A CONJUROR who has performed in front of royalty, sports stars and at Number 10 will be launching a campaign to get children switched on to the magic of reading.

Barrington Powell, will be weaving his spell for youngsters to mark World Story Telling Day as part of a series of events at Altrincham Retail Park.

Barrington, who has impressed the likes of Wimbledon champ Andy Murray, top comedian Peter Kay and the Duke of Edinburgh, will be dressed as Roald Dahl’s magical chocolatier Willy Wonka.

He and his two Ladybird helpers will be pitching up in their converted VW camper van – known as the ‘Reading Bug’ – at Altrincham Retail Park on Saturday and Sunday March 22 and 23 from 11am-3pm.

After performing a range of tricks, Barrington will invite youngsters to settle down and listen to him recount some of Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes as part of events to coincide with World Story Telling Day.

The free events, which include nursery rhyme sessions, are being run in partnership with staff from Altrincham Library.

There will also be a book hunt, with families invited to search for numbered clues at stores in the Retail Park, and the answers will form a fun rhyme. Each child who hands in their completed rhyme at Barrington’s Reading Bug lands a bag of candyfloss pus the chance to enter a prize draw to win £100 of goodies from stores at the Retail Park. Other shops will also be offering special discounts linked with the event.

The family friendly event will launch a wider campaign called ‘Get Altrincham Reading’ and as part of the high profile drive, local children will be invited to write a short story based on the sentence ‘I like Altrincham because…’.

Barrington said: “Story-telling is a vital part of a child’s development, it helps to spark their imagination and provides inspiration for so many activities. I was inspired to take up magic thanks to a book when I was just a child. There’s nothing better than curling up with a good story –whether you’re reading it yourself, or hearing somebody else tell it.

“Story telling also helps a child to develop a love of books and learning – anything that tempts them away from computer games and smart phones has to be a good thing!

“And I like to follow the advice of Einstein – he said ‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’”

Jo Francis, head of retail property management for Altrincham Retail Park, said: “I’m looking forward to seeing Barrington perform his magic and weave a spell-binding tale for children when he recounts Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.

“This event, to mark World Story Telling Day, is part of a wide range of activities we’ve lined up for youngsters over the coming months at the Retail Park, to help make trips here a real family event.

“It is also part of our wider campaign to ‘Get Altrincham Reading’ and we will be encouraging local schoolchildren to submit their short stories to us, starting with the line ‘I like Altrincham because’.

“The stories will go on display at Altrincham Retail Park for our shoppers to come and read and enjoy.”

Barrington, who began his career as a Pontins Bluecoat before three years as a chief clown at Legoland in Windsor, also works as a Giggle Doctor, visiting sick children in hospital to help bring a moment of magic into their life between their treatments.

“There’s been a real increase in interest in magic, partly because of Harry Potter but also because artists like Derren Brown, Dynamo and David Blaine has made it popular and cool again,” he said.

His own love of magic came when he was eight and discovered a book by Victorian mind reader Joseph Dunninger, all about potions and spells.

“The tricks were all really dangerous, I think he was trying to get his rivals to blow themselves up. But it gave me a love of magic - the job has taken me around the world and I’ve met so many famous people. Though when I met the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Horse Show at first I thought he was a lookalike, because nobody warned me to expect Royalty.

“I just wondered who was this old man, who was making harrumphing noises at my trick, until somebody explained it was the Duke!”

Barrington has also displayed his dexterous skills in front of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing St and before sporting heroes such as Wimbledon champ Andy Murray and Manchester United striker and World Cup star Norman Whiteside and team-mate David Sadler. The trickster is now a regular at Old Trafford entertaining VIP fans before the Reds’ home games.

Plus he’s won a glowing review from Bolton comedian and TV star Peter Kay, who dubbed Barrington a “wonderful entertainer.”

• Barrington Powell will be telling stories to celebrate World Story Telling Day at Altrincham Retail Park on Saturday and Sunday March 22-23 from 11am-3pm.