Brian Lead provided us with a splendid Chairman’s Day this year with guest lectures from two good friends of The Modern Mystic League. Geoffrey Newton spoke about the life of Tommy Cooper with many pictures and some props originally owned by this giant of comedy magic. We were able to watch two videos; one of Tommy performing the Multiplying Bottles and the other presenting the Elusive Rabbits, both of which became signature pieces for him. Geoffrey was also able to tell us about the many plays, books and television programmes made about Tommy since his death in 1984 and about the statue erected in Caerphilly, Tommy’s birthplace. It is amazing that more than thirty years after his death television programmes featuring Tommy are regularly played all over the world. He was certainly one of a kind.
After the interval, refreshments and a raffle, especially featuring many Tommy Cooper items, we were then treated by consummate showman Professor Jon Marshall to a fascinating illustrated talk on the history of the Flea Circus. Taking us through the many Professors since the sixteenth century Jon had many images, newspaper cuttings and postcards detailing this history. The last shows at Belle Vue died out as modern hygiene meant it became impossible to obtain live human fleas! Jon had many interesting stories about fairground sideshows linked to his tale. We were then treated to a wonderful performance of Jon’s Flea Circus (it reminded me of Michael Bentine) where we were able to experience the thrills and spills of the Small Top as the little performers were put through their paces, finishing with the High Dive splashing everyone near enough to the action!