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Dynamo: "NHS doctors and nurses are the real magicians"

The star magician has faced his own health struggles in recent times, including battling coronavirus himself

Dynamo

A few years ago, Dynamo was flying high – literally. Remember when he levitated above The Shard in 2014?

By 2016 he was playing sold-out arenas, had hit TV shows and his stunts made headlines around the world. That year he was even on the cover of The Big Issue magazine!

That was when you knew you’d made it, right?

“Yep, I’m not gonna lie,” Dynamo says from self-isolation. “I’d see Big Issue sellers around where I live and often buy a copy. I’m fortunate that I’ve been on a few covers of magazines but seeing The Big Issue edition was pretty amazing. I was taking selfies with a lot of the sellers. I was so proud. I know you were half joking but genuinely it was one of my favourite covers that I’ve ever done.”

Issue 1197
Dynamo: Above and beyond

From the highest of highs, Dynamo endured a long period of lows. On July 1 2017 his Crohn’s disease flared horrifically after severe food poisoning and he was rushed to hospital. Next he developed severe reactive arthritis that left him unable even to hold let alone shuffle a pack of cards. His recovery since then has been nothing short of miraculous.

Turning adversity into opportunity has been the story of his life, however. Dynamo, real name Steven Frayne, now 37, grew up in impoverished Bradford. His father was absent in prison for long periods, his mother not around much either. Raised by his great-grandparents, the young Frayne was shy and picked on by bullies. His great-grandfather taught him tricks to get them off his back, inadvertently sparking a passion for magic.

Looking back on that time now – having just recovered from coronavirus himself – Dynamo acknowledges that self-isolation is nothing new to him. “In some ways, it’s kind of what I’ve been doing most of my life,” he says. “The area I grew up in wasn’t the sort of place where you could go and play outside. It was a bit too dangerous. So I spent a lot of time in my bedroom with nothing but my imagination trying to create magic. I find that I’m the most creative when left to my own devices.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-eU8mvlcPP/

At 17, he endured a long stay in hospital as doctors tried to work out the best way to deal with an abscess in his bowel.

“That’s when I first realised the power that magic had,” he remembers. “I was in hospital for three months before the operation because they weren’t sure what was going on inside me. I wasn’t bedridden so I was able to like wander around and to keep myself busy I was going around wards and performing magic.

“There were people who were in far worse situations than I was, people who were probably never going to get to go home. But it got to the point where every time I walked into their ward, their face would light up because they knew for that moment they were going to get to forget about their troubles and experience something amazing. It can change the way people feel. It can affect people’s emotions in a positive way.”

Dynamo, who has spent more time than most of us in hospital recently, is eager to point out that it’s doctors and nurses who are real magicians.

“One hundred percent. They are changing lives, saving lives and making the world a better place. I was on my balcony clapping for the NHS like everyone else. And it was it was an amazing moment. The whole country is appreciating all the hard work they are doing and now more than ever is a sign of just how important the NHS is in our country and how lucky we are to have a system like that.”

While in hospital, and even though he could hardly use his hands, Dynamo came up with 200 ideas for tricks he wanted to work on when he got better. Some of those form the basis of his new three-part series Beyond Belief, which combines his unique low-fi, high-impact style (racing a taxi in reverse around central Moscow – blindfolded, making symbols drawn on his hand appear on someone else’s) cut with personal moments from his long road to recovery.

“Magic was the thing that kept me going when I was younger, and whilst I was in hospital this time as well,” he explains. “Creating magic gave me the inspiration not to let my illness hold me back. It forced me to look at my illness and the adversity I was going through from a different perspective.

“In some ways, I think a lot of people will be able to relate to my situation more now with what everyone’s going through at the moment. Hopefully it will give a little bit of escapism for people who are definitely going to be sick and tired of being stuck indoors. Now more than ever, we need a little bit of magic in our lives.”

Dynamo: Beyond Belief is on Sky One and NOW TV

At this time you can continue to support The Big Issue! Subscribe to the magazine now to receive it directly to your door or device – head to bigissue.com/subscribefor details – or pick up one off issues in The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or on Google Play.

You can also pick up a copy in the shops for the first time – head to Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-op, Asda or WH Smith to get your magazine.

As ever, 50 per cent of the proceeds will go to Big Issue vendors as we work hard to support them through the Covid-19 crisis while they are temporarily unable to sell the magazine on the streets.

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