told all the mums and dads that I would not continue until this child left. Unbelievably the mother of this child was sitting just a few metres away and hadn't made any attempt to control her son when he was being a pain.

When he left the mum of the birthday child thanked me as she didn't want to invite him in the first place.

I am very tolerant of children. In this job you have to be but I am not prepared to put up with crap. It had only happened once in the 14 or so years.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2011, 01:48:23 PM »
Sorry I have had to shorten my answers otherwise you will be interviewing me for the next year!

5, What do you most enjoy about twisting & why?

To be completely honest I enjoy being centre of attention if only for a short period of time and making people happy. It simply makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. There is also a massive sense of satisfaction when a completed model looks good and receiving favourable comments from customers is great.

6, What's your favourite age to entertain?

For my magic shows it has to be age 4-6. In this range I am very much in my comfort zone and without sounding big headed I feel like the pied piper and could literally lead the children out of the venue in the path of a bus without them even realising it was coming. I really feel connected to an audience of this age (says a lot about my mental state) and have about as much fun as they do.  

For pure ballooning I enjoy any age but I do have a preference for the older ladies (not in a sexual way I might add) but they really do appreciate and value my balloons.

7, Do you have the same act but vary the presentation for all ages or do you have set acts for different ages?

On the whole the act is the same but the style of presentation is adapted to connect with the audience for the age range I am presenting to. In my early days I really made an effort to do a completely different show for a repeat audience but soon realised the reason they had booked me was to see the same act they had enjoyed previously. I now give my customers a choice. They receive a pre-party planner and can request certain parts of the show again if they want to.

8, What’s your favourite thing to make at the moment?

Most of the time my favourite thing is the most recent creation. I have to say Ken Stillman’s Ninja Turtle is top of the list although I don’t have four hours to spare to make it again in a hurry. David Brenion’s monkey, penguin and elephant have become more popular recently as has Tonya’s amazing giraffe.

9, What is the most asked for model?

I have a standard set list for walkabout gigs, be it a wedding, party or corporate event.

My standard collection includes a penguin, Don Caldwell’s Monkey and Mermaid, a road runner, daffy duck, butterfly, shark, dolphin, heart on a stick, flowers, princess crown, buzz lightyear backpack. If time allows I will make some more complex designs and now and again I will throw in some random balloon.

For my birthday parties the birthday child can choose any design from my website that I bring with me to the party. The most popular has to be Shirley Ray’s Princess, Buzz Lightyear, Lady and the Tramp, Snow White and Pirate.

10, What do you tend to do more of if stuck in the 'balloon production line' model?

I don’t really do single balloon models but if the queue is really long at the end of the gig I will bring myself to make giraffes, dogs, swords etc. I have started to use a queue counter system similar to supermarkets where i will commit to make a certain number of balloons per hour and issue that number of tickets. No tickets, no balloons which means no queues either!
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
MagicWorks Ltd

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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2011, 12:06:08 AM »
11, Who is your market aimed at?

My entertainment business is very varied as I offer balloon modelling, children’s shows and close-up magic so I can cater for all sorts of events. In this tough market it makes sense to offer a diverse service as long as you can maintain a high quality product.

12, What kind of work do you do mostly - parties? Corporate? Etc

Previously my most popular work was children’s parties but in recent years I have tried to develop my wedding market. These gigs require less preparation, pay a higher rate and I find them less energetic and stressful.

13, What is your favourite/ideal gig to do?

I’ve done lots of different types of gigs. For charity work my best gigs are at the Children’s Hospice in Essex. All the parents are so grateful and getting a laugh and a smile from a terminally ill child can be so rewarding. For paid events, I prefer theatre style shows where tickets are sold for my performance.

14, What irritates you most at a gig?

For pure ballooning, it has to be adults who request models for children who are not physically present at the event or the smart asses who ask for stupid models like the Eiffel Tower or something ridiculous.

15, How do you book yourself?

Mainly over the internet and via email. I do not advertise other than handing out postcards at events. Most of my business is word of mouth.

16, What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever made?

As they say size isn’t everything, but it has to be Ken Stillman’s Ninja Turtle or Shirley Ray’s large version of her spaceman. I would love to learn how to weave Graham’s airplane but couldn’t make the recent Manchester event.

17, What has been your proudest achievement in our wonderful world of twisted latex?

I haven’t had one yet – but it has to come soon.

18, What advice would you give to someone starting out, or wanting to increase their business?

Be professional at all times, don’t get complacent, arrogant or big headed especially to other magicians/entertainers. Treat every birthday party like your own child’s party and above all have fun!

19, What road in latex do you see yourself taking in the future

I would love to have the courage and talent to create my own designs. I really struggle with this. I am fine at copying others instructions but really want to do my own thing as well.

20, What is your personal goal when you set off to work? Is it money or to entertain etc?

My main priority is to do an excellent show/gig and leave with fantastic feedback and happy customers. Money is secondary but I am realistic. I charge the highest in my area and I am very selective on which gigs I do. I have a full time job so now need to limit myself to around 8 events a month.

21, What are your balloon goals for the future?

I would love to attend an overseas balloon conference event perhaps in the USA, perform in Las Vegas (such as making balloons in a casino bar, as preshow entertainment etc – I love vegas) create my own designs and perform at a celebrity gig getting some nice photos for my website. I know some entertainers post photos of themselves with their magic buddies on their own website but in reality they are just fan shots from the blackpool magic convention. That’s cheating.

22, If you could start all over again, would you change anything?

Yes, start at a much earlier age.

23, How would you like the future of balloon modelling to develop?

I think balloon modelling has developed at such a fast pace already. The internet has helped with on-line forums and new material and ideas are easily accessible.

24, Who's the most famous person you have made a balloon creation for?

No-one! – although i’ve been mistaken many times for being a celebrity although I can’t see it myself. There is one in particular plus another two. Let’s play a game – visit my website at www.magicworks.ltd.uk – check out my photos and post who you think I look like! I won’t be offended.

25, How do you keep the enthusiasm going & what still excites you about our great world of latex

When I was doing 7-8 gigs each weekend it was so hard to keep going by Sunday evening. Entertaining and performing perhaps four two-hour birthdays and two weddings is physically shattering. My enthusiasm is kept going by the latest and greatest design I have just made. I am always trying to learn new things and this is what keeps me going.

26, What inspires or is your thought process in coming up with a new design

I haven’t done this yet – i need inspiration!

27, Who would you like to work with dead or alive?

Barry Manilow – yes you asked!

28, What makes you laugh?

My sense of humour is fairly childish. I like slapstick comedy (Norman Wisdom, The Chuckle Brothers etc) and stand up comedians like Ken Dodd and Lee Evans. I enjoy the jokes from Christmas Crackers and my funniest joke ever which I tried out once was as follows....

Next time you go into a Chinese takeaway say to the guy behind the counter..
“Oi mate, your woks on fire”
He should reply “what wok?”
And you shout – Who’s there!

Now that’s funny as is...
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
A bear was Fuzzy Wuzzy
When Fuzzy Wuzzy lost his hair
He wasn’t fuzzy was he?
I will leave it there....
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
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Graham Lee

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2011, 12:19:09 AM »
Hi Nippy, Thanks for taking the time out to post your answers, I found it an interesting read.
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nippy99

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Re: Nippy 99 Interview 20/27th June 2011
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2011, 12:23:38 AM »
Hi Graham,

Sorry for taking so long to complete it - it's been a hell of a week!

Cheers
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Guest »
Darren Atkins
MagicWorks Ltd

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