The Magician's Workshop was an idea put together by Gerry Gill. Gerry had an illustrious career in music, having worked as a Tin Pan Alley songwriter as well as a DJ on the underground psychedelic scenes in both London and San Francisco. He moved to Cornwall in the after responding to an advert in Stage Magazine by Roger Brokenshire, looking for a DJ at Redruth's Tabbs club.
After Dj'ing at various venues and operating his own roadshow in Christmas 1968 he decided to set up his own events at the Princess Pavilions in Falmouth. Title 'The Magicians Workshop', the plan was to replicate the happenings of London and West Coast America, with music, poetry, art all wrapped together in an evening of psychedelic excitement.
Through his contacts in London he arranged for old friend David Bowie to play (they had shared a flat together in Hampstead), along with Keef Hartley, Steve Miller Delivery (not the US artists of the same name), The Deviants, John Dummer Blues Band and Peter Sarsted, alongside local bands including Blood and Sand. Gerry would provide DJ at the event and psychedelic lighting would be supplied by the 'Light Laboratory'.
One of the leaders of the Light Laboratory was Phil Hart. Like most teens Phil was a music fan and would regularly watch bands around Falmouth. His friend Dave Guest did the lights for The Reaction and one day asked Phil if he would like to help out. The pair would put on the light shows for the band across Cornwall, with the pair driving to gigs with Roger Taylor in his van.
The set up was far from high tech, but provided an interesting back drop that was fitting for the time. They would use an Aldis slide projector with 2 or 3 glass slides. A variety of inks would be placed inside the slides and the heat from the bulb would slowly heat the ink, producing bubbling psychedelic imagery.
Light shows were becoming increasingly popular with the hip bands across the world, but the pair hadn't witnessed any of these shows and was very much making it up as they went along. As time progressed they began experimenting with various agents and inks, changing the colours to reflect the mood and style of the band playing. They also operated a crude but effective light show, with lights attached to a board and operating by pressing different door bells. This would be manually operated and 'played' in time with the music. The flashing lights and oils would add a superb psychedelic atmosphere to the shows. Phil also remembers that the then bass player in The Reaction at the time wasn't hugely confident and they required a red spotlight on them throughout the show so they could see what they were playing!
One day Gerry Gill showed up at Dave's house. He had heard about the light show through The Reaction. He needed some lights for an upcoming venture at the Pavilions. Dave wasn't available but by now Phil was experienced and volunteered to help out.
Billed as the Light Laboratory ("..something's cooking up in the light laboratory") they would provide lighting for Gerry's Christmas 1968 extravaganza The Magician's Workshop. Taking Clive's grandmothers projector, his oils and his light set up, and with help from Clive Holmes and a couple of others they set up in the venue, locating the only projector above the entrance. They would provide lights for the evening’s entertainment.
David Bowie would famously perform at the venue, performing his Tibetan mime show with music provided by Gerry, as well playing some songs on acoustic guitar. With his tight trousers and pink jumper he was very different to the rest of the crowd in Cornwall. With his gin and tonic he stood out quite a bit from the beer drinking crowd of the county.
The shows took place on a Friday and Saturday night, and also featured John Dummer Blues Band and The Deviants (who battled through that year's particularly bad Cornish snow to get there). Sadly the venture was a complete flop. On some occasions there would only be 10-15 people in attendance. Psychedelia and the underground never really did take off in Cornwall. Soul and Motown would always be the most popular music, even in the late 60s. Places like Pedro's Disco in Falmouth were very popular at the time. Most people wanted to go out and dance and you couldn't really do that to a Tibetan Mime show!
The venture was short lived, lasting just over the Christmas 1968 period. Although booked Peter Sarsted wouldn't perform as the workshop had collapsed by this stage. The realities of life set in and Phil and the others set about finding real paid work and packed up the light show. Sadly Clive has now passed away.
Gerry would soon put the Christmas shows behind him and continued to DJ across the county still under the Magician's Workshop banner. With assistance from John Lumley-Saville, the Magician's Workshop would also provide lights and sound a number of early Queen gigs. His show featured 'magic murals' as backdrops, created with luminous paints that responded to the psychedelic light show, enhancing the effect.
Dave Stone and Mike Kinghorn in front of one of the murals.
Mike Kinghorn with the back drop at St Austell Bandclub in the 70s
Gerry continued to work as a DJ, both mobile and as resident in various clubs. He also trained up many of the local DJ's in Cornwall in the early 70s before setting up Roche Recording Studios in the mid-70s.