What with the state of the world and in particular the state of Hong Kong this week, it seemed a good time to speak to Eddy Au Wan-leung, magician, trick-manufacturer and the man behind the 2nd Hong Kong Magic Festival. Au is still rustling up entertainment for his event, which will take place over three weekends from August 13 at the New World Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. When I asked him if he was going to be at Thursday's demonstration he said he would probably be in the United States attending a magic convention and observing demonstrations of a different variety. I could see that Au, who is 38, looks 25 and is a man clearly worried by his all-consuming enthusiasm, was taken with the vision of donning a tuxedo and waving a magic wand over Hong Kong's assembled hordes. 'Good idea,' he cried. 'Good promotion.' Realising that this wasn't treating matters with the expected gravitas, he added with a desperate laugh, 'Sorry, I'm thinking of the marketing side - I always have it on my mind.' Like Hong Kong, Au is at a delicate economic crossroads. He has already organised five magic conventions here, not one of which has made a profit. There was a moment in his Fo Tan office, where we sat late one night surrounded by magic toys, when Au tapped each one of the previous years' brochures and intoned the sad mantra, 'Lost money, lost money, lost money, lost money, lost money.' Nor has he been having an easy time of it on the mainland where, two years ago, his company Eddy International attempted to pull off the fantastic feat of making money while eluding the copyright infringers. He opened shops selling the Eddy's Magic line of tricks in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and within weeks there were Eddy's Magic copies all over Guangdong. Last October he closed down the shops - an enforced disappearing act. 'I'm so angry about that,' said Au, looking agonised. 'Nothing I can do. China is really tough - it's normal, right? I need to think of a strategy.' At the moment that strategy consists of promoting the International Magicians Society (IMS), an organisation established in New York in 1968, in Hong Kong and on the mainland. 'Magicians in China have a lack of information so it's easy to recruit,' began Au. 'They pay 200 yuan and become life members of IMS.' He paused. 'But we cannot do it formally, for political reasons. They have to apply and send the forms to Hong Kong for registration. The word 'society' ... in China they think you are ... you know what I mean.' We both nodded, silently deferring to the power of allusion. Nor are Eddy's international conventions likely to be putting in an appearance on the mainland for a while. 'Political reasons,' said Au again meaningfully. 'Magic groups belong to the government. In Shanghai there is a convention every two years but it also belongs to the government, so we have no rights there. We cannot organise anything. It's a problem.' Meanwhile, it appears to be a magician-saw-magician world in Hong Kong where Au has had a stand-off with another prestigiatore called Albert Tam Wing-cheung. Five years ago both men held magic conventions - Au's was in August and Tam, chairman of the Hong Kong Magicians' Association, held his in November. It wasn't exactly wands at dawn but such was the depth of feeling that Au's application to attend Tam's event was rejected and the two men have never made up. 'He's really jealous,' said Au. 'It's a sad story but this kind of problem is the same everywhere - Korea, Japan, all magic groups.' This has evidently been a lifetime trait because Au (who, curiously, has never read any Harry Potter books - 'No time!') has been obsessed with magic since he was 10, when a Wan Chai friend produced a silk handkerchief apparently out of thin air. The night we met Au was teaching this trick to a group of would-be magicians in Eddy's Magic Studio, which adjoins his office. Eighteen members of Eddy's Magic Club, four of whom were female, had gathered for instruction. Without wishing to give away too much, the lesson involved manipulating a false thumb. Au waved his fine fingers back and forth, like a pale anemone, and the class followed suit. Some of the group were attending in order to be summer promoters for Eddy International in stores such as Toys R Us; others were there simply to amuse themselves and their friends. But the eldest member of the gathering, Chan Shu-pui, 73, said that despite his failing health magic made him feel alive. Au liked this quote when I repeated it to him. 'I'm crazy,' he said several times. 'But it's my life. It's my path.' Then he produced some old brochures that traced this route: Eddy in a transforming perm, aged 18; Eddy as magical consultant to Miss Hong Kong ('Building up the illusion,' explained Au, meaning the TVB stage set); Eddy as magical consultant to Algeria. I did a double-take: if Au could assist war-wracked Algeria, Lower Albert Road should surely be seeking his advice. But it turned out to be a typing error for Allegria, the Cirque du Soleil show that was in Hong Kong a few years ago. Au is thinking of opening a magic bar in Hong Kong and a magic restaurant. His wife, Sharon, mother of their children Brian, nine, and Vivian, seven, is concerned about the financial implications but Au is caught in the force field of his ambitious hope. 'I want a magic city,' he murmured. 'With a magic theatre, a magic school, with illusion and fortune-telling. Really. Maybe in China. But I need to find a solution. I'm stuck here. I need to find the next magic step.'