Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jamie Raven has gone on to achieve some truly magical things since first hitting our screens in 2015. Jane McGowan is spellbound ahead of his performances at Camberley Feb 5 and Kingston Feb 12
Jamie Raven shot to fame after finishing second on the hit ITV1 show Britain’s Got Talent. The now infamous ninth series was mired in controversy after the winner, dog trainer Jules O’Dwyer, let slip on national TV that she had used two dogs in the stunning canine agility act – not one, as viewers were led to believe. Amid the furore, there were demands that Jules be stripped of the title and the £250,000 cash prize.
“I always say that I was the top-placed male, two-legged act,” laughs Jamie. “Next day the newspapers were at my house asking for a comment. They wanted to know if I was angry that the dog had stolen all the money from me, and I was like: ‘Aghhh, it didn’t steal anything! It’s a game. The dog got more votes, so it won.’
“The show was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’m absolutely delighted. I can’t believe that I did as well as I did.”
Despite his gratitude to the series, however, Jamie had initially been cautious about applying.
“It became apparent that, for a variety act, there was no quicker way of raising your profile. I’d been asked a couple of times to go on and always turned it down, as when it first started they often seemed to take the mickey out of magic. I didn’t want to embarrass myself.”
However, after seeing the success of friend and fellow magician James More, who got to the semi-final in 2013, Jamie took a chance and entered.
The unassuming 32-year-old wowed viewers and judges alike with his impressive illusions, causing Simon Cowell to declare: “I now actually believe in magic.” Some of the tricks from the series have been viewed on YouTube more than 350 million times.
Jamie, who grew up in Lightwater and went to school in Camberley, hasn’t looked back since. In fact, he has gone on to perform all over the world, even starring in touring hit production The Illusionists when it ran for six sell-out weeks at the Shaftesbury Theatre – a West End record for such a show.
“I auditioned for BGT on February 15, 2015, and I can honestly say that no one apart from my friends and a few people in the industry knew who I was. Within a year I was headlining in the West End. That’s the power of that show.”
Jamie became interested in magic on a family holiday to India, when a magician they had been watching invited him to try out some tricks. He was hooked. Later, while studying economics at university, he met an events producer who asked him to stand in as a late replacement act at a gig. Jamie duly obliged. From then on, his sights were set on life as a full-time magician.
“Before BGT I performed for 11 years and managed to earn a living, but people watching hadn’t come specifically to see me. I had been booked as entertainment, but they didn’t know who I was. I loved it, and still do those gigs, but it’s such an honour when you know that people have actually turned up to see you.”
Inevitably, Jamie is thrilled at the resurgence of live magic: a renaissance he attributes to the global nature of the internet, which enables people across the world to find out about magicians and share the information.
“I’ve done about 140 live performances in the past year,” he says. “And that’s just me. People really want to come and see magic, and I hope that lasts for ever.”
With magicians like Jamie around, it’s a done deal.
- Jamie Raven Live is at The Camberley Theatre (Feb 5) and the Rose Theatre, Kingston (Feb 12). Tickets: jamieraven.co.uk
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