EightSquaredCon’s Entertainments – Zulus, Music and Magic

As SF and Fantasy increasingly looks beyond its traditional European focus, we are delighted to announce that the convention’s opening night will see Zulu Tradition take to the stage in the Cedar Court.

From Kwa-Zulu Natal to venues worldwide, this vibrant troupe are rekindling the spark of Zulu culture and heritage, through song, dance and drums. They specialise in traditional Zulu warrior song and dance compilations. Imagine a youthful mixed gender Ladysmith Black Mambazo with high energy kicks; the raw power of acappella voices; the enchantment of the story; the pounding rhythm of the African drums and the energy of the dance.

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Zulu Tradition have performed internationally in Africa, Europe and Russia. They first hit national TV in the UK in 2010 and in South Africa when they performed at the first ever UN sanctioned Nelson Mandela Day at the British Museum. They also work with schools all over the UK on cultural understanding and racial integration projects via workshops including music, dance, art, culture and language. You can find out more via their website and also at the panel before the performance where group members will talk about their heritage, their act, and their cultural work.

On Saturday night, EightSquaredCon’s costume event, the Mirror Mirror Ball, will see trad-goth band Witching Hour in the spotlight, providing the live music. Now a two-piece band consisting of Alys Sterling and Trevor Barnes, Witching Hour’s roots go back to 1991 and a series of gigs in legendary venues like Powerhaus in London, and Cafe Transylvania in Birmingham. They have played support for bands such as Dream Disciplines and London After Midnight.

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In 2006, playing a private Halloween party started a new chapter in the Witching Hour story (yes, that is Tim Burton in that photograph with Trevor and Alys). The band’s back catalogue is now available on iTunes and CD. Promo videos for She’s Alive, Your Cries and Carnival of Souls can be found on YouTube and recent gigs have included spots at The Purple Turtle in Camden, a goth festival in Birmingham and playing in Madrid with The Eternal Fall. 2011 saw their second album, Raven, released. Learn more at witchinghouruk.com

Incidentally, Witching Hour are very happy for people to record their live performances and post them on YouTube and the like. So feel free to bring your cameras and phones along.

To complete your Saturday night, we’re very fortunate to have a performance from John Lenahan, magician, comedian, novelist and the original voice of Red Dwarf’s Talkie Toaster. The first person to be ejected from the Magic Circle in 85 years, for exposing the truth behind the 3-card trick on TV, John is one of the UK’s most sought-after magical entertainers. He first came to this country for a short visit from his native Philadelphia and somehow never made it back. Since then he has appeared on prime-time shows for the BBC and ITV, as a presenter, entertainer and hoax-buster. He’s appeared on stage alongside Jack Dee, Victoria Wood and Lenny Henry.

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John has also built a career as a fantasy novelist, drawing on his professional skills to create a highly successful podcast introducing his teenage hero Conor and the Celtic-inspired fantasy world he gets tangled up with. That’s Conor, obviously, not John. Hopefully. Though he is a magician. Who knows what could happen? Assuming we’re not all swept away to Tir Na Nog, you’ll have a chance to learn more about John’s writing, beginning with “Shadowmagic” through the course of the convention. You can find out all sorts of things about his other talents at johnlenahan.com (Do check out the video clip about the Puppy Scam).

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