Derren Brown Interview – The Times

Published today in The Times:

Derren Brown: mind over magic

“I’m always slightly beset by embarrassment about being a magician, whispers Derren Brown, the most successful magician we’ve had since Paul Daniels fever gripped the nation three decades ago. Right now, another kind of fever is gripping Brown: in a dim dressing-room in Oxford, where his latest stage show has stopped off en route to the West End, he is surrounded by vials of bubbling potions and healing magic powders. Well, OK, bottles of Benylin and sachets of Lemsip. He’s lost his voice. He’s looking pale. Can the show go on?

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Religion Debate

I received details of the debate below from the philosopher Nigel Warburton, with whom I have spent some recent bursts of time. He’s a lovely chap, and his books are well worth reading. 

Online, there are some great articles to be found on his blog, virtual philosopher, and some fascinating podcasts on philosophy bites, where he interviews philosophers on a variety of topics. Do have a listen, they are utterly enlightening. 

Later in June Nigel is taking part in a debate for the group ‘Discussion with Islam’, proposing that we are better off without religion. Details below. 




Dr Nigel Warburton
Philosophy Lecturer & Author


Hamza Andreas Tzortzis
International Public Speaker &
Researcher for the Hittin Institute

Chaired by:

Dr Mark Vernon
Writer, Author & Broadcaster

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
18 Chenies Street, London, WC1E 7PA

Please book your place:

Tickets: £2.00 at the door

According to a recent poll carried out by YouGov nearly half of the British public think that religion is harmful. However more than half also believe in God or “something”.

Many argue that belief in God is irrational and harmful to society, they also maintain that religion fuels hatred, bigotry and war.

Critics on the other hand say that religion produces great good such as charities, dealing with bereavement and that is the only rational basis for morality.

So who is right? Are we better off without religion or should society have more of it?

To discuss this and other related issues join our distinguished panel.

Finest food on tour


The culinary highlight of last year’s tour was the Eggs Benedict cooked by chef Dan Savage at St Giles’ House, St Giles St, Norwich. This year we were hugely excited to find that Dan was still there, and he crowned each of our mornings with the perfectly poached twin triumphs of the breakfast menu. (Dan has also been delightful enough to cook for us outside of the regular menu hours: a generous gesture for which we’re all massively grateful. Thank you, Dan, again). Here’s Dan:


The restaurant at the really lovely St Giles House has won two AA rosettes and is, I imagine, the finest place to eat in Norwich. Everything we had was sensational; the perfect crab and melon sorbet with candied chilli, or the crayfish and chili risotto on the lunch menu, which I think is the best I’ve had. Be sure to pay it a visit. Thank you also to Jamie and Daniel, Nick the night porter, and the lovely people at reception for looking after us all so royally. And talk about re-charging when tired on tour: outside is a lovely sun-trap of a terrace that has you feel like you’re deep in the Mediterranean:


Whilst we had the day free yesterday, I found myself in another favourite find of the tour: a glorious, secret Victorian plantation garden, created in the mid 1800s by the owner of a ‘Furnishing Establishment’ called Henry Trevor. The garden, is, quite simply, stunning. These photographs do it no justice: there are leafy walkways, a bridge, and a great, grand, Victorian water-feature. 



It’s a secret find, but I’ll tell you it’s near the cathedral. And there are two cathedrals. But it’s not far from the hotel and they’ll give you directions. On the way back, we stopped at a lovely second-hand bookstore, the likes of which are getting hard to find nowadays, and, on urgent recommendation had late lunch at the Waffle House right next to the hotel on St. Giles St. Please, please, please, while we’re on the subject of spicy fruits, have the spicy fruit waffle with ice cream and maple syrup. The recommendation came from Chris, our erstwhile temporary company manager, and I pass it onto you. 

The shows have been fun, though last night’s second half (second in Norwich), was a little slow, due to matters largely out of my control. Today is a travel day to Newcastle, when it should be a day for lazing in the sun in this lovely eastern city. Oh well. If you could all stay indoors out of respect, we’d appreciate the gesture. 

Speak soon, 


Horrific Article

But please God it will hasten the death knell for this particular organisation, or at least its more revolting aspects. How charming too, that I have to post it under ‘religious matters’…
From The Times
May 29, 2009

An unholy secret that still haunts Ireland 

It’s shame confirmed by an official report, it’s time to pronounce the last rites for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland

David Sharrock
But even if the will to make amends by seeking genuine forgiveness now exists — and that has yet to be proven — it may be too late. Another report, out next month, will reveal that the activities of hundreds of paedophile priests in the Dublin diocese were covered up. This may deliver the coup de grace.

The Catholic Church and its institutions in Ireland are now so badly damaged as to be devoid of moral authority. Its only possible salvation lies in prostrating itself before the courts of public opinion and natural justice.

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Derren’s thoughts on those five facts

1. The man you have to initially blame/thank for the unstoppable rise of Derren Brown is Jerry Sadowitz. They first met in a magic shop in London and after swapping tricks soon became pals, with Sadowitz helping Brown get his first lecture gig for magicians and recommending him to production companies.

Very true – Jerry helped Pure Effect get published, hugely supported my early work and then gave my name to Objective (just the one production company) when they were looking for some sort of mind-reader fellow to do a telly show. If it wasn’t for Jerry, I wouldn’t be bothering you at all. 

2. Brown claims to be flattered that Kenny Craig, the magic act in Little Britain (you know, ‘look into the eyes, not around the eyes’) might be based on him, considering Kenny to be better looking than himself.

I could never quite understand the link that some others presumed to exist, not being a stage hypnotist myself. I asked Matt Lucas about it and he confirmed it wasn’t based on me. But prior to this I was asked in an interview if I was the inspiration, and I replied,  ‘I don’t think so,  but I’d be flattered if I was’. Or something. Don’t remember saying anything about either of us being better looking. 

3. He studied law and German at Bristol University, where he first took to the stage as ‘Darren V Brown’. V is for Victor.

This is true, but do not be concerned, I was born DERREN, not DARREN. I grew up being called Darren by everyone, even though this was not my born name; hence these early shows were advertised under this admittedly drearier variant. Once I started performing a lot, I reverted to my original Christian name. 

4. Fellow magician Andy Nyman has been his working partner for several years, having co-created the likes of Russian Roulette and Seance. You may have seen Nyman being disembowelled and decapitated during Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set, while playing the outspoken telly producer Patrick.

Yup, and as an actor first-and-foremost, recent years have also seen him most memorably in Dead Babies, Severance, and Frank Oz’s brilliant Death at a Funeral. And anyone who caught his extraordinary performance in ‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ at the Tricycle Theatre will never forget his relentless energy. He’s a great alter-ego for me: emotive, impulsive and earthy where I’m cerebral, considered and indecisive. We do well together. 

5. Although there’s never any question that his helpers on the TV shows are not plants, he often becomes friends with those he has tortured. The guy who loaded the gun in Russian Roulette once accompanied Brown to a screening of Team America to the suspicion of many onlookers.

Some of you found that first sentence ambiguous. Looks like it’s been cleared up. I have never used stooges, never had people just ‘playing along’. It’s an artistic travesty and plain lazy. As for making friends, get this: Iain, the supposedly ‘handsome’ one with us on tour, I met while filming Seance. He’s the guy who goes into the Spirit Cabinet at the end and freaks out. He has longer hair now but that’s him. He was so bowled over by the experience that he started studying magic and suggestion, and what with him being a staggeringly lovely chap, we quickly became very good friends. Now he writes with Andy and me on the TV show, has met the love of his life through filming with us, and is a treasured tour companion. 

Some other facts for your delectation:

6. Derren lives with two giraffes. One is a six-foot baby, stuffed in his hallway (it was stillborn, please don’t be upset: all taxidermy owned is humanely secured), and the other is a skeleton of the neck and head of an adult, which spans the wall in his office at home. 

7. Derren set fire to a neighbour’s boat when he was nine. His most devastating, gut-wrenching childhood memory. He was playing with matches, along with the neighbour’s son, and managed to set a tarpaulin on fire that was covering a boat that the father was building. Probably the father’s life’s work. The whole lot went up. Christ. He went home, hid himself, and prayed to God to make-it-didn’t-happen. 

8. Derren hates mushrooms, parsnips (unless honey-roasted, in which case they’re bearable), mushy peas, and has to sleep in a cold room. If you’d have asked him at age ten what he would grow up to be, he’d have said, ‘A poet, or a vet”.