Street entertainer gains world's first magic degree

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The Independent Online

He doesn't play Quidditch, speak Parseltongue or ride a Thunderbolt broomstick, but Owen Lean has the world's first BA based on magic.

Not since Noel Purcell sang "Grafton Street is a wonderland with magic in the air" have Dubliners been so enchanted. Indeed, Mr Lean's lecturers at Trinity College were so impressed with the 23-year-old's street magic show that he took his final exam on his pitch in Dublin's shopping district.

"My lecturers were wonderfully wild and eccentric people who were perfectly happy to let me write about street performance as an art form, as well as writing a 7,000-word dissertation on the relevance of close-up magic in modern day society", Mr Lean, a theatre studies student, said.

His interest in the dark arts began when he bought a trick deck of cards. Before long he was scouring the dusty underpass beneath London's Charing Cross station looking for a magic shop straight out of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. "I kept going back and buying books, teaching myself to do more and more," he said.

On his gap year in Australia, Mr Lean was "floating an Australian banknote above [his] palm, just for fun really. People were doing double-takes and walking into lampposts," he said,

In an average show, the graduate conjures up objects from thin air, coughs up playing cards and narrowly misses his arteries with a steel spike. But his spellbook contains more than rabbits and multicoloured handkerchiefs. He pulls more out of the hat than most street magicians.

"My close-up magic is a way of enlightening people, of bringing wisdom to the masses," he said.

"There has been a gradual degradation from a place of spiritual importance, to an art, to a form of entertainment, and now it's pretty much a business. Magic has a power to take someone out of themselves for a moment, and return their mind to a very primal state."

As for his next trick, he'll be appearing at as yet undisclosed locations on a world tour. Presumably not by broomstick.