A Lifetime in Magic

Professional magician John Milner's career began at four years of age when an uncle gave him a David Nixon box of magic tricks. At 11 his mentor, coach and friend was Ken Brooke one of the best magician’s in the country at the time and he was also fortunate enough to spend a couple of days with legendary American magician Tony Slydini. He completed his first professional show at the age of ten, and in 1963 & 65 was appearing in the finals of the “Magic Circle’s Young Magician of the Year Competition”. As a teenager he found himself billed with the likes of Ted Ray, Moira Anderson and Dorothy Squires He became a full Member of the Magic Circle when he was twenty and at twenty one passed a difficult examination to become an Associate of the Inner Magic Circle with a Silver Star. John was promoted to a Member of the Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star in 1998 after a unanimous decision of the Council of the Magic Circle in recognition of his long experience within the world of magic and his known performing ability. John Milner is one of about 200 members and is truly a master of his craft.

Since those early days John’s career has gone from strength to strength and during the 70’s was regularly supporting the “Stars” of stage & screen in top theatres and clubs throughout the length and breadth of the UK. He also spent many weeks cruising on the SS Ellenis and the Calpyso entertaining passengers from all over the world. In the early eighties he was working 48 weeks per year, 7 nights per week, with stars such as Ken Dodd, Danny la Rue, Tommy Steele, Bernard Manning, Frank Carson, The Dallas Boys, Leslie Crowther, Arthur Askey, Liberarce, Colin Crompton and many, many more. He also appeared on TV many times in such programmes as ITV’s New Faces, Up For The Cup,  BBC’s Pebble Mill Showcase and Pebble Mill at One. More recently he had a cameo part in Objective Productions  film “Magicians” and his were the hands performing the Bottle Glass, Glass Bottle trick in BBC Wales documentary “A tribute to Tommy Cooper”.

He was the first act chosen for the M&B Road shows in public houses around the midlands performing Mon – Friday for months promoting Rothmans cigarettes, Breaker Malt Liquor and other products.

As well as performing for adults John was also an excellent Children's Entertainer.
. In the 80’s he became a Director of the “Merlin Puppet Theatre” which combined magic and puppetry and with his partner Gerry Mahoney built the company so that it was performing to hundreds of primary schools per year. He was responsible for The Man in the Box appearing on ATV’s “Saturday Show” in the Talented Teacher section and for the Theatre’s well known character “Molly The Moppocrump” appearing with Tracie Hughes on  BBC’s “Opportunity Knocks with Bob Monkhouse”, “Hart Beat” with Tony Hart, “Game for a Laugh” with Martin Daniels, “The Telethon 1988”, ITV's "Get Fresh" and “Going Live” with Philip Schofield. On one famous occasion the Moppocrump was also introduced to the Duchess of Kent. While running the MPT he also obtained a postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies. John has a great sense of fun and on his "Viva" examination actually produced a live rabbit out of the chairman of the examiners jacket! In 1984 The Merlin Puppet Theatre appeared regularly at the Liverpool Garden Festival and then at the Albert Dock on the completion of the first phase of its regeneration. 1986 found John Milner & Gerry Mahoney performing on the Central TV area of the Stoke on Trent Garden Festival. The following year John toured as a magician with The Central TV Road Show performing at fetes and festival around the Central TV region. During this time he was still working as a magician as well and appeared panto as Abanaza in “Aladdin” with the Dallas Boys at the Kings Theatre Club in Birmingham. Around this time he began performing the blindfold drive stunt at various fetes and festivals and taught his then wife how to do the same to raise money for charity. 

As an actor he has also appeared in programmes such as The Canal Children, Boon, Angels, Jewel in the Crown, Ways with Words, God’s Wonderful Railway, Crossroads, Spy Trap, Dr Who and many more. He is a full Member of British Actor’s Equity.

During the late eighties John transferred his skills to the corporate market and is in constant demand by many of the UK’s top companies for product launches, presentations and all sorts of events. His great love however is close-up magic and he is one of the leading exponents of the Art in the UK today. He regularly performs for parties of 10 to 20 people and is often called “The Board room Magician”.

He has attended lunches under the guise of a banker only to astound the assembled company, performed as Wizard Merlin for top people at Warwick Castle and on several occasions appeared at No11 Downing Street.

John Milner is in great demand for Exhibitions where his skills break down the invisible barriers between delegate and the sales staff. He has worked for companies such as Autoglass, Whirlpool, Hewlett Packard, Micro Solutions, Sophos and many more often devising tricks to promote the companies products. He was the entertainer chosen to help launch Landrover’s Discovery to their international dealership in 1989.

Realizing that there was a need for top class performers at many corporate events John formed “Magical Solutions Ltd.” 0n 14th July 1995 to supply companies and event organizers with top magicians of the calibre required.

In 1997 Tracie Hughes joined the company and together they hand picked a team of magicians geared to meet the demands of a modern corporate audience.

The “Magical Solutions” team can produce anything from a rabbit to a plane. If you want the Chairman or MD “decapitated” with a guillotine, “levitated” , or just “sawn in half” we can do it ora seminar with a magical theme we can help. If you want your product to magically appear or disappear talk to John Milner.

Very soon the company purchased Classic Casino Entertainments a fun casino business and Fund Raising Race Nights and went from strength to strength. In September 2001 John & Tracie opened The House of Magic (UK) to supply magical props and equipment to aspiring magicians and professionals. Discovering a need for magical tuition a class was set up to teach would be magicians on Wednesday nights, all pupils being sworn to secrecy. John also instigated magical lectures at the shop, many by famous magicians such as Wayne Dobson, Geoffrey Durham, Ali Bongo, Alan Shaxon, Charles Gauci and many more. Customers came from far and wide. After Tracie moved to Lincolnshire John continued the business on his own until February 2011 when he sold the House of Magic (UK) to Stuart Millward but is still a frequent visitor. John now gives private magic lessons to beginners.

John also teamed up with Dr Darrin Baines to present Milner’s Seven Secret’s of the Magicians table.

In 2006 and 2009 John’s son James Milner appeared in the finals of the Magic Circle’s Young Magician of the Year. He also made an appearance as one of the country’s top 10 young magicians on “Tricky TV” with Stephen Mulhern.  In May 2011 John & James were both chosen to perform at reception and around the tables for a fund raising dinner at Knowsley Hall for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the presence of HRH Prince Edward and hosted by the Earl & Countess of Darby.

John and James Milner
were chosen by Las Vegas producer Paul Stone to appear at the London Palladium in Palladium Magic a grand charity performance celebrating 100 Years of Magic at the Palladium on Sept 19th 2011.

John Milner entertained guests for the Make a Wish charity at the Holiday Inn Peterborough.

John & James Milner were featured in a new book entitled "The Young Magicians" The History of a Competition by Dr C Michael Colley. 2011

On May 4th 2012 John published a book "Live Respected Die Regretted". It is a compilation of his father's letters to his mother Eva during WW11. To see more go to www.geraldmilner.com .


Review of Live Respected Die Regretted.
I found the books captivating reading, as they tell the human side of the war and the miles of separation between two newly weds, who did not know when they would see each other again. The mix of the personal letters alongside the war diaries and military orders is a great combination. The addition of the many photographs also adds to the experience. This is the story of a man and his comrades, who although we not in the front line trenches or enclosed in the tanks awaiting battle, were still exposed to death and injury at any moment from a shell, aircraft or landmine, plus the ever present risk of tropical infection or disease. After telling the story of the Desert War from late 1941 until the end of the campaign in May 1943, it continues with the less fashionable Italian Campaign through to the end of the war and demobilisation, containing interesting snippets of life in Italy towards the end of the war and later as part of the occupation forces.
Ian Paterson: Historical Consultant - Desert Rats Association.