A film producer who is also a top magician is doing all he can to shout about Huddersfield and has just taken on a high profile role in the town.
John Danbury has become a director of not-for-profit events company Huddersfield Live and is committed to promoting the town where he has lived for 20 years.
As a film producer he has worked recently with the likes of Dame Joan Collins, Anita Dobson and playwright John Godber.
Prince William described John’s close-up magic as “seriously good, annoyingly good” when John performed for him at The Diana Memorial Concert at Wembley in 2007.
He was then asked to do a private charity event for Charles and Camilla at their private residence, Highgrove in Gloucestershire.
John and his wife, actress Ann Micklethwaite who was originally from Mirfield, moved to Huddersfield just over 20 years ago and love the town and its countryside. He now lives in Clayton West.
John said: “I’ve something of a habit of never saying ‘no’ to anyone who asks for help so when I was approached by Huddersfield Live I just had to say ‘yes.’
“The work they do for the town is phenomenal, organising major events such as the Food and Drink Festival and the Winter Festival. Huddersfield is a glorious place to live and work and we need to do all we can to promote the positive things happening here.”
John has also set up a business support and networking group called The Positivity Collective in Huddersfield with professional speaker Narelle Summers who is an expert on wellbeing in the workplace. They meet at the Smile bar and live music venue on Wakefield Road in Aspley.
John, who is 49 and 6ft 4in tall, was born in Barnet, north London, and brought up in Cambridgeshire where his parents were publicans.
When he was 17 he achieved a place at one of the country’s leading drama schools, Mountview Theatre School in London, where he studied musical theatre.
After a spell as an entertainer at Butlins – John can sing too – he became a toy demonstrator at Harrods luxury department store in London where he was told to learn some tricks to cover for the store’s magician when he was on his lunch break.
One day John stepped in at short notice to do a magic event when the other magician was struck down by flu and then just carried on as a professional magician for the last 30 years.
He is a member of the Magic Circle, president of Huddersfield Circle of Magicians and now does more than 100 magic gigs a year ranging from product launches to corporate events.
Over the years John honed his presenting skills – including stints selling on TV shopping channels Ideal World and QVC – and pushing products through magic at trade shows.
John hosted last year’s Huddersfield Christmas Lights Switch On, Golcar Lily Day and was presenter at the recent Menopause Live event at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax.
He also ran a marketing consultancy in Huddersfield for six years teaching people how to use compelling communications to sell more.
John, who ran his own variety and theatre company called John Danbury Presents promoting acts such as comedian Billy Pearce, was tempted into TV and film when someone came to him with ideas for scripts.
He set up Visualize Films, went to the MIPTV in Cannes – the TV equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival – and within six weeks was commissioned to make a 10-part travel series set in Ireland called Are We There Yet?
This was seen by playwright John Godber who asked John if he could turn his stage comedy Last Laugh into a film – his first since Up And Under many years ago.
John did this and has made several award-winning short films including Touching The Blue set in the world of professional snooker.
His latest film is a big musical production called Tomorrow Morning starring Dame Joan Collins, Anita Dobson, Samantha Barks – who is now playing Elsa in the West End production of Frozen – actor and comedian Omid Djalili and pop star radio presenter Fleur East.
John said: “A BBC film crew were filming a documentary about Joan’s life so they turned up too to film her making a film. She was just so lovely and natural, a pure professional who wanted to do the best job she possibly could for us.”
He said his Zoom meetings with Anita Dobson were quite funny as she needed a technical expert to get her on – husband Queen guitarist Brian May.
John said: “When Anita appeared on screen I’d see Brian’s hair slowly disappearing out of view after he managed to get her sorted online. He’d then meander past with a cup of coffee to check everything was running fine.”
Anita was famously the landlady at EastEnders pub the Queen Vic and Harriet Thorpe, who is also in Tomorrow Morning, has recently taken over as the Vic’s new landlady.
Another short film called 25% The Confession was inspired by the worrying statistic that one in four teenage girls under 14 self-harm. The script was based on the girls’ own words and starred John’s daughter, Imogen, who picked up several best actress awards.
Imogen is now 17 and studying theatre at CAPA in Wakefield. She and her 10-year-old sister, Iris, attend Rebel Theatre School in Shepley and both have had roles in soap drama Emmerdale.
As a film producer John is, in effect, a film’s managing director, and has to organise and pull everything together which could range from finding funding to deciding on a director, sorting out a cast and then selling the finished film through distribution companies worldwide.
“It’s the toughest job in the film industry,” he said. “You do all the work yet don’t get any of the glory and not much money either unless it becomes a massive hit.
“I just do it for the satisfaction of making something that people want to watch, maybe even in 50 or 100 years’ time. A film is like leaving a creative legacy and that’s a wonderful thing.”
The company’s chairman is entrepreneur Sir Rodney Walker who is best known as chairman of the London Marathon Charitable Trust and led the project to rebuild Wakefield Theatre Royal.
John revealed his next film project will be about the time the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy was stolen in England in 1966 and was missing for a week before a dog called Pickles sniffed it out dumped under a bush.
The film, called 1966, looks at what could have happened to the trophy during that mysterious week and is written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the team behind comedy dramas such as Goodnight Sweetheart, Shine On Harvey Moon and Birds Of A Feather.
The director will be Nick Hurran who directed Sherlock and Dr Who for TV and Devils for Sky Atlantic. The stars will be singer Pixie Lott and Colin Morgan, best known for his starring role in BBC TV series Merlin.
It’s in the early stages with finance still being sought and the hope is that filming will begin by the end of the year.
Another project in the pipeline is a 10-part detective series set in York called Duke.
But John is always keen to focus on his adopted home town of Huddersfield. “It’s a great place, “ he said. “And if we all work together we can make it even better.”
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.