Anne is leading the Modern Mystique League on a magical mission

Anne Walmsley is the first and only female president of Blackburn's Modern Mystique League.
Anne Walmsley is the first and only female president of Blackburn's Modern Mystique League.

When she saw smiles light up the faces of disabled Chernobyl children, Anne Walmsley discovered just how powerful her magic tricks could be.

It's something which has transformed her own life - and now Anne and Blackburn's Modern Mystique League are on a mission to share the joy of magic with even more people.

Magik-An hopes the club can use magic to help transform lives for the better.

Magik-An hopes the club can use magic to help transform lives for the better.

Having been named the new club president, the former Lucas and Burnley Borough Council employee is also looking to recruit a new generation of tricksters.

"We want to spread our wings and help other people enjoy it," said the illusionist, also known as Magik-An.

"I was asked to perform for children from Chernobyl who were in wheelchairs or had other disabilities.

"They couldn't speak English but I could tell they were blown away - I don't think they had seen anything like it before.

She's on a mission to use magic to bring smiles to more faces.

She's on a mission to use magic to bring smiles to more faces.

"It was brilliant to see their faces - their reaction was amazing."

It was a moving moment for Anne, for the children were born into families who had been exposed to radiation when a nuclear reactor exploded in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

Contamination continues to cause health issues to this day.

"Today there are still babies who are being born down the family line with defects - they are unable to walk, speak or use their limbs and their pallor is yellow," she added.

"Around 10 to 15 children were sent over to Burnley for two to three months so that they could benefit from the fresh air, home-cooked meals and entertainment - it gives them two or three extra years of life which means a lot as they don't get chance to grow old.

"They had nothing back home and the magic show was pure entertainment which they wouldn't normally get as they're not from wealthy families who can buy them iPads and iPods."

For 27 years of Anne's life, magic has been a means for lifting people up.

"I've worked in care homes and done magic for residents with dementia or Alzheimer's," she said.

"They couldn't speak but still I got a smile from them and that's worth something to me.

"I used to drive them to Blackburn to see shows as it gave them a boost.

"I think, why be put in a care home and have your brain switched off?

"When you perform tricks for them you see their faces light up with laughter and they become healthier and happier because their brain is active.

"I can't tell you how much enjoyment I got from seeing the residents happy."

And that's exactly why the Modern Mystique League - which has staged shows at hospitals for free - wants to hold further charity events and work with community societies on fund-raisers.

"We want to reach out to more people," said Anne.

"We're not in it for profits but purely to entertain."

Just as noble is the club's second goal.

For as its first and only ever female president in more than 100 years, Anne also hopes to bring more women into the field.

"It's an honour to have been re-elected since women don't always get as high up as men in many areas," she said.

In fact, Anne is also one of only two females to ever join the Modern Mystique League.

What's more, she is one of only 70 women on the planet who belong to the Magic Circle, a society whose membership is worldwide.

Despite this, she's determined to prove that females can make just as impressive magicians as men.

"I asked people why women are always the assistants and not the magicians because in my eyes, there's no reason they can't do magic," Anne said.

"If you Google it, you'll find some brilliant women in the field around the world but they don't get as much advertisement as the men."

In fact, illusionist's assistant and former Strictly Come Dancing finalist, Debbie Magee - who began performing tricks herself after requests from fans - is an honorary vice-president of the Modern Mystique League.

Still, whether you're male or female, young or old, Anne believes that magic really has the power to transform you.

"As a child I was terribly shy," she said.

"I once watched a family member doing a trick and thought it was just wonderful!

"The first magician I saw on TV was David Nixon - I was fascinated with his world and would dabble with the magic set my brother Tony was given for Christmas.

"He would come home from serving in the war with new material and I remember he once borrowed a woman's lit cigarette and made it disappear - it blew me away so I went out and bought that trick and I still do it today.

"When performing I found that people weren't laughing at me, but with me," she added, "so it gave me confidence.

"It's the same for the audience, as it's an escape and allows people to forget about themselves for a while.

"That's why I do it - I can't describe the pleasure you get when you see people's faces light up with smiles."

For more details about the club, which meets once a month at St Silas' Church Club, Preston New Road, Blackburn, ring Anne on 01282 413597.