Kind of magic
Chelmsford’s Richard Jones on his rise through the ranks to become a TV magician and why creating spellbinding moments is a dream come true.
Something magical was in the air as 15-year-old Richard Jones watched the winning X Factor performance of ‘A Moment Like This’ by Leona Lewis in 2006. Flanked by Christmas trees, confetti falling to the roar of the audience’s adulation, Leona ignited something in the aspiring musician who was studying at West Hatch High School in Chigwell, whose alumni include Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell and newsreader Kate Silverton.
“I always remember it was a really unique TV moment because it was Christmas time, and I was on the couch watching with my parents,” recalls the now 33-year-old Richard who grew up in Woodbridge. “I remember tears welling up and thinking, ‘wow, what a powerful moment’ because I felt a connection with her and was moved by the fact she’d made her dreams come true.
“Thousands of people picked up the phone to vote for her because they wanted her to do well,” he adds. “As cheesy as it sounds, I always thought I would love to have my ‘moment like this’ one day.”
Richard’s moment, amid tears of joy, came in 2016 after winning over the public and ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent judges to become the first magician to win the show. It’s easy to see why. In person, Richard is every inch the warm, likeable, and down-to-earth person who appeared in the contest.
A former Lance Corporal, Richard joined the British Army in 2010 and studied for a year at the Royal Military School of Music. He spent three years with the Parachute Regiment band, before being posted to the band of the Household Cavalry in 2014 as a mounted dutyman.
Before heading under the spotlight in front of judges Amanda Holden, Simon Cowell, David Walliams and Alesha Dixon, Richard also appeared on The Chase.
“When I was at school, all I wanted to do was join the army and be a bandsman. That was always my dream because my brother is in the army and both of my parents were. After sixth form, I spent a year getting odd jobs so I could get a feel for how the real world worked.”
During his overseas posting, Richard experienced his first foray into magic. “I love learning, so I read a lot of books on psychology, how the mind works and why magic works in general, and hypnosis. Over time, I started learning basic tricks, trying them out on colleagues. I realised how unique and powerful magic can be when we were all having a tough day. I thought I’d try out a magic trick and it really cheered everyone up,” he grins.
“Magic can elevate you and transport you away from a difficult time. What we look for as magicians is what we call wonder, we try to create this ‘moment of wonder’, sometimes it’s a second, sometimes it’s longer. But in that moment of wonder, all our boundaries are shattered in a few seconds. Everything else falls away – it can change your day.
“With magic I do my best to make it feel like other people are creating the magic and I’m just there facilitating it in some small way. That’s when it becomes more powerful and meaningful,” smiles the entertainer who is a member of the Magic Circle.
Richard’s moments of wonder never cease to amaze his audiences as he travels the world entertaining troops, celebrities, the Royal family, cruise ship passengers, at corporate events, and on his own upcoming tour.
Last month he performed in Southend Palace Theatre – a special place for a few reasons.
“I remember seeing Derren Brown in Southend years before I started magic. Not only did I get to experience magic in hypnosis, but I witnessed the audience’s reaction. You could hear a pin drop; everyone was so fixated on what he was doing. It was just fascinating. And that’s what made me think ‘wow, this is this is cool’. I’ve got a real connection with the venue and Southend – often when the sun’s out, I’ll ride down to the seafront on my motorbike, get coffee and work. It’s a lovely place.”
An ambassador for charity Spread a Smile, Richard describes it as an “honour” to bring magic to seriously ill children in hospitals across the UK. “Visiting hospitals is probably the clearest way of seeing how powerful magic can be,” he says. “I’ve met people who are having a really difficult time and seeing how big an impact it makes on individuals is truly magical. The inspiringly brave children I have met during visits always put a big smile onto my face too.”
With the whirlwind of fame and fortune – he secured £250,000 from his Britain’s Got Talent win and bought his Chelmsford home – Richard is deeply content and loves nothing more than “chilling at home” with actress girlfriend Ria, who he met before the pandemic, and their Pomeranian puppy, Lady. “I don’t do lots of exciting stuff in my free time anymore. I’m an old and boring person,” he laughs.
Regular walks around Danbury Country Park and Sunday roasts at the Shaw Farm pub in Chelmsford are the best things in life for the performer who spends most of his work life travelling.
As our chat draws to a close, Richard reflects on his successes with admirable humility.
“I’ve been lucky to meet Hollywood stars like Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme and perform for King Charles, who is also a member of the Magic Circle,” he smiles. “I have lovely memories of Queen Elizabeth II – when I performed at the Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, the Queen would always come out, greet her staff, and check everyone was happy and ready.
“I’ve experienced lots of great opportunities since Britain’s Got Talent. There’s been some things that have been slightly tougher, but I wouldn’t ever change anything. I literally couldn’t feel any luckier. It’s the failures and things that didn’t work out so well that have helped me to grow. I am grateful for my mistakes and all my successes.”