THERE'S one person who would have watched Essex magician Richard Jones win this year's Britain's Got Talent with a wry grin on his face.

And that's because fellow magic man Jamie Raven was the runner-up last year.

Not that he's complaining about being pipped to the post by a performing dog, because since that final, this time last year, his life has been changed forever.

"Can we say I was the best two-legged act?" he jokes. "Seriously since being on Britain's Got Talent I cannot believe how much my life has been turned around.

"Before I walked on to that stage at the Dominion Theatre in London I had been performing magic professionally for 11 years.

"I knew it was a risk. You have no control over how they edit your audition or how my magic would come across over the camera but I also knew the rewards are simply unbelievable. I've been trying to get shows in theatres all over the country for years and then Britain's Got Talent comes along and I have a nationwide tour."

Like many magician's Jamie's interest in magic began at an early age but for him it was in a rather obscure place.

"We had some friends who lived in India," he tells me, "and we went out to visit them. I remember being in a restaurant and a man coming up to our table to show us some magic tricks but then after the performance he showed a couple of us kids how to do some of the tricks."

Later when he got an after school job, he would spend his hard earned cash going into the centre of London to buy magic tricks.

"There were two or three shops I really liked," he adds, "and it kind of just went from there.

"Then I went to do an economics degree and after I graduated I got a job but in my spare time I would be doing magic tricks at various events. Private corporate gigs and weddings, sometimes trade shows, and that's what I was doing before I went on the show."

And even before he had made the final, he was making his mark.

For a start Jamie got the notoriously hard to please Simon Cowell to say he had 'made him believe in magic'.

Then there was the on-line response as the video of his audition reached the 11million hits on YouTube alone.

"I got an e-mail from someone the other day," Jamie says, "who told me that audition has now passed the 16million hits mark and that altogether my videos have had 250million views on the internet, which if you do stop to think about for a while does make you think how crazy this all is.

"I must admit I was pretty nervous when I went out there but I wasn't interested in trying to be someone I wasn't or having a story or anything like that, I just wanted to be me and do what I do."

From summoning up helicopters to reading the judges’ minds, he won the hearts of the public by becoming the most successful magician in the history of the TV talent show up until South Woodham Ferrers Richard Jones won the telly contest last month.

Since last year's contest Jamie has been a very busy man.

As well as headlining the record breaking West End magic spectacular The Illusionists, he's also made several television guest appearances including a BBC1 Christmas special with Bruce Forsyth and wowing TV audiences with series of spell-binding tricks on BBC’s FA Cup coverage.

But before all of the glitz and glamour of television, magic was netting him an even bigger prize, that of his wife, Ashley.

"We were both out having drinks with some mutual friends," he explains, "and I said I would get a round of drinks in. I handed over a £20 note and the barman said he was sorry but that wasn't enough, so I did the trick that I performed on Britain's Got Talent, unfolding the note to reveal it as a £50 note.

"I'm glad it worked because it took me ages to save up for that £50."

Now he doesn't have to worry too much about the notes with a number of high profile gigs and his latest tour, which arrives at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester later this month, to keep them coming in.

"It's also enabled me to really push what I do," he adds, "and that's improve the way I perform my magic. I think it's fair to say the mechanics of the tricks I do have not really changed in ten years but that's the same for every magician. While the way a trick works has not changed the way you interact with the audience and how you perform that trick, that has changed incredibly and that's what makes the shows special.

"It's not always the case that bigger is better. I think I showed that on Britain's Got Talent. It needs to be the same experience for one person in the room as it is for 2,500 people in the room.

"But I'm delighted magic is just as popular today as it was when I was growing up. I think when you go and see a band or a singer you kind of know what they are going to do, the songs they are going to sing, but with a magic show the joy is you just don't know what's going to happen."

And that creates quite a buzz not just for the audience but for Jamie as well.

"There's nothing better than watching people's faces when you've done a great trick," he reveals. "You get a real kick out of it. I always have. It's just now I get to spread that buzz all around the country."

Jamie Raven,

Mercury Theatre,

Balkerne Gate, Colchester.

June 29. 7.30pm.

£18.50 plus concessions. 01206 573948.