Now and then we like to shine the spotlight on one member of the Abracademy team. Today, it’s Alex Pittas’ turn to shine. We like to call him Magic Al, because he is.
Alex is very modest, but you should see him come to life in workshops. To say that he’s an amazing connector with people is an understatement! He’s brought the shyest people out of their shells and boosted the confidence of literally hundreds of people.
Hello Alex – obviously we know who you are, but for those that don’t, explain who you are and what you do at Abracademy…
I’m the Head Magician and a lead Magilitator (magician-facilitator). One of my main roles here is to innovate and research new magic for everything we do. I’m also one of the lead Magilitatiors. So, I deliver both client workshops and the personal development, Open Workshop, series.
I’m naturally a people person. This has helped me enormously as a magician and a Magilitator. I’ve been told that I have ‘people power’ by other magicians who have watched me perform. I have often been in a situation with an important client where I don’t actually know who they are! There is no fear and I find it easy to connect, strike up a conversation and perform a magic trick. This always breaks the ice and helps them understand the power of what we do by experiencing it.
As it’s at the heart of what Abracademy does, can you talk about what Experiential Learning means to you?
To me, it means a hands-on approach to learning – where participants learn by doing. We get everyone up and out of their seats, encouraging them to be involved and engaged. It’s such a fun, dynamic and interesting way of learning.
Experiential Learning with Abracademy means games and mental exercises. Groups work together to solve problems and face challenges. And, of course, as a Magilitator I help the group grow as well as learn, and perform, cool magic.
I love sharing magic because I genuinely want others to experience the amazement I had the first time. And I love teaching magic – sharing practical knowledge, tips and wisdom gained over the years.
Do you have examples from workshops demonstrating the power of Experiential Learning?
We ran our Inner Belief workshop with a group of year 3 children (ages 7-8). Afterwards, they were asked how learning with Abracademy helped with other subjects at school. One girl said: “I was always nervous and shy in English lessons. Sometimes I’d have to tell a story or read a poem out loud for the class. But now I’m not shy at all! I learnt how to be confident and use my voice”.
That happened with a combination of exercises over several sessions. For example, the storytelling exercise – participants sit in a circle and everyone tells part of a story. You go around the circle creating a beginning, a middle and an end to the story. People learn to communicate with their whole body and improve their voice projection. We also did magic performances, individually and groups. This pushes people a little out of their comfort zone, but boosts confidence because of the sense of achievement
Can you recall someone having a WOW moment during a session, seeing how what they were doing in the workshop could impact them positively in the real world?
At the end of one Raising Resilience workshop, one person said that they were surprised and delighted at how easy it was to face their fears. That just by changing the way they looked at a situation empowered them to try new things. She said she could see how to apply the approach at work and to not be afraid of failure. It’s worth trying this even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.
What’s your favourite Abracademy Magical Moment workshop and why?
Hmmm, that’s a tough question! Not sure if I have an absolute favourite. But I do enjoy Unlock Your Mind. That workshop really tackles the common misconception many people have of themselves – ‘I’m not creative’. Through fun exercises and tasks, participants gradually unlock their creative potential. They always leave feeling inspired. Plus they learn a cool mind-reading effect that they can add their own creative angle to. A great way to spread magic because – the world needs more magic!
What’s an example of magic working really well to demonstrate a concept being explored in a workshop?
It has to be the Magic Lights. We use this trick in the Belief series of workshops because it’s all about believing in the Magic Lights! We chose it for several reasons…
- It’s a very easy trick to learn – a great place to start and to boost confidence
- The lights create a beautiful visual effect!
- We use them to represent our inner magical energy
- It’s fantastic for groups because everyone learns and plays together; this helps people believe in themselves and in one another
- It’s a flexible trick – you’re only limited by your imagination!
Some magic-related questions to finish: do you have any advice for budding magicians?
Try to learn a bit of everything. It will help you in the future if you eventually focus on one area of magic. But if you choose one area to start, for example coin or card magic, then learn the basics first. It’s what I call the scaffolding! But do make sure that you have other interests, apart from magic. The knowledge and experience that comes from other areas of life helps strengthen you as a magician and enriches your routines.
What do you find magical in the world today?
Apart from all the new magic that keeps improving month by month, I find technology, movies, people and places magical.
How did you discover magic?
My grandmother got me into magic! When I was around 7 or 8 she would tell me a magical story using a pack of cards, over a toastie and a hot cocoa after school. There would be the “queens that were in a castle and the evil jacks had locked them up”. “The kings would battle with the jacks and save the queens”! There was always magic in her stories.
How did you arrive at Abracademy?
I first met Rubens – co-founder and Director of Spells at Abracademy – in 2014. We shared a love of magic.
Over a coffee one afternoon he asked me – “If you could do anything with magic, what would you do?”
I answered – “I would open a real Hogwarts!”
His reply? – “OK great, let’s do it!”
And that’s how we started Abracademy 🦄