A fresh start after 60 years: “After 35 years of teaching, I became Magic Frank – and I’ve never been happier” | life and style
OWhen Frank Farrell’s retirement day arrived in 2018 – after 35 years of teaching – everyone thought he would “be straight to the pub celebrating”. Instead, he stayed sober and prepared his gear: the next day he started his new career as a magician. He was 60 years old and he had not yet feel like a magician, but this weekend, Mr. Farrell, the English teacher, gave way to Magic Frank. Under this stage name, he gave 10 shows at a Harry Potter convention in Manchester.
Farrell had been doing magic since he was 30, but the scale of these gigs – he was paid nearly £2,000 – struck him as ‘a mark of respect’ and validation. “I started thinking of myself as a magician, not someone who does a bit of magic on the side.”
A mentalist who specializes in card tricks, Farrell performs “living room shows” at weddings, birthday parties, or Women’s Institute meetings. The audience’s gaze is so intense that they feel their hands burning. The applause breaks that “sense of wonder… Someone saw something that logic tells them can’t happen, but they just saw it happen,” he says. “Usually people start laughing. It makes me laugh too. It feels good.”
As a child, Farrell loved magic. The son of Irish immigrants – his father worked in building foundations, his mother as a housekeeper – he grew up in Romford, Essex. Every once in a while he’d go to the joke shop on Tottenham Court Road in London to spend his pocket money on a stink bomb or two, or a device to make a ha’penny disappear. “But it collapsed because there was nothing to feed it,” he says. “I didn’t know there were thousands of books on magic.”
Instead, he became an actor. “I think you can see a theme here,” he said, sounding every inch of the English teacher. “A need for an audience.
He took up magic again in his thirties after he and his wife, Sheila, returned from a trip to India. Sheila had impressed some children with an illusion in which she seemed to be passing a thread around her neck. Farrell thought, “When I get home, I’ll learn a few. This is a useful thing if there are children around.
He bought a magic book, practiced tricks, even found a magic club in Manchester. He and Sheila had two boys, who were mostly unimpressed with tricks as children. Farrell never worked his magic in school, except as an activity during enrichment week, when students had the chance to learn something different from their normal classes.
In some ways, teaching was perhaps another parlor show, though. Farrell’s style was “a bit off…I was playing music. I tried to bring comedy into the classroom. He put on voices, loved puns and, for minor offences, asked students to apologize to his potted plants. At his last summer fair, some of the students wore masks with his face on.
Teaching, like magic, is transformative – albeit “a much slower process of transformation,” he says. “With magic, you get immediate feedback if it works well. In teaching, that moment might never come. Even if you had that effect, you might not know it. At first it was a shock to live without a schedule.But Farrell now rehearses an hour a day, has up to nine bookings a month and spends the rest of the time pitching, managing requests and deepening his craft.
He finally shook off any feelings of being an impostor. “I can really call myself a magician, because people pay me to do it.”
Obviously, he says, the need for validation is a bit of a theme, but he doesn’t know why and doesn’t like the “navel gaze.” Maybe it “just had a very ordinary background,” but adds, “Don’t we all want to feel special?”
The ability to transform and create wonder is important to Farrell, and I ask what in himself caused him the most wonder?
“I find the aging process pretty amazing,” he replies. “I’ve found that I’m much more confident, more relaxed…I’m living exactly the type of life I want to live.” When people ask him about his retirement, he likes to reply, “I’ve always been happy, but I’ve never been happier. »
Tell us: has your life taken a new direction after 60?