When Jamie Raven walked onto the stage for that first Britain’s Got Talent audition in 2015 he was hoping that it would possibly lead to big things.
An instant hit with the viewers and judges alike, he even caused the notoriously hard to impress Simon Cowell to declare: “I now finally believe in magic!” as he dazzled with his tricks and illusions.
He finished second overall, behind Jules O’Dwyer and her dog, Matisse, but it was enough to give him the opportunities he had been working hard for all of his life.
From the outside, it seemed he had become an overnight success, but Jamie points out that it was far from it.
“The funny thing about doing something like BGT is that because it’s the first time people have seen you, they sort of assume that that’s the first time you’ve ever performed that trick, if that makes sense,” he explains.
“The reality is, you’ve been practising it for years. People ask what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t done BGT, but the fact is I’d be doing the same thing, magic, although probably just to smaller crowds.
“I’ve been doing this for 12 years, the only thing that’s different is that everyone knows who I am now. Something like Britain’s Got Talent opens doors and gives you a platform, but the hard work began many years before.”
Jamie’s hard work started after getting hooked on magic as a child. He had his first taste during a family holiday to Spain aged around eight, and then again on a family trip to India three or four years later.
This time, he spoke to the magician who then taught him a couple of easy tricks and he was hooked.
Throughout his teens growing up in Bristol, pocket money was spent on travelling to London to visit magic shops and by the time he started university in Bath, it was a hobby which had almost taken over his life.
Despite doing a couple gigs as a student to make some extra cash, he hadn’t planned to make magic his career, and really wasn’t sure what the future held.
But a firm believer in taking and making opportunities, Jamie found it was a path that opened itself up to him.
“When I left uni I got a temporary job, and then the boss asked me if I wanted to stay on.
“I remember I wanted £20,000, but he was only able to stretch to £18,000. I knew I wanted 20, so I walked away.
“That was probably a big turning point. If he’d offered me 20,I’d have stayed. As it was, I went off and chased the magician dream.
“After the final of BGT, I remember opening my phone to 10,000 messages on Facebook. It took me about a week to get through them all, and among them, was one from him, saying how pleased he was that he hadn’t been able to give me the wage I wanted.
“I think that was an example of taking an opportunity and doing what you can with it. What followed was a lot hard work, but now I can say it has paid off.”
After Britain’s Got Talent, Jamie’s life changed dramatically. Suddenly, the venues he played were bigger and more and more opportunities came along.
He has since performed for the likes of Richard Branson, worked with BBC Sport and became the online face for Talk Talk. He also appeared in The Illusionists in London’s West End, and has toured the UK twice with his own show.
“BGT was good for me because it gave me the platform to be seen by a wider audience, and that’s why these doors were opened. It’s all down to opportunities again.
“You could be the best in your game – be it whatever, footballer, a chef, anything, but at the end of the day you need to be seen.
“You can go to audition after audition and then one day it could just happen – as it did for me.
“But if you love what you do, it doesn’t really matter.
“As I say, I’d have been doing this regardless, it’s just easier now, there have been more doors opened to me and I’ve worked hard to grab every chance I could.
“I’m always striving to be perfect. I think I will always be the same, always looking for improvement, wondering what else I can do to be even better.”
*Jamie Raven appears at the 15th South Tyneside International Magic at Customs House, South Shields, on in a public gala performance on Friday, March 16.