He is not drawing comparisons with Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Academy, but for Sam Fitton Lancaster proved to be the perfect launch pad for his career as a professional award-winning magician.
He had dreamt of a performing career from his early teens, but his passion for science directed him first towards medicine and then to becoming a biology teacher when he started out at Lancaster. But the magic had taken hold. Brought up in Ramsbottom, he says every stage of his education channelled him towards Lancaster University, but having visited other universities, the friendliness he found there made him keen to go there, plus the quiet campus and the views over to Morecambe Bay. He had been doing conjuring tricks since the age of eight, and even at 10 was dipping into reference books to find ever slicker tricks, which gained him professional gigs in hotels, for weddings and birthday parties from the age of 14, alongside his school studies.
'As a fresher, I used my magic tricks as a real icebreaker,' says Fitton. 'From the start, I was known as Magic Sam. I would do a trick and I would make friends for life. Magic is hard to ignore.'
He found his studies absorbing - particularly the theories of evolution - which gave him the basis for setting up his current business. The Red Queen Hypothesis states that one has to keep running to stay in the same evolutionary position, whilst evolution requires a superhuman effort. The idea took root after he gave up his scientific ambitions, as a sound principle on which to operate as a self-employed performer.
Outside his studies, he took an active role in college life, which gave him more vital life skills. His first year in charge of publicity for the JCR taught him valuable marketing skills, whilst his stint as College President provided him with event management, bookkeeping and financial experience. 'It’s amazing how these skills are transferrable,' says Fitton. 'With what I learned in Biology and socially, I had my business model.'
During his final year at Lancaster, the idea of performing as a magician took root, but he did not know how to make it a reality. So he signed up as a Special Constable with Lancashire Police and then worked for Lancaster County Council’s customer services department, all the time performing his magic tricks at weddings, corporate and VIP events. Then in 2013, he left his job to follow his dream.
In 2014 he was voted North West Close-up Magic Champion and he also won the ‘UK’s Best Wedding Entertainment’ 2015.
Fitton often makes up his own tricks, so repeatedly calls upon the scientific knowledge he developed during his time at Lancaster University, to create his illusions. For him, the value of his three years at university was in equipping him with a whole set of skills on which he could build an unorthodox career.
He says: 'Lancaster gave me the opportunity and the time to discover who I wanted to be and you can’t put a value on that.'