Before appearing on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, Jamie Raven was making a modest living from performing magic. But since he made it to the final – and left Simon Cowell visibly stunned en route – he’s been playing to packed houses and even breaking records.
‘By the time I’d auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent I’d been doing this for 10 years,’ he tells The Guide. ‘They’d asked me to audition a few times before, and I thought this time, the timing would be right.
‘At the very beginning, rightly or wrongly, I didn’t think they were fair on magicians – magicians never came over well on it, so I’d given it the swerve.
‘But then my friend James More went on there a couple of years before me and got to the semi-final, then another magician went on and got to the final the year after. And over in America a magician called Mat Franco won it which was the first time a magician had won either version.
‘So I thought I’d give it a go – I got to the finals... and lost to a dog with three legs, so, hey ho!’ he laughs.
The final results showed it was a close-run affair. Jules O’Dwyer and Matisse won 22.6 per cent to Jamie’s 20.4 per cent of the public’s vote. However, in his semi-final Jamie had polled more than a third of all the votes cast.
‘I found out that in the semi-final I had got the highest percentage of the vote of any of the franchises, ever, which was incredible. For whatever reason people decided that they liked me, which was really humbling. For anyone who does what I do, you can only exist if people want to come and see what you do.’
Jamie wasted no time in capitalising on his BGT success. He headlined The Illusionists show at Shaftesbury Theatre in London, breaking the box office record for the most successful magic show in the West End. After that he embarked on his own tour, which begins its third leg in Fareham next Saturday.
It was during a family holiday to India as a 10-year-old that he got the bug. ‘One day we were out in this lovely restaurant in this nice hotel and this magician came over and did his act while we were waiting for our food. Afterwards he took me and my brother and the other kids away to keep us occupied and taught us some tricks.’
From there, he was hooked – buying new tricks or props from either Davenport’s or International Magic in London every few months with money from his paper round.
I want people to try and work it out so they come back again and see if they’ve got it, and if they haven’t – then come back again!Jamie Raven
When he went to university in Bath to study economics he realised he ‘had no interest in working in banking or accountancy’, but fate put him in the path of an events promoter.
‘He told me it was popular for people to go around dinner parties and events and do some close-up magic – would I be interested?
‘From six months after that, that’s all I was doing. A couple of months later I was at an event and they’d booked a comedian who hadn’t arrived for whatever reason, so they asked, do you do anything on the stage that everyone can watch all together? I said, yeah, all the time. I’d never done it, never, not once. But I thought, I know a couple of gags, I’ll give it a go.
‘And from there the balance sort of shifted, off the back of that I got more cabaret and stage shows where you’re in front of everyone at once rather than walking around.
‘I still do the close-up stuff . When I do the shows, I do a segment where I come down into the audience with a camera, to do some of the close-up stuff – you couldn’t get any closer to people, which I like.’
Videos of Jamie online have been watched a staggering amount of times, running into the hundreds of millions.
‘When it was just YouTube, on the official BGT page, there was something like 25m views for that one audition, but then you look at all the other clips of people who have just copied that footage and whacked it on, so there’s another 25m or whatever of those, and then there’s the people who shared it on Facebook – like there’s a Maltese radio station, that’s got over 70m views on it. Because it went viral it reached America so some famous people like Ashton Kutcher and Ne-Yo shared it – they’ve got millions of followers, and it went mental. The ones we can keep track of, it’s about 300m. It’s unbelievable.
‘I know it’s got big, because I get messages from all these different countries, places I’ve never been.’
He also welcomes people trying to crack his secrets.
‘You get two types of people who come to magic shows, those who come and enjoy it for what it is, for entertainment, and those who come to try and work it out – and all are welcome, that’s the fun of it.
‘I’m not claiming it’s real – I’m not out there saying I’ve got genuine supernatural powers. But the funny thing is, when people claim to have worked things out, they usually couldn’t be any further from the truth. I want people to try and work it out so they come back again and see if they’ve got it, and if they haven’t – then come back again!’
As well as the tour, Jamie has just this week launched a new range of magic trick toys, and he’s working on developing a new TV show where ‘the trick is on the audience.’
But he adds: ‘Since I did BGT I will have done four tours in the last 14 months, so once this is done, I’m going to sit back and take a break!’
n Jamie Raven Live is at Ferneham Hall in Fareham, on Saturday, February 4 from 7.30pm. Tickets £25. Go to fernehamhall.co.uk