TLL’s @HelenaFleur met with @TheOfficialDMC last week, to talk magic, London, and, errrm, possibly drool a tiny bit. Here is what happened….
I’m not the nervous type. Nor am I particularly punctual I have to say (despite my best efforts). But there I am, sat at the bar of the beautiful Dover Street Arts Club, a whole five minutes early. The fact that I’m early is, perhaps surprisingly, exactly the thing that’s making me nervous. I’m waiting for the dashing aristocrat turned superstar magician Drummond Money-Coutts, who gave me strict instructions to turn up at 1:11pm precisely. Lucky numbers apparently… “Will I be unlucky if I turn up at 1:12?” I’d asked. “Yes you ruddy will”, came the response. That’s me told…
Thankfully, DMC turned up three minutes late himself so I guess it’s some consolation to know that we’re both cursed if his theory is correct.
Drummond first came to my attention a few years ago when mutual friends had told me about his skills as a magician (we’re almost the same age, and London can actually be a pretty small place). I occasionally used to browse his YouTube channel to see what illusions he’d been creating and where in the world he’d been amazing people (all his films are brilliant. Go check them out!), but it was not until I had done a little research that I decided I had to meet him.
He walks in, tall, with dark and incredibly sparkly, kind eyes. Top it off with a calm, soft voice and impeccable tailoring, and well…that’s me speechless frankly. I’m definitely being inappropriate / maybe almost flirting (poorly) when I listen back to the recording of our chat. Did I actually ask him if he was good with his fingers…!? Yes, yes I think I did (purely in the context of card tricks – obviously). My boss later commented that it was the first time she’d ever seen someone truly charm me.
Personal agenda aside (ahem), there is a reason that I thought DMC would make a great subject for TLL. A huge chunk of his career has been focused around this beautiful city we love and know, starting off with the place it all began, a hidden magic shop under Coutts bank on the Strand: Davenports. His father took him there when he was about six years old and he has been obsessively studying and practicing magic ever since. He tells me that it probably took him about a month to really nail his first trick before he was willing to show it to other people. Although to begin with, it was never about performing and he considered magic a very private thing. Even when he set up the Magic Society at Eton where he was at school, he claims it was purely about attracting the best magicians in the country, and bringing magic to the other boys. Uri Gellar, for example, was one of the guest stars he convinced to come along, and who taught him how to bend spoons. Sadly, we don’t have any spoons at our table, and apparently beautiful silver forks are harder to bend (damn my choice of venue).
DMC came to London after his gap year, and started working for Goldman Sachs after growing up with, as he puts it, “a strong sense of financial heritage – the dynastic Coutts line”. However, he didn’t enjoy it and felt that banking was made over complicated, joking that we should just go back to the market places of Jerusalem. Perhaps he’s right…In any case, that was the end of that and he went into magic full time. And aren’t we all glad that he did? He tells me that he was tired of the poorly thought out, badly presented magic. “Magic attracts a very specific mind-set. [It takes] years and years of compulsive, obsessive fascination with magic in order to get to a level where you’re any good.” Luckily for us, he’s exactly of that mind-set which makes him so good. He’s done everything from perform for the Queen, to work alongside the card sharks of Bangkok.
But it’s not all tricks. At the end of last year, Drummond took part in an incredible campaign to raise awareness for youth homelessness in London as well as raise money for one of London’s greatest homeless charities, Centerpoint, by sleeping rough on the streets of London for 8 consecutive nights. 80,000 young people a year in Britain experience homelessness, and he encourages us Londoners to give as much cash as we can to Centrepoint to help fight the problem. When I asked him about the experience, he said it was a week of extremes. Whilst he wasn’t spat on (apparently that happens!!) he said that it was tough, but that “the hardest bit to get used to was that you are sleeping at floor level, which you wouldn’t really think about, but it’s incredibly nerve-racking. You’re totally at the mercy of anyone that walks past you. So every little noise, you’re wide awake. Equally there were some great moments. One morning I went past a rubbish truck and the guy just looked at me, gave me the biggest smile and gave me a thumbs up. He obviously took me to be a homeless person and it was just this wonderful moment between two humans. He was just saying, stick with it. And that just completely changed my day. And that was incredible.” Well a massive thumbs up from us at TLL. We think raising awareness for such a great cause is brilliant!
There are also more light hearted projects. Last summer he took on one of London’s greatest landmarks and orchestrated a treasure hunt in the Natural History Museum(!). Not wanting to overcomplicate things by placing clues in publications, he decided instead to hide golden envelopes with £50 notes in them around the museum, announcing it only on Facebook and Twitter. Record numbers of people turned up to search for them despite the museum staff knowing nothing about it and assuring visitors it was a hoax. That was until people started finding the envelopes…
He says that to him, magic is a feeling, it’s an emotion, and that treasure hunts are magical in the sense that they create the same childish, boyish sentiment within you. This year, he is planning a similar treasure hunt. Again, a series of envelopes containing money will be hidden, but this time, all across London. A fabulous piece of jewellery will be added to the final £1000 envelope to complete the hunt. Follow him on Twitter (@TheOfficialDMC) and Facebook to keep up to date with the news of the treasure hunt. We can’t wait!
He’s also working on a TV show at the moment that will hopefully bring magic to the masses! However, again I get the feeling from him that he has a huge sense of responsibility: “If you’re going to make a film, it’s not enough for me to just do magic with no message behind it. For me, magic has traditionally only ever been “How did he do that?” in theme – I want to change that. I want to employ magic as a vehicle for much more important, educational themes and messages.” I personally applaud his attitude in an era of fame hungry, reality TV stars with nothing really to say. It’s important that these issues are brought to light and he’s doing it in a way we will also find entertaining. Watch his video about witch doctors in Tanzania. I was genuinely shocked.
We finished lunch, and after showing me some mind blowing card tricks that have left me still scratching my head…he says that his favourite thing about London, much like with Shakespeare, is that you can find whatever it is you’re looking for. “In Shakespeare, if you’re looking for tragedy, you can find it. If you’re looking for comedy, you can find it. Both in the same text. It’s all in there. I think the same can be said of London. If you want to go out there and have good times, bad times, crazy times, romantic times, cultural times, music…whatever you want you, can find it.” And you know what? I think he’s right. It’s exactly why this fabulous city of ours appeals to millions and millions of people. What’s more magical than that?
Talking about an excited stranger he recently did a few tricks for, he says. “I’d like to think it made his day that little bit better, and that’s all I can ever really hope for.”
Well you certainly made my day Drummond! Thanks for your time!
P.S. Girls, he’s single. I obviously asked. You’re welcome.
Where’s your favourite area in London?
If you had a free day in town, and an unlimited budget, what would you do?
Hmmm … the whole day? Right, breakfast at Del Aziz, near my home. Then to the Southbank, Covent Garden, magic shop, National Gallery – it’s right by the magic shop. National Gallery … um no idea. I’d be there for hours. National Gallery with a pen and a paper, walk round the gallery and then go and sit in the café and write.
What is your favourite bar or pub?
You know, I adore the Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. It’s one of the oldest pubs in London. It’s incredible. They still have sawdust on the floor. I think it’s 18th century. The Old Cheshire Cheese. It’s magical.
Restaurant you recommend?
Racine on Knightsbridge. My favourite.
Hotel you’d choose to stay at?
Difficult choice, The Dorchester. Love.
Best Place for a first date?
What do you love about London?
Everything … everything. The buzz, energy, excitement, pace – and despite the fact that it’s manic and crazy and busy, London really is your very own blank canvas to make what you wish of it.
Which hidden gems would you recommend?
Davenports the magic shop, in Charing Cross Underground. Spitalfields on a lazy Sunday. A beautiful sunset walk in Hyde Park. I’m very classic with London. I adore St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s one of my favourites. So beautiful. And you haven’t done St Paul’s unless you’ve been right to the very top. It’s like some French claim that Hitler never truly conquered France because he never went up the Eiffel tower, and I say the same of London. If you haven’t been to the top of St Pauls, you’re not a Londoner. You have to go to the top. It’s incredible. It’s a long way up, but the 360-degree view is one of the best you’ll ever see of the City.
What piece of advice would you give to a first time tourist?
Steer clear of tour buses, they’re goldfish bowls. Who’s the man who writes about London? Peter Ackroyd – he is absolutely the man for London stories and history, he’s written some wonderful books. There are also some very terrific guides that map out walks you can take around London, saying “If you turn left now you walk down the alleyway that so and so”. That’s the way to do it. Buy one of the walking guides, load up with a camera, find a loved one – and get lost together one evening.
What would you change?
About London? I’d put a tube line between Clapham and West London that didn’t involve having to go in quite such a circuitous route. Maybe a turqoise line, or a polka-dot line. Clapham Junction?! “Britain’s busiest railway station” as they love to tell us, and it doesn’t have a tube station. Sort that out. Right now. Put it to Boris. And I’d make the jolly tube driver who gives great chatty updates on the District Line a knighthood. He’s a hero.
Favourite London memory or story?
Oh God, umm. Some wonderful memories, walks, evenings, moments – they’re all rather personal. My first visit to Davenports (the magic shop) is certainly up there, when I was six. Performing magic at Downing Street this year was a huge honour. Seeing David Blaine in his box – that was a huge inspiration for me. Oh god, no. No no, no, I can’t. Let’s stick with Davenports. There are so many, they’re just all rather personal. Not for sharing with the globe.
How do you get about town?
Tube and bus, with an ever-increasing dependency on black taxis. Do you know the phone app Hailo? It summons a black taxi to wherever you are, usually in just a few minutes – that has proven itself a mighty dangerous discovery. At present I’m toying with the idea of a Vespa but as my father reminds me, if I come off a Vespa and do a mischief to my hands, I’m off work for 3 months, so that’s my main concern. I don’t have my driving licence. Derren Brown doesn’t have his driver’s licence, nor does Ricky Gervais. And they’ve done pretty jolly okay without it. The whole driving lessons, finicky rules and test procedures do my nugget, so I can’t see that happening soon. Truthfully, living in London – I back the Underground. It gets a lot of stick, but it really works – London’s arteries. When I was younger I was once practicing magic with a silver dollar when it slipped down the side of one of the seats, and I couldn’t get it out before my stop. That was a sad day. So keep your eyes peeled – it’s still out there somewhere, quietly doing laps of the Circle Line.
Huge thanks to Drummond Money Coutts for taking the time to talk to us, and sharing his stories. For more information, visit the official DMC website, “like” the facebook page or watch his stunning magic videos on YouTube.
(Images via Andrea Messent Photography, Aliona Adrianova and Helena Fleur Rea)