As part of my reintroduction into the world of Skepticism, I decided that I should do something never done before.
Recent months the main subject of interest has been the allegations made against Sally Morgan, now unfortunately Sallys people are on full alert and not speaking to anyone.
However I still wanted to get the opinion of someone who has worked with a famous medium and who could tell me a bit more about the whole process of putting on a mediumship show in a theatre.
I got in contact with Colin Frys tour manager to ask the tough questions, but I didn't realise when I started how interesting it would be, and how the conversation would develop.
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1. First of all can you introduce yourselves to us, and explain to us briefly your job title, who you work with and what it is exactly you do?
My name is Tony Lewis & I'm tour manager & cameraman for Colin Fry, I work mainly with Colin but occasionally work with Derek Acorah.
As my job title suggests I manage the tour for Colin, this mainly consists of getting the production on stage.
In the days prior to us arriving at a theatre I will have sent a technical rider & talked to the theatre technicians about what is required regarding lighting & sound etc & also talked with the theatre regarding ticket sales, publicity etc. I will check all hotel details are are correct & send out a call sheet to the crew.
2. Working with Colin Fry for many years, you are obviously there at every show working behind the scenes and making sure everything runs smoothly, how would you describe the general run up to a live show, with regards to once you turn up to a theatre for example?
You are right that I have been working for with Colin many years, about 8 in fact. I'm freelance & Colin is my major client. I started with Colin as a cameraman on 6ixth Sense & the tour & about 4 years ago was asked to be Colin's tour manager, a job I really enjoy. I continue to work as a cameraman on other tv shows & productions.
On the day of the show I will check with the hotel that everything is ok regarding our stay & call the theatre to confirm our get in time, which is usually 1pm & check everything is ok at the theatre end.
In the afternoon I set up the show, assisted by Colin's PA Kevin. This will entail, setting up & plotting lighting states, setting up & testing microphones & setting up my camera & screen. This set up usually takes about 2 hours, after which I will check everything is ok with Colin's dressing room. For example, that tea & coffee is available. It's not a rock tour, so that's all we require really.
After set up, we'll check into the hotel, where I'll spend a hour or so doing work for the tour & having a bite to eat before returning to the theatre at around 6pm.
We'll then do a sound & lighting check with Colin. We thoroughly check all the audience mics with Colin, Colin is hard of hearing & has to wear hearing aids ( I assure you they are only hearing aids! ), so it's very important that Colin hears the audience clearly through the stage monitors.
I will then discuss the running of the show with the theatre duty manager, Colin's show is 2 x 1 hour halves with a 20 minute interval, I discuss late comers, our no alcohol in the auditorium policy & the logistics of Colin doing an autograph signing after the show.
The show usually starts at 7.30pm when I will introduce Colin on stage from the stage wings. I then operate the camera during the show, putting the people who are receiving messages up on the big screen.
Once the show has started it is purely Colin interacting with the audience & nothing else.
After the show, we derig all our gear & load it into the van before going front of house to be with Colin at the signing. After which we return to the hotel for a couple of well earned drinks.
3. In recent months, questions have been brought up with regards to how mediums work while on stage, when Colin is performing, does he receive any instructions from anyone off stage, and if so what instructions are these, and how does he receive these instructions?
I assume you are talking about a medium who has admitted wearing an earpiece on stage, for which she says she receives stage direction only. The only direction Colin receives is from me, I'm on stage with him as I operate the camera, the only direction Colin receives from me is a hand signal to tell him he has 10 minutes left & another signal to tell him when it's time to wind up the half. There is absolutely no need for Colin to receive any other stage directions, it's his show & he doesn't need telling what to do.
4. If someone was to see Colin on stage and the fact he wears a hearing aid, this could easily be confused as an ear piece, would you and Colin be prepared to allow me to inspect his hearing aid, and verify it is only a hearing aid and in no way an ear piece?
Colin makes a point of telling the audience that he wears hearing aids & offers to let anybody see them. He has made more of a point of since the recent controversy. But, he is as deaf as a post without them. He would be happy for you to inspect them & we would also be happy for anybody to have a scanner in the audience to prove they are only hearing aids.
5. Why do you film Colin on stage? is it purely for a live big screen feed for people in the theatre to watch, or do you keep copies of each show?
It is purely for screen so that the rest of the audience can see what is happening. We do not tape the show as I feel it would be not be good to keep such personal information. However, I get asked by people who have received messages if I have filmed it as they would like a copy. The only time we tape the show is for tv or DVD & the audience are informed beforehand.
6. One of the known methods for fake psychics is to have people hang around in the foyer before shows and listen in on peoples conversations, this info is then gathered and passed onto the psychic, either through notes on a pad which the psychic quickly memorizes, or even fed to them live during a show through an ear piece. As tour manager, who has access to Colin apart from you before a live show, and how can you make sure that Colin does not implement such methods regardless of your belief or trust in him?
Only myself & Kevin, Colin's PA have access to Colin before the show. Darren is front of house, selling merchandise, but he has no access to Colin before or during the show. I make a point of not going front of house so that people can't have such suspicions. Another example is, Colin will often have mail from the public delivered to venues. I take all mail, read it & don't allow Colin to see it until after the show, to make sure, again, nothing suspicious is happening. Also, should an audience member start telling Darren why they are there, Darren will ask them not to say anything as it may spoil the message should they receive one & because we don't want anything to look like information could have been fed to Colin.
7. If we put to the side the laws regarding what a psychic can and cannot claim, entertainment only disclaimers, scientific experiment disclaimers and so on, would you be prepared to state professionally and on your own reputation that no hot reading, no prior research in any way is performed by Colin, and that as far as you are concerned when Colin steps on stage to perform he has no prior knowledge of anyone in the theatre, and that no information reaches him other than through his own claims of mediumship?
I'm more than happy to say professionally that no hot reading takes place. As far as I'm concerned Colin doesn't do any prior research, we have no access to box office details of the audience, Colin doesn't scour the obituaries or walk around the local cemetary. There simply isn't time to do any this! I can confirm that Colin steps onto the stage with no prior knowledge of the audience. Of course, there are occasions when there are people Colin or myself know in the audience. However, should Someone we know wish to claim a message, then Colin will inform the rest of the audience that he knows this person & then say that the message is not for them.
8. You mentioned that Colin is very open to his audience with regards to his hearing aids, but the question remains why does a medium need to wear hearing aids at all? One of the known methods used by fake psychics is that they rely on feedback from the person giving a reading, wouldn't it be more impressive if Colin could not hear the person getting the reading at all, and that he only make statements, would Colin, do you think be prepared to try an evenings mediumship whereby he has no hearing aids on, and infact ear plugs put in to prevent any hearing at all, and also some kind of partial blindfold so that he could not see anyone in the audience at all, but could for example see his feet so he doesn't walk off the edge of the stage, feel free to ask Colin that one yourself, as I don't think such an experiment has ever been done like this before and it would make for a fascinating demonstration.
It would make a very interesting demonstration if Colin was blindfolded & wearing ear plugs, but you hit the nail on the head when saying Colin must be able to see his feet as knowing his total lack of direction he would be bound to walk straight off the front of the stage.
I must disagree though as I think Colin does need to hear the responses from the audience for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to know that the message is with the right person & secondly, to know that the information is correct. However, I do know of mediums who will move on to another message if they get 3 no's in a row.
9. But surely any feedback only facilitates the potential for cold reading, either Colin is speaking to spirit or not, he shouldn't have to rely on feedback from someone in the audience at all, the very nature of someone saying yes or no means that he is receiving feedback which in turn could direct the reading in different directions.
Surely if Colin ever wants to satisfy those who doubt him, he must give readings without any feedback, making only direct statements. After all isn't his conversation supposed to be with spirit and not the person he is giving the reading to? So are you stating in your professional opinion as tour manager that without the feedback from the person getting the reading Colin would be unable to successfully give readings to a room full of people?
In my professional opinion I think it's important to have feedback from the recipient of the message so that the rest of the audience can hear whether Colin is correct in the information he is giving, otherwise it could be a very boring show. My job is to make sure it's a good show for all of the audience & not just the recipient of the message. I also think Colin believes that spirit are speaking to him rather than the other way round. Colin is not worried what those who doubt him think, he's more concerned with those who believe. But, I do think that without feedback Colin could give successful messages.
10. Surely Colin should be most concerned with providing proof of survival, instead of giving a good show. I happen to believe that if a medium is genuine he does not need any feedback whatsoever, the fact that Colin relies on the person for feedback opens him up to a world of criticism, when simple controls could be put in place to prevent any accusations of Cold Reading. Also it could also be said that if Colin received 0% feedback during a show and still was accurate that that would be much more impressive, and the people visiting the show would be more impressed. The only feedback any medium should receive is at the end of the reading, not before or during. Anyway I look forward to seeing Colin work first hand whereby I can better judge what is going on. My final question relates to the state of professional mediumship in the UK right now, would you agree that there has been a steady decline in the past few years, and if so what would you blame this on? Usually in times of economic and social problems, the reliance on mediumship increases, but it seems that professional mediumship these days is "dying on its arse" with the exception of a few of the top names.
I'm sure Colin is more concerned with providing proof of the afterlife, whereas I, being Tour Manager want to provide a full evening for all of the audience.
I think over exposure on television may be the answer to your final question. In recent years Derek Acorah became the 1st Medium to become famous through television, closely followed by Colin. In very recent years Sally Morgan has become very famous through television. However, I think some small satellite tv channels thought they could jump on the bandwagon & produced some poor tv shows. With so many mediums & psychics appearing on tv, lot's of so called psychics thought, "I can do what Colin Fry does & I want to be famous". So, they get a few cards printed & call themselves a psychic medium. If you look around lots of psychics claim to have been on tv & they think this gives them credence. They then approach a few theatres & think they can do a tour like ours & can't understand when they don't sell any tickets. In other words there is far too many psychics who want to be famous rather than wanting to help people. There are lots of very good people out there that do very good work, but there is also a lot that don't.
I would like to thank Tony for this interview and for answering some pretty tough questions.
I very much look forward to seeing Colin Fry work in person, and perhaps I can convince him face to face to eliminate the need for feedback during his shows.