After wooing audiences in London, high-society card sharp Drummond Money-Coutts hopes to reinvent himself as the new cool face of conjuring. But can he work his magic in Leeds? Rod McPhee found out.
DRUMMOND Money-Coutts emerges in the quadrangle of Leeds University looking entirely inconspicuous.
Aside from being unusually tall with a thick mane of dark hair he's indistinguishable from virtually every other student milling around him.
Except he isn't just any other student. Drummond is, in fact, the Honourable Drummond Money-Coutts and will one day become the 10th Baron of Latymer.
His father is already a lord and his maternal grandfather is WF Deedes, the life peer and legendary journalist who was once editor of the Daily Telegraph.
The 19-year-old was also schooled alongside Princes William and Harry at Eton and, as the name suggests, he's a direct descendant of the Coutts banking family, famous for taking care of the Queen's financial affairs.
But despite his pedigree Drummond doesn't want to be known for his aristocratic past. He wants to carve out his future as part of a new wave of cooler, sexier magic – and he hopes to do it here in Leeds.
He certainly has the looks. He's 6ft 4in tall with the kind of bone structure which belongs in a manor house portrait. The clothes are a bohemian mix of trainers, sports trouser and smart jacket covering a shirt worn (as is obligatory for public schoolboys) with the collars pointing up.
He's unbelievably posh and cloyingly handsome but, despite your best efforts, it's impossible to dislike him because he's just so damn nice.
He also plays down his aristocracy. In fact, you get the distinct impression he wouldn't mention it unless you ask, at which point he's too polite not to answer.
"It's nothing more than an extended Christian name really," he said. "It had more of a place a few hundred years ago but essentially it means nothing now.
"My family live in Clapham in South London, not some huge sprawling estate. Anything we had was either given away or went to America 100 years ago or something like that.
"When I get the title I'll probably accept it but I won't throw it around. I guess I could use the Lord Latymer thing in my act but I think it would seem immodest.
"I know if I saw someone else with a title using it like that I'd consider it a bit cheesy and cheap. I'd like to rely on my talent – I want people to know I've put in the work."
He's certainly done his time. Drummond started his magical journey at the age of 13 and has been obsessed with card sharping and close-up magic ever since.
He can do things with rings, coins, watches and sponge balls which will leave you open-mouthed but his real forte is card cheating, or "manipulation" as he prefers to call it.
As well as reading dozens of books he's picked up tricks while travelling the world, including one or two tips from professional cardsharps in Bangkok.
He's even received a brief lesson in spoon bending from Uri Geller.
Drummond spent years practicing in his bedroom before landing his first official gig at 16. It was a birthday party and he charged a nominal fee of 30. Now an appearance will set you back anything up to 500.
"People think it's amazing to get that much for a couple of hour's work," he said. "But if you divide it up between all the years and hours you've spent practicing it would be about tuppence."
Over the past three years he's performed for a string of famous faces including Hugh Grant, the Duchess of York, Michael Parkinson and even – during one of her visits to Eton – the Queen.
He said: "I was terrified, not to the point of laundry problems, but certainly very nervous. What was most upsetting was the fact that I was standing there and I'm 6ft 4in but still at shoulder height to the enormous body guards surrounding her.
"There I am trying to perform in this jolly way and they're just staring at you with these stony faces making sure you're not going to attack her with a knife or something. It wasn't easy."
Now he's facing a new challenge: Leeds.
(You might imagine Drummond would be at Oxford or Cambridge but Leeds University offered him the best language course.)
He wants to carve out a niche as a chic magician like his heroes David Blaine and Derren Brown.
There's certainly a hunger for innovative talent at the moment – could Drummond do for magic what Jamie Cullum did for jazz or Jamie Oliver did for cooking?
"Gosh, to call myself the Jamie Oliver of magic is something I'd be extremely nervous about," he said. "I have dreams of reaching the top of my field, but you've got to give up a lot to reach those goals.
"It would be brilliant but if you look at people like Jamie, who are at the top of their game, you have to look at the effect on their family life – that's very important to me.
"It depends on whether you go about gaining fame the glitzy way – I mean, Derren Brown is a recognised face, but he isn't in Heat magazine all the time, he's just known for his talent. I suppose the real answer is, I'll wait and see!"
Despite his hesitation it's a move which might just reap dividends in the university world and in Leeds's bars and clubs which are constantly looking out for unique talent.
He said: "The public have a very warped view of magic. What I'd like to do is expand on the smarter, more sophisticated style.
"Something just a little more elegant than the typical loud, brash, feather-toting, flower-producing wizards with big hats.
"If you stopped the average person in the street and asked them to draw a magician I think they would draw something closer to a clown than a man in a smart suit.
"I think the misconception comes from the Paul Daniels era. Don't get me wrong he's a legend and I have massive respect for the guy.
"But that was the style back then and there is a wholly different one now. With the advent of people like Derren Brown there's a new style – sharp suits, well spoken magic which is more popular than ever before."
It's the fulfilment of a long term ambition which began on a visit to Davenports, the oldest magic shop in Britain.
The store lies under Coutts' bank on The Strand where Drummond's father worked for 18 years.
"It's dimly lit and there's someone sitting quietly behind a glass cabinet with all these shelves filled with books and ropes and stuff," he recalls. "I can always remember the feeling when I went in – it's so quiet and tranquil.
"One year when I had a lot of Christmas money I went back and came out with all these bags of books and things.
"I don't think I ever performed any of those first tricks to anyone – just to myself in front of my bedroom mirror.
"If you look at the real greats of magic they tend to be solitary types. But there were other famous people too who've dabbled – Oscar Willde, Charles Dickens, Orson Welles.
"They tend to be people comfortable in their own company, partly because getting moves right can take months or years to perfect.
"You have to put up with a few gags along the way but I never cried myself to sleep or anything as most of the teasing was pretty good natured.
"I think the important thing with it is to keep a balance. Some days I get up and think: 'let's deal cards' then other days I think: 'Get a life Drummond, leave your bedroom and go out and meet people!'
Strangely Drummond doesn't seem like the lonesome, self-absorbed type. He not only has a long-term girlfriend but "a lot of very close friends" he assures me.
In fact the magic has often proved a real icebreaker in social situations. His paranormal skills are also extremely useful with the ladies, though Drummond insists he's never had to use them.
"Guys ask me this all the time." he said. "But I've never cornered a girl and showed her all my favourite tricks.
"Would it be possible? Yes, to some extent. Palm reading is a killer. You're there, stroking their hand, looking at their love line. Girls love that.
"Apparently what also works brilliantly with girls is the whole mind reading and body language thing."
Body language is just one of the arsenal of skills at Drummond's disposal. Which turned out to be an unfortunate hurdle when he offered me 3,000 in a wager.
The money was mine if I could foil one of his card tricks.
Sitting in the Students Union bar (with the large cheque resting on the table) he looked away while I chose a card then returned it to the pack before I dealt each, face up, in turn.
He watched every nuance of my body language – from my posture to my blinking and facial expression – and within a minute had pinpointed the Queen of Clubs I first selected.
Fortunately I wasn't forced to hand over 3,000 myself as the bet was one way – thank the lord.
• For more information or to contact Drummond Money-Coutts visit www.DrummondMagic.com