It's just gone twenty minutes past noon on a Friday in a two-hundred-year-old church in London. The convention is late to start, and there's a general air of confusion over the start time itself. Many believed it would have started two hours earlier at 10 AM, as it said on the Eventbrite page. Some, who booked hotels and flights for the whole weekend, are just finding out the convention ends on Saturday, not Sunday, as it was believed to be based on the Eventbrite page.
Eventually, attendees are let in, and 288 young cardistry enthusiasts flood the venue and fill the downstairs pews and the balcony above. The light shines down on them through the colourful, stained glass windows, bouncing off the vast organ at the height of the back wall. The average age of the attendees is perhaps seventeen years old, and it's a struggle to make out anyone in the crowd over thirty years old.
The Buck twins, famous for kickstarting this community of Cardisty more than a decade ago, take the stage and quietly read out a list of rules from the notes app on his phone. Pick up your trash, he says. When the rules are relayed, he steps off the stage, and suddenly, the screens kick into gear, and a movie begins.
A combat helicopter flies into the frame over the grand canyon. It fires bullets down at a motorcycle blitzing along at full speed on the ground below. Then, a man in a blue jumpsuit launches from the air above. He's sporting a parachute, and the British flag is plastered across his helmet.
The London audience of cardists can't help but laugh, and their laughter echoes around the old church walls.
The man pulls his shoot, and a union jack flag-style parachute erupts from his back and carries him down to the ground below. But he doesn't land on the tarmac or the desert floor. Waiting for him, driving on the road is a fast Jaguar car painted with a big bright British flag. The man lands perfectly inside the car as it moves.
Then, almost immediately, the man and the car are faced with the military helicopter, which begins shooting down at him. The man presses the eject button, somersaulting over the chopper and firing down at it with his weapon.
When the man lands smoothly in amongst the firey rubble of the shot-down helicopter, he turns to the camera, and we see their identity for the first time. It's Dan Buck. He winks at the camera and says, "Cardistry Con London, Baaaby." A reference to the Austin Powers clip they'd just parodied.
Three hundred cardistry kids erupt into applause.
The video then cuts to a recorded Zoom video call.
Michael Stern, Cardistry Con's long-standing and beloved host, is privately showing the intro video we just saw to a group of cardistry names for feedback.
Dynamo makes a cameo, appearing on Zoom to tell Stern, "Honestly, the intro video isn't British at all; that wasn't even London," he says.
Oliver Sogard, a very popular cardist from Denmark, appears next. Michael asks for his feedback as Oliver is "From Europe". Oliver loved it but suggested adding Baked Beans and Ali G.
Cue Ali G's theme music, Wicked Wicked Jungle Is Massive.
We then see Michael Stern in London, dressed as Ali G, complete with a real shaved goatee, running around London. He prances past the London landmark and eats baked beans to the delight of the Cardistry attendees watching the video.
Finally, Michael, still dressed as Ali G, arrives in the video via a black taxi cab at the venue. As he enters the front doors in the video, a very real Michael Stern, dressed as Ali G, suddenly runs into the church from the back of the audience and takes his place on stage to the delight of the crowd, who stand and applaud.
Cardistry Convention 2023 London has officially begun.
What is cardistry? Well, over the next two days of lectures, we'll hear many times from the experts that cardistry definitely is not magic. This didn't stop a handful of dedicated magicians from showing up to see what they could learn from the niche community of card flourishes, who believe shuffling cards is an art by itself.
But the first Cardistry Convention session will be nothing but games.
First, we played a contest to see who travelled the furthest for the two-day convention, all of us raising and putting down our hands as amounts of time were called out. One cardist travelled from New Zealand, the furthest possible country. Their prize is a deck of cards. Then we play a game in which two young kids are challenged to balance decks of cards on the back of their hands. One teenager got to fifteen decks and, for doing so, won a deck of cards, too.
There are all sorts of challenges across the weekend, in which cardists attempt to copy each other's moves and twirl a single card on their finger for as long as possible.
At this point, an hour into the first session, I realise the day session will be primarily games.
I turn to the person sitting next to me in the church.
"It feels like we're at a teen activity camp," I quietly joke.
"We are," they say without missing a beat.
But there's a lot of greatness to be found at Cardsitry Con 2023 and many vital takeaways for magicians. And the next two days were spent showcasing some of the most incredible card moves and inspirational talks. For the rest of this article, we'll outline some of the most critical aspects of cardsitry and its community that dedicated magicians should learn from.