We catch up with magician and comedian Pete Firman ahead of the 2024 Group Leisure & Travel Awards, to find out what our host will bring to the ceremony and where his love of magic came from.

Pete Firman, host of the 2024 Group Leisure & Travel Awards

Source: Karla Gowlett

Pete Firman will entertain guests at the 2024 Group Leisure & Travel Awards.

What are you most looking forward to about the Group Leisure & Travel Awards?

I’m just excited to have a really good night where I get to see the guests and reward all of the winners for their hard work. I want to make sure people enjoy the night and have the chance to celebrate their success.

Why do you think it’s important to reward the best of the best across the group travel sector?

Anything that is public facing is not easy – dealing with customers can sometimes be a thankless task, although it’s not always like that of course. It’s an absolute pleasure to be given the opportunity to do these awards and highlight the places and people who have gone above and beyond in providing that service. It’s always nice to get a little pat on the back isn’t it? So that’s why I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

Pete Firman at the Food Management Today Industry Awards 2023

GLT Awards guests can expect a performance full of surprises from the comedian and magician.

What can guests expect from you on the night?

I like to do a mix of stand-up comedy and magic so I’ll be kicking off the event with a small portion of my act, which means I can feel out the crowd and see what I think they might be up for - there will be plenty of banter and a couple of people may end up on stage. It’s important in this day and age not to show up with a load of props, so I’ll likely borrow things from the audience and do impossible things with them. That’s definitely more amazing than if it was with something I had brought along. We’re sure to have a bit of fun before we go into the awards.

Where did your love of magic come from?

It was my hobby when I was a kid. I distinctly remember getting a magic set when I was about eight or nine and my poor family would have to endure these ever-lasting magic shows that would last around two hours as I would do every single trick in the set.

I was also performing at school in little end of year shows when I could, but it all started properly when I was a teenager. While all my pals were getting part time jobs in kitchens or behind a bar, I approached a restaurant in Middlesbrough to see if I could do magic for the guests. So, the restaurant employed me on busy nights to keep the punters happy if they were waiting a particularly long time for a table or if the food was going to be slightly delayed.

I would do a little five to ten-minute show for them which is where my first professional experience came from. I enjoyed it, but I really wanted to try and do magic on stage, so I cut my teeth and really figured out who I was on stage in comedy clubs, which is why I combine both comedy and magic in all my shows to this day.

Comedian and magician Pete Firman in a suit

Source: Karla Gowlett

The performer fell in love with magic from an early age and never looked back.

Why do you think comedy and magic work so well?

I think historically, magicians in this country have always mixed comedy and magic in a show and it’s rare that I have a conversation with someone about what I do without Tommy Cooper being mentioned as he was the giant of his industry. I think magicians can rub people up the wrong way if they take themselves a bit too seriously, or if the tricks they are doing are a bit too serious. If you can have fun with it, and be a bit more self-deprecating, it makes the experience much more enjoyable.

“I distinctly remember getting a magic set when I was about eight or nine and my poor family would have to endure these ever-lasting magic shows that would last around two hours.”

You mentioned Tommy Cooper, is there anyone else who inspired you to take up this career?

As a teenager there was a series called The Unpleasant World of Penn and Teller. Penn and Teller are an American double act and their stuff is really good and felt worlds apart from watching Tommy Cooper reruns. It was a little bit edgier and more contemporary, so it really spoke to me and influenced the kind of thing I wanted to do.

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes is among one of the amazing places Pete explored while on a cruise last year.

What is your biggest achievement to this day (apart from hosting the GLT Awards!)?

I have lots of things that I am very proud of, not least of all being able to go on tour. It’s amazing to go up and down the country and find a room full of people who have turned up to see what you do live – it’s hugely flattering. I consider myself very lucky to be able to do that, but if I had to pick one show, it would be when I performed on Tonight at the London Palladium hosted by Bradley Walsh. That was a huge thrill because I would watch variety shows on TV when I was a kid, and if you’re a performer, particularly in my world, the Palladium is like the Mecca of venues. Just to be on that stage in that theatre was really special.

Finally, where’s your ideal holiday destination?

I’m lucky that my work takes me to quite a variety of places. Last term I did a couple of cruises for the first time which took me to some amazing places like Rhodes and Kuşadası in Turkey. You could spend all day walking around the ship I was on, but it’s a great way to travel and see parts of the world. I’ve also been lucky enough to fly out to do some performances abroad. If it’s a family break, then we like something by the sea in a nice little dog-friendly hotel, perhaps somewhere like Southwold in Suffolk.

The Group Leisure & Travel Awards takes place on Thursday 27th June at London’s Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. To buy tickets and for more information about how you can join us at the ceremony, go to www.groupleisureandtravel.com/tickets

For Awards Partnerships and advertising opportunities, contact Lisa Milton on 01908 613323 or lisa.m@yandellmedia.com