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Magician without hands set to fool them

A magician born without hands or feet who managed to fool two of the magic world's toughest critics is bringing his unique act to the North East in March.

Mahdi Gilbert will lead an invasion of magicians from across the Atlantic heading to South Shields for the 14th annual South Tyneside International Magic Festival (STIMF) from 16-19 March.

Born in Canada and now living in New York, Mahdi has developed every single technique he employs in his illusions from scratch. And, despite having no hands, he has become one of the world's finest sleight of hand magicians.

He first decided he wanted to become a magician when he was a child, drawing inspiration from David Blaine and Derren Brown as he initially specialised in mental-based magic.

But at the age of 16 he abandoned the mind work, bought himself a deck of cards and a book on card tricks and began to teach himself. The biggest battle at first was learning to handle the deck, then how to shuffle, but persistence paid off.

He famously fooled American TV magic heroes Penn & Teller in the third season of their Fool Us show with his own version of a famous card trick, winning a trip to Las Vegas to open for the duo's stage show.

Since then he has become renowned the world over for his card tricks and illusions, and will be bringing his tricks and secrets to South Tyneside this year.

"I am so excited to be coming to England, which I love like a second home," he said. "When I was young I was just a poor boy who never thought he was going to go anywhere or do anything.

"But luckily, I was fortunate enough to experience great magic at the hands of masters of their art and that is part of what drove me to reach the level where I am today and to be able to do the things I'm doing.

"Last year was incredible. I fooled Penn & Teller; world famous magicians on National Television, I performed on the biggest television shows in South Korea and I toured Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Israel, Canada, and the USA."

Mayor South Tyneside, Councillor Alan Smith is looking forward to seeing Mahdi perform. "Mahdi is one of a number of incredible acts we have lined up for this year's event, and we have had a lot of interest in him already.

"His story is incredible, but his talent goes much further. Anyone who can fool Penn & Teller knows what they're doing, and we feel honoured to have him among our magicians at this year's South Tyneside International Magic Festival."

The event is set to feature a family magic show and two International Gala performances for the public, as well as a three-day conference for magic professionals and enthusiasts.

For more information visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/magicfestival and to buy tickets for the public shows visit www.customshouse.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0191 454 1234.

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