Pete Firman

1st February 2013 at 00:00
The magician and presenter was encouraged by a deputy head who was often stern but always had time for a joke

My interest in magic started when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I got a magic set. My first public performances were at primary school. I would stand up in front of the class and do a little magic show, and then that turned into doing a little spot in the annual primary school show.

At secondary school, when I was 11, I entered the school talent show, and I came first. It was my first taste of professional show business, because the local paper came down and took a picture of me. I wore a little schoolboy tuxedo with a bow tie and everything.

I wouldn't say I was highly academic in school, but I always enjoyed the extra stuff, I was always a bit of a performer.

Some classmates took the mickey a little bit, you know what kids are like - you do a magic trick in assembly and some people have a few sarky things to say. It was never a big deal and I don't remember it bothering me.

When I got to secondary school, there was a deputy headteacher called Alan White. I was involved in all of the school productions, whether it would be doing my little magic act in the talent show or the school play, and I remember him being around and being encouraging and supportive.

He also taught me geography in my last two years at school, and he was great. He was on my wavelength and I got on really well with him, but he wasn't what I would consider the traditional cool teacher that pupils get along with. He wasn't like an art teacher, ie, free and easy and laid back.

He was one of those rare breed, he was academic, he was into the arts, and he was also into sports, so he was well liked by a lot of the pupils. He was not strict, and a laugh and a joke had its place, but when it came to the work, the work was important.

Discipline was very important to him. He was always well presented, he always wore a suit. I remember, over and above other the teachers, pride in your work and presentation were very high up on his list. Handwriting was important, and you were expected to do a good job on diagrams and graphs.

He used to make our homework fun. He would give you a fact sheet on, say, the Amazonian rainforest, and there would be drawings and diagrams, but he would put Woodstock, the bird in Snoopy, into the diagrams - little things like that.

I remember doing magic shows in the lunch hour for things such as Children in Need or Comic Relief, and he was always encouraging.

He once lent me a Derek and Clive (Dudley Moore and Peter Cook) cassette tape because we shared a sense of humour and he thought I would like it. When I did the school play, he wrote a letter to my parents saying what a good job I had done and how I was a good pupil. He went over and above his duties as a teacher, and it really stayed with me.

He was great at the academic stuff, but perhaps more important to me was the extra-curricular stuff. I would say it was critical, in terms of me developing that interest.

There were other supportive and important teachers. In fact, the headteacher, Mr Bate, was supportive and, incidentally, when I did my tour last year, he came along. I hadn't seen him since school.

I would like them to know that the support and encouragement I got during that period was critical to where I am now. I think they were just great teachers, and would have encouraged anyone to do anything they had an interest in; it just so happened that mine ended up being my career.

Pete Firman's UK Tour comes to Stirling, Aberdeen and Glasgow on 26, 27 and 28 March. He was talking to Julia Belgutay


Born: Middlesbrough, 1980

Education: Green Lane Primary; Acklam Grange School; Middlesbrough College; University of Hull, Scarborough Campus (theatre studies)

Career: Second-hand car salesman, magician, presenter.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today