THE New Year was a busy time for magicians as they showed young audiences the tricks of their trade.

They were in great demand to provide entertainment at parties organised by firms and other organisations for the children of employees or members.

One of the most popular was Percy Best, who spent many years as a magician and entertainer in the Oxford area.

He is seen in Picture 1 baffling some of the 120 children who attended a New Year party at Risinghurst community centre in Oxford in 1970.

Mr Best amused the children not only with magic but with a Punch and Judy show – and cartoon films were shown by Charles Kimber.

Uncle Brian, alias Brian Grant, of Marcham, produced an afternoon of magic, puppets and balloon modelling for 100 youngsters at Rose Hill community centre in Oxford in 1982.

Pictures 2 and 3 show him creating unusual shapes from balloons and some of the children enjoying every minute of the fun. Bad weather had threatened to put a dampener on the school holiday, but Uncle Brian kept everyone happy with his special show which included a performance by Punch and Judy.

Young musician Jeremy Crocker caused plenty of consternation when he decided to show off his sharp-edged skills – with a guillotine.

In front of a packed audience at Christ Church in Northcourt Road, Abingdon, in 1990, he picked on the Rev David Bryan, the curate, to put his head on the block after, not surprisingly, failing to get any volunteers.

There were some gasps as the guillotine came down, but the curate escaped unscathed.

Earlier, Jeremy, 15, of South Avenue, Abingdon, who was a pupil at Fitzharrys School, had assured his audience that the guillotine was completely safe.

But he added: “It did nearly go wrong once – the chap almost lost his head.

“But I’ve got a spare guillotine just in case!”

He is seen in Picture 4 in training with his mum Wendy. We’re pleased to report she also survived.