FOR almost a decade, Cork magician Anthony Galvin-Healy plied his trade as a journalist.
As a crime reporter in Limerick, he recalls being sent to one job which was particularly difficult.
“I remember once being sent to Southill because there were shots being fired.
And I kind of rolled out of the car and walked down the street shouting, Who’s shooting? Can you tell me why you’re shooting’,” Anthony recalls, laughing.
The 53-year-old ended up leaving that job in the late 1990s, another addition to a colourful resumé.
He has a degree in Physics and Nuclear Science, and a Master’s qualification in Journalism as well as some training in physiotherapy.
However, Anthony really pulled a rabbit out of the hat when he decided on a new trade — becoming a magician. It was an unusual set of circumstances that led him to pick up a wand.
“Just as I was quitting journalism, I broke my shoulder and neck during a kickboxing training session, so suddenly, I’ve no arm,” he says, chuckling.
While he was recovering, Anthony agreed to perform at a magic show at a friend’s request, since his childhood fascination with it had never evaporated. He still remembers cutting a hole in his mother’s tablecloth to impress his friends during a magic trick as a child.
“I don’t think there’s any way of training to be a magician. I learned the tricks as a child. I learned enough tricks,” he says.
“By the time my shoulder recovered, I was doing magic.”
Now a full-time magician in Cork, Anthony will perform in Fitzgerald’s Park in is home city this weekend, as part of the Carnival of Science.
His act combines his love for science and magic, and he espouses the merits of “laugh and learn”.
Simply put, he teaches the basic principles of science with magic tricks to children, taking them on a scientific, magical mystery tour — while hopefully making science more accessible to them.
To his young audience, Anthony is known as Professor Tony Baloney.
“I started experimenting with adding science experiments to the magic show, and then I put together a science show which I do in schools,” he explains.
“I always loved science as a child. I’d say science was even a bigger passion than magic for me.”
Anthony’s newest magic show will materialise at Cork’s Carnival of Science, an educational and entertaining festival for youth, which Anthony says aims to “celebrate and encourage children to do science”.
The event is hosted and organised by Cork’s Lifetime Lab, which often hosts science summer camps for children.
Anthony, who can’t hold up his left arm as a result of the shoulder injury, has burnt off his eyebrows and has caught fire on stage while transforming ordinary items into eye-catching science lessons.
His magic acts are also filled with humour and comedy — scouring science for funny material is another field in which he dabbles.
Concerned with performing his tricks to maximum effect, Anthony is a firm believer in using laughter as a conduit for planting valuable knowledge in young, powerful brains.
“The job of a magician is to entertain, and it doesn’t matter if the magician is brilliant or not, what matters is the reaction you get,” he reasons.
“There is very few tricks in my magic show, sometimes none at all, but there’s silliness, puppets pop up and disappear.”
Since science is often viewed as a complex and dry subject by children, as well as many adults, some academics, including American astronomical scientist Dr Jackie Faherty, rely on the power of comedy to teach it to their young students.
An American podcast entitled ‘You’re the Expert’, as well as a series of events known as Drunk Education, also use the art of satire to transfer scientific knowledge to their audiences.
Anthony describes rib-tickling, scientific magic as an antidote to the parental woe of trying to prevent children from spending an inordinate amount of time on their various new media devices.
“If you keep them laughing, no matter how many Xboxes they have, an Xbox can’t make you laugh,” he says, smiling.
Bill Nye, the prominent host of children science shows in the U.S, and another believer in the positive influence of entertainment on teaching science, also hails from a background of comedy.
Anthony reasons that the funny gene runs in his family, recounting his “great, great, great granduncle” being dubbed as “the funniest man in the world” in England.
Anthony himself briefly broke the Guinness World Record for the longest public speech, speaking for “62 and a quarter hours” to promote a Toastmasters club.
However, the Cork magician performs less frequently at magic and comedy shows for adults — he prefers children’s honest criticism to adults’ “polite applause at the right places”.
“If a child sees something, they’ll tell you, adults will be polite and let things slide,” he says. “I love entertaining adults, but I really enjoy entertaining children.”
Keeping his brain sharp and his writing skills sharper, Anthony has penned a number of non-fiction books, including one about Limerick’s criminal gangs entitled Family Feud.
Turning to the power of his imagination, which fuels fiction writing, in recent years the magician has also recently landed three book deals with a small UK publisher.
To attend Anthony’s show at this year’s Carnival of Science, you can take your children to Fitzgerald Park from June 22 to 23.
For more information see http://www.lifetimelab.ie/events/eventslifetimelab/corkcarnivalofsciencejune22nd23rd.html.