SCORES of sponge balls, dozens of decks of cards and many metres of invisible thread will magically appear at The Customs House next month for a four-day festival and convention.

With just a few weeks to go until the 14th South Tyneside International Magic Festival, magicians and magic professionals alike are dusting off their tricks and gadgets as they prepare to conjure up a weekend of entertainment.

The event, which features three public shows as well as a convention for professionals and ardent magic fans, will take place from 16-19 March and is set to attract performers and acts from America, Canada, Asia and across the UK.

But magician Steve Gore, who has been responsible for booking this year’s acts and will also appear on stage himself, says if audiences expect to see rabbits being pulled from hats and magic wands in abundance, they should think again.

“People seem to forget that times change and we have moved on a bit so we can’t promise many wands, rabbits or hats will be in attendance during the weekend,” he said.

“Instead, our audiences should expect the unexpected, presented by the new, modern faces of magic.”

“Obviously, there is a lot that I can’t talk about, but that’s the nature of magic. This is a big, professional convention and we have some of the world’s biggest magic stars here so naturally we have to keep some mystery.”

The annual  festival is run by South Tyneside Council, sponsored by Magicbox and supported by BBC Radio Newcastle and The Customs House, with tickets still available for the public shows.

The first will be the Family Magic Extravaganza on Thursday 16 with an evening of entertainment for all the family. This will be followed by two International Gala Shows on 17 and 18

March, each featuring performances from some of this year’s biggest acts including Mahdi Gilbert, Asi Wind, Ning: Mind Magic Mistress, Adam Wilber, Rob Zabrecky, Destiny and Two Men Without Assistance.

Councillor Alan Kerr, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture and Leisure, said: “With less than a month to go, we are all getting very excited ahead of this year’s festival.

“Times have changed a lot in recent years, and we have moved away from the tradition of rabbits being pulled out of hats, but the entertainment is as fantastic as ever.

“Audiences can expect to be left puzzled and impressed when they see the tricks and illusions this talented group of magicians will be performing.”

Tickets for all performances are available to buy from The Customs House box office on 0191 454 1234 or visit the website www.customshouse.co.uk.

For further information about the event visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/magicfestival.