It was their love for performing, entertaining and making people smile that drove these popular children entertainers from Portchester to launch careers as Nikki the Magic Lady and Magic Charlie.
And a quarter of a century later, entertaining still gives them a magical feeling.
This year, Nikki and her husband Roy Charles are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the business Nikki founded in 1994, called Children Party’s Entertainment Ltd.
From small gigs at Hayling Island to being crowned British Ladies Magic Champion, and from Butlins entertainer to performing for royalty, this magical husband-and-wife duo vow they ‘wouldn’t change a thing’ in their career.
At just 15-years-old Nikki Stapleford, 54, knew she wanted a life on the entertainment circuit.
‘I began working with a magician in Northney and then started doing dance magic acts. People kept saying I needed to find a “proper job” but I left school at 15 with no qualifications and was performing in pantomimes.
‘My parents went to the headmaster and told him I would only be able to perform on the circuit if I dropped out of school. He said he wasn’t going to stop me but he wasn’t going to hide it from people either,’ she adds.
Nikki entered the world of entertainment and it was there she met her now-husband Roy.
‘I have loved magic since I was seven. When I started doing a few more shows, I got a job at Butlins. I eventually became their lead children’s entertainer,’ explains Roy, from Portsmouth.
‘Once I had an appointment with my careers mentor in school and told him I wanted to be a magician. He told me to stop being stupid. But I left school and worked hard.’
The entertainers started working separately on cruise ships. While they travelled the world making hundreds of people smile each day, they claim it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
‘You could perform for nine months without a day off,’ says Nikki, who worked on ships for five years.
In 1986, she found herself in a life-threatening situation when the cruise ship she was performing on sank.
‘I was on the ocean liner Mikhail Lermontov. We struck some rocks off Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand.
‘One person lost their life – it was quite distressing. We got picked up by fishing boats.’
But her hard work paid off as Nikki the Magic Lady is one of the nation’s most prestigious entertainers.
In 1989, Nikki reached her first milestone as she was crowned British Ladies Magic Champion. At 27, she was invited to join the prestigious Magic Circle in London – an association she and Roy are still members of today.
The Magic Circle is the premier magical society in the fascinating world of magic and illusion.
‘That was fantastic to be the first woman. Previously, The Magic Circle hadn’t let women join because they supposedly couldn’t keep secrets. But in 1991, they opened their doors to us and I haven’t looked back.’
During his magical career, Roy, 53, has performed for some quite important guests – such as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as Princes William and Harry.
‘I entertained Beatrice and Eugenie when they were around four-years-old,’ explains Roy.
‘I got an odd call from a good friend who told me they knew someone who wanted to book me, but would not give me their address. On the day, I was told I was entertaining some children of the royal family.
‘I had a box of sweets behind me and I remember Eugenie wouldn’t stop coming round the back and eating them,’ laughs Roy.
‘I also performed to Princes William and Harry when I was performing in pantomime in Norfolk.’
The couple have entertained a number of famous footballers’ children but due to confidentiality agreements they can’t be named.
After years of working on cruise ships and flying across the country on magic tours, in 1994 Nikki started her own entertainment business that is still running today.
‘It got to the point where I realised I couldn’t go on like this forever,’ she recalls.
‘ The ships were going all over Europe and sometimes I didn’t want to get off. That’s when I knew it was time to do something different.
‘I still wanted to do magic so I started the business and did a lot more children’s shows.’
‘I had 200 people on my books at one point – only four of them were women. Roy would do his own books and then he became a part of the business.’
Roy and Nikki’s friendship grew and in 2009 they married.
But in 2010, Nikki was diagnosed with breast cancer.
‘I’m fine now but it made me realise that there are more important things in life. I decided to slow the business down a bit. I knew I could never stop entertaining, though,’ says Nikki.
‘We wanted to take more time for ourselves,’ adds Roy.
‘We’re freelance. We use a lot more technology so we can manage our office through a laptop when we’re away on cruise ships.’
Once a month, Nikki the Magic Lady and Magic Charlie visit Southampton General Hospital and Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, with Pod Children’s Charity to entertain sick children.
‘We love doing it. It puts into perspective that some people have it a lot worse, and we do our best to brighten their day,’ smiles Roy.
‘I love performing at all of my parties. Whether it’s for a five-year-old in a church hall or in a theatre, I enjoy doing them all.
‘You’re only in this business if you love it. If you’re just in it for the money, your shows are likely to reflect that.’
Nikki adds: ‘Whatever problems you may have, the show must go on. We never let anyone down.
‘My favourite part is hearing the kids laugh and seeing their faces. We wouldn’t change a thing and I would definitely do it all again.’
Smiling at his wife, Roy says: ‘I just wish we got together sooner.’