, ,  • August 8, 2019

We will be regularly showcasing one of our Members as our Member Spotlight. Here we will be showing off our members work, achievements and thoughts as we believe they really deserve the recognition. At The Melting Pot, we are very proud of the social innovation that exists within our community. We see it as one of our main responsibilities to celebrate and share this excellence with the hope that it will inspire others.

This week we speak to Jim Campbell aka Jim the Magician. In true magic style, he is infamous for making various objects disappear and reappear in impossible locations. In this spotlight, Jim and I discuss tea, magic, and mental health. Incredibly, Jim celebrated his 10th year as a member on the 10th of June, making him one of the longest-serving members of The Melting Pot!

When did you join The Melting Pot?

I came in for the open day on the 9th of June 2009, and I spent a day working here. Claire showed me around and I apparently I said ‘oh man, it’s amazing that people can make you a cup of tea’. I had been working on my own for about two years in my house, so when someone asked if I wanted a cup of tea I was amazed. This mutual offering of a cup of tea is apparently why I signed up. I was just so fed up of being on my own I suppose. What I liked about TMP was cycling to work and having a routine. I signed up the following day. I was working in mental health then, as a freelance Mental Health Trainer, Researcher & Practitioner.  Which included consultancy and service development work.

What do you do now?

I have been a full-time magician since May 2017. My company is Beyond Belief Magic and Jim the Magician is my performing name. I mainly do close-up magic at weddings, corporate events, festivals, charity events, and Christmas parties. I do regular busking at the Pitt Street market on weekends and I’ve had a show at the Pleasance during the Edinburgh Fringe. I am the resident close-up magician at the Pleasance Courtyard throughout August, which I love. I’ve also started teaching magic to adults and children over the last couple of years. I even started teaching a guy that is completely blind. Also, I’m trying to develop a show around mental health and magic, to combine my mental health background. It’s a show that I did last year, which was a special commission by the Edinburgh Art Festival.  It’s called ‘Madness: Reality or Illusion?’. It’s a cross between a lecture and magic show, which explores what is real and not real, how do we know and who decides?

How did The Melting Pot support you to become a full-time magician?

I had been growing into becoming a magician for a while. In 2014, I decided to put on my first show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. To prepare I set up member events in the Meeting Room, and I invited a few people along to give me feedback. Getting feedback helped me see what needed to be changed and how the show should be put together. I also used The Melting Pot members and staff to bounce around ideas for the show’s title and description.  In fact, my company catchphrase “The closer you are – the more amazing it is!” came from someone at The Melting Pot. Obviously, when you work for yourself you have no colleagues or managers or anyone else – it’s just you. Having the opportunity to bounce off my ideas off other people has been incredibly helpful.

I also love talking to different members who share their stories and experiences in specific areas, often related to areas I am struggling with. This has proven time and time again to be extremely beneficial. The Melting Pot has such a massive community of people following their dreams, like the Good Ideas Academy or people starting up their new ventures. Just working in that environment, surrounded by entrepreneurs using their creative energies to turn their dreams into reality, has been very helpful for my career. It’s powerful stuff. I also do magic every Friday afternoon, practicing new tricks, where new people see me and I can give out my business card. So, yeah, that helps as well.

Jim’s 10 year celebration with pals

From your experience, what is the connection between magic and mental health?

Prior to becoming a freelancer, I first worked as a mental health nurse and then worked in academia. It was while working at Teesside University that I co-wrote and published a paper in a mental health nursing journal, comparing the theory and practice of magic and mental health nursing. My interest grew when I was doing a Ph.D., looking at the construction of the power and authority in psychiatry. Sadly, I never finished my Ph.D., but it gave me a new perspective on language and power. Both magicians and mental health professionals hold a lot of power over the audience (as a magician) and ‘patient’ (as a professional). We use language and discourse in creating new and different realities. 

In simple terms, and maybe for some this will appear controversial, magic is about creating a reality in something that is not actually real. The same thing is done in psychiatry. Because for me, ‘mental illness’ is a western social construct of what is seen as ‘normal’ and ‘not normal’, powered by science and drug companies.  For example, if someone tells a doctor, that they are in distress hearing the voice of their dead grandfather, from a medical perspective, this is not real and so is classed as a hallucination, which may go on to being diagnosed as Schizophrenia. But from a spiritual more eastern perspective, this could be seen as a gift.

There are many cultures around the world which encourage people to connect to their ancestors. In fact, throughout the UK there are many Spiritualist Churches which support and develop people to become mediums, connecting with spirits of those who have died. The main focus of Spiritualist Churches is to prove that there is a continuation of life after death. We don’t know if this is real or not real. To disregard this belief system and see it is a ‘mental illness’ can, from my experience, have a negative impact on someone’s recovery. I have done courses in developing as a spiritual medium and truly believe that I have connected to the spirit world. For that person who is hearing the voice of their dead grandfather, if it’s causing them distress, it could be viewed that they are having a spiritual crisis rather than a psychotic episode.    

The history of magic, psychiatry, and spirituality has some interesting connections. Prior to the 1850s, people appeared to have real magic powers, but scientists declared that this is not possible, so magic became a trick and a form of entertainment. Similarly, people who said they could hear voices from those who have died were either viewed as a fraud or mentally ill.  

My show, ‘Madness: Reality or Illusion?’ explores all this and more, demonstrating my points with magic tricks, theories, stories and experiences when I worked as a mental health nurse. It’s a gentle invitation for the audience to consider their perspectives and viewpoints in life, which to them may be seen as reality and fact. Those who saw my show last year said it was entertaining and left them with a lot to think about. I am now making plans to take this show on a tour around the UK, with a couple of bookings already confirmed.

But Jim does have a lot to answer for in relation to our vanishing clientele during August… surely one of his tricks and not that people are on annual leave, there’s simply no other explanation. On the upside, our Rose Street premises becomes an oasis of calm around Fringe time. Because of this, performers, other miscellaneous festival workers, and usual clients alike are welcome to take advantage of our festival discount available at the discounted rate. View the spaces available here and make sure you quote ‘TMPFEST19‘ when booking (until 26 August). The very same space which helped Jim propel himself into the magic arena is now more mystifying than ever!

Find out more about Jim the Magician on his website, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can find out about his new show Madness: Reality or Illusion here.

If you’re interested in becoming a valued Member of The Melting Pot community like Jim, check out our membership options.