Magical Mela is one of the highlights of Blackpool's new annual festival of magic, circus and variety.

Headlined by illusionist and escapologist, Shahid Malik, the free family-friendly event also features Rajan The Magic Man, close-up illusionist Darius and Bharat Patel.

The show takes place on Saturday 16 February and is just one of many free events that make up the new Showzam festival, which is timed to coincide with the half-term holidays.

Former Magician of the Year and two-times Guinness World Record-holder Shahid Malik was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and has lived in Britain since the age of four. His TV appearances include Live From the London Palladium, The Children's Royal Variety Performance, Wogan and Noel's House Party.

His first public escape stunt took place in May 1972 opposite the main Bradford University building. Shahid was just 18-years-old. But it's not always been plain sailing for the Houdini fan, who still lives in Bradford.

In 1975, the Magical Mela headliner was almost burnt alive after performing the Bonfire Escape and spent three weeks in intensive care with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his face, arms and back. And whilst appearing on live television, Shahid almost drowned whilst performing the Water Tank Escape. He was lowered into the tank too quickly and after somehow managing to complete the escape, collapsed soon afterwards.

Shahid, who performs with his wife Lisa, has almost been killed twice whilst performing his Burning Rope Escape. Once he fell 75 feet and was left unconscious with fractured ribs and a broken arm.

Rajan began his apprenticeship in the secret art of Legerdemain (slight of hand magic) at the tender age of nine. Throughout his school days and university life he remained true to his first love - magic. Today he is one of only 300 people in the world who hold the prestigious title Member of The Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star. Rajan has recently stared in his own successful series on E4 and has performed at many show biz parties.

Darius was spellbound by the power of magic at the age of six and later joined the Young Magicians Society and The Magic Circle. He is also a member of The International Brotherhood Of Magicians. Darius specialises in close-up illusions and mindreading skills and has performed in London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The Magical Mela takes place with the Pleasure Beach, which is free to enter. The Mela begins with Shahid's straight jacket escape from a crane on a burning rope at 12 noon. From 1pm until 2pm there will be close-up magic demonstrations and then a free seated stage show in the Paradise Room concludes the festivities 3-4pm.

Magic fans might also be interested to attend Probably the World's Greatest Magic Show, 8-10 February, at the Blackpool Opera House. Tickets are £15/£8 and can be booked on 0870 380 1111.

Showzam, Blackpool's new annual festival of circus, magic and new variety, 8-24 February 2008, builds on Blackpool's history and heritage in entertaining people and showcases its world-class links in the areas of circus, magic and variety.

It forms part of a programme of signature events in the resort over the next three years which are being supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). Many events are free.

A complete events programme and details of special festival packages for short breaks can be found at or by calling 01253 478222 The Magical Mela Sat 16 February 12-4pm Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Free