Talk of Houdini acts leaves Townswomen’s guild spell-bound

Harry Houdini was the first global superstar

Purley and District Townswomen’s Guild celebrated its birthday this week with a spell-binding talk on “The Magic of Harry Houdini” given by Joe Mendell. And a good birthday tea and cake, of course.

How old is the Guild? No one knows – its origins are lost in the mists of Purley time.

What a story Mendell had to tell! A century ago, Houdini was the first global superstar, not just because of his feats of escapology, but also because he made sure the press were on hand to report his various stunts.

Houdini escaped being buried alive, hung upside down and trapped underwater. His very name has become a synonym for daring escapes – a “Houdini act”.

Houdini’s showmanship and wit also ensured that his stories got told. He would bet police forces money that their cells couldn’t hold him. Then, having unlocked his own cell, he would open the other cells and swap the prisoners round before strolling to the front desk and claiming his winnings.

His workload was phenomenal – three performances a day, six days a week, for 30 years.

Joe Mendell fascinated the Guild with his Houdini talk. He had a few tricks up his sleeve, too

Joe Mendell is a magician himself, and he had a few tricks up his sleeve, too, which he performed for the Guild. “They left us as as puzzled as any of Houdini’s police victims,” said one guildswoman.

The Guild meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the United Reformed Church Purley, from 2pm to 4pm, usually with a speaker, and including light refreshments. There are about 20 members, so it’s easy to get to know people and make friends.

The programme for the next few months includes:
June 5: Games plus tombola
July 3: Talk by Tim Kidd: Soho – with pictures
August 7: Talk by Hilary Osborn: I was a Blue Badge Guide
August 21: London walk, talk and lunch, led by Harry Frankland
September 4: Talk by Ian Curry: Weather
October 2: Talk by local charity Waggy Tails and fundraising for them.
November 6: Talk and demonstration by Sandra Winter: The Magic of Handbells
December 4: Christmas Party with music

There is more information, including details of the Guild’s lively and entertaining programme on its website or email or ring Kathy on 020 8660 9480.

New members are always welcome. Attendance at the first meeting is free.

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