Losing an Eye for an Amp is the first part of our “Stories from the Pitch” series, in conjunction with the Busker Hall of Fame. Have a story you want to submit? Email us, or submit your story here

Editors Note:

Trigger warning. If you’re a street performer, you may want to skip this post.

Mark Beltran, or “Magic Mark” as he is more affectionately known, is a talented, traveling street magician. Recently, Mark was performing in Dublin when he became victim to theft and assault by a local gang. As a result of this incident, Mark has a severely injured right eye, which may never regain vision.

In support of Mark, his art and the courage he has illustrated during this difficult period, we think it’s important to communicate his story and bring awareness to the challenges that buskers often face: and more-so, that even losing an eye doesn’t mean giving up if you have enough support around you.

Nick Broad spoke with Mark about what occurred in the days leading up to the event, and how his life – and perspective – has changed since.

Cliffs of Mohan
Cliffs of Moher in Ireland – photo taken by Mark Beltran

Nick: Put me in your head on the day this happened. You were visiting Ireland. You’d been to the Cliffs of Moher. You were with friends. You were happy. Do you remember what you were doing that day, before the incident? Or that week?

Mark: After the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hiroshi, an acrobat from Japan, Aaron, a circus artist from America and I traveled to Belfast for two days and to Galway for four days. We were learning from each other. Hiroshi and Aaron were teaching me to handstand and juggle three clubs. I was teaching them magic tricks.

They were also pushing me to do bigger shows in each place. They are circle show performers. They were getting me out of my comfort zone – I’m used to doing smaller shows in the Alcoves on the Royal Mile. I was getting pretty good at it. I was able to do some pretty big shows in Belfast and Galway,  given that these were proper off-season street shows and not festival ones. I was very happy with the training and learning. Traveling with these guys was a fantastic and fun experience.

Also, I had plans to work seriously only until September 20th and then do some exploring in Dusseldorf, Cologne before going to Berlin to start a three month road trip exploring Baltic, Balkan countries and Eastern Europe.

To save up, I planned to busk in Dublin from September 9th until the 16th. I had been to Dublin before the Fringe and loved the vibe of the city. I liked playing at Grafton street during the afternoons and Temple bar during evenings. My childhood best friend Mika lives in Dublin as well, so I was very excited to catch up with her.

Nick: So, this sounds like not just a holiday, but the start of a journey in several ways – geographically of course, but also developing your act, and getting more experience. Would you say you were excited? Did this feel different to normal trips? Were you thinking “Hey, at the end of this I might have a 45 minute circle show”?

Mark: You see, before my trip to Europe this year, I was very much grounded in Manila. I have Asian parents. My mom is a banker, my eldest brother is a banker, his wife is a banker, my next brother is a banker and the other one is into IT.

You can imagine how much they really doubt the decisions I’ve made. All they used to want for me was stability, a big house, a wife, kids etc…

I met a girl in the Philippines and fell in love. So, I decided to be stable over there and try to make it work. It didn’t. I got hired as the resident magician at a casino and was doing well with indoor gigs, so I hadn’t been busking or travelling for 8 months before July!

July was me shaking off the dust and getting back to the intense lifestyle of busking and growing my wings. August at the Fringe was me flying, having the time of my life, but also getting so exhausted; I was very much looking forward to travelling and exploring when it was over.

By the end of the Fringe, I’d started working the larger street performer pitches. 45 minutes was no problem. I have material for that and more. It was the connection with the audience that was so difficult for me, as there are so many of them and they are so far away, as opposed to the alcoves where I can see and connect with most people watching the show.

I’m always trying to improve my show. I was getting a lot of support and confidence traveling with the boys – which otherwise I wouldn’t do. So Yeah! This wasn’t just a journey.

Nick: Okay, so that’s a good lead up to the event. You’ve gone from indoor shows in Manila, through the Fringe and into Ireland. Now you’re on your way to Dublin to save up for a road trip. I know you can’t talk too much about it, but perhaps you could describe a little bit about what happened next?

Mark: We got to Dublin on the 8th of September. I booked a very good BnB with lots of space. It was affordable and very near to the pitch. I didn’t do much except to have supper with the boys, do some training and rest.

The 9th of September was raining all day so we stayed in until around 7pm. I decided to meet Mika around this time with Aaron and Hiroshi and we ended up all supporting and watching Hiroshi’s show. Around 9pm, I went to Temple Bar and saw the pitch was empty. I did a show there, and that’s where it happened.

This photo is from a few minutes before my amp was stolen. The photo was taken by my friend Mika.

Mark Beltran, moments before losing an eyeMark, performing in front of McDonalds in Temple Bar, Dublin

I’d worked this pitch maybe 4 to 5 times in July, and it’s great. It’s an evening pitch, so people are energetic and fun.

I did the show, it was a bit messy. I earned an average hat. Some people were talking to me afterwards, and when I looked back to my stuff I realized that my amp was gone. That was how it started.


The Event:

Magician left blind in one eye after violent thugs smash bottle into his face

Note: Mark can’t talk about the event itself, as it might affect the court case. The information below has been taken from news reports that are already in the public domain.

Mark’s amplifier was stolen by a teenage girl.

His friends chased after the teen, and managed to recover the amp from a group of youths in Crown Alley at around 9.30pm. But, they were confronted by the gang on Upper O’Connell Street two hours later.

One of the teenagers rammed a bottle into Mark’s face during the savage attack. His friends were also injured by the violent mob.

Mark needed 20 stitches in his eyeball.

He spent 10 days in hospital.




losing an eyeMark in hospital the day after the attack

Nick: So, skip forward. You’ve had your amp stolen. You’ve been in a sort-of fight, you’ve gone to hospital, you get the terrible news that you might be losing an eye, and you’re feeling… at this point, what are you feeling? Can you even understand what this means? I suppose you’re still finding out?

Mark: I was really scared and shocked, going from the street to the hospital.

It was my first time in the hospital. By the time I was cleaned up in a hospital bed my mind was racing. I remember in my darkest moments thinking it would be better to be dead than continue living as…less of myself.

My brain and body were still in shock. They drugged me up. The feeling was surreal – how much things can change within seconds! I kept wishing for everything that had transpired in those last few hours to be just a dream.

The next morning a nurse woke me up early to put meds in my eye. She helped get me ready for surgery and drugged me up again. When I came to after that, the doctors explained that I had 20 stitches in my eyeball, stitches all over my face and i could never see again with the right eye.

I was fucked up. An IV drip stuck in my hand. My face heavily wounded, my eye is gone. I’m beat up.

It is all real.

My mind kept on going back to things I could have done differently that night. I knew it was futile to do so, but very hard to switch off. I was upset and frustrated that all my plans had gone to shit. There were lots of questions I’d have to deal with too.

I could not come to terms how anyone could shatter a bottle on the face of someone they didn’t know.

And why did it happen to me?
Did I do something to deserve this fate?
When do I tell my parents what has happened?
Who will pay for this?
Will I ever be whole again?

Then I got very depressed. I felt like I’d lost not only my eye…but the capability to be independent and pursue what I love. I love busking all over the world, being exposed and out there, exploring, living, surviving. When I’m doing a good show, I feel like for those 25 minutes, this is exactly what the universe has put me in this world to do. It is my calling. There is no doubt.

I know in time my sight will adjust, but still I have doubts to what extent. The doctors say that it’s time for a change in lifestyle. And that’s opened up a lot of other questions to think about.

Magic Mark's Crowdfunding Campaign after losing an eyeOne of many posts about Mark’s crowdfunding campaign

Nick: The world of street performers has gathered around you and your family, friends and so on, with love, kind messages and $21,000 in crowdfunding. That’s how I found out about what had happened to you – everyone was sharing Hiroshi’s post. I’m always amazed at how buskers stick up for each other. It’s like a giant, dysfunctional family. Beautiful really. Did you always feel the same way? Or do you feel it more now than before?

Mark: My saving grace was my friends around me, literally supporting my every step through the initial stage of recovery. I am always dizzy, my good eye doesn’t focus. Depth perception was awful. Pouring water and crossing the street was hard. I was paranoid around people while walking the streets too….

Anyway, my friends set up the crowdfunding campaigns. The truth is that like most magicians I am inherently a shy guy. I had my reservations putting my assault photos online for everyone to see. Plus all the other issues crowdfunding creates. But, my friends insisted and here we are.

It fills my heart with joy to see our community working together for a common good cause, and the response to the campaign has been pleasantly surprising to me. Usually, buskers are individualistic, thrifty, territorial, obsessive and eccentric. That, and we all have different disciplines too. It isn’t so easy to get along a lot of times.

And to be honest, I hate queuing, pitch drama, stepping on people’s toes, upsetting anyone and usually keep to myself, and stay quiet and friendly when I’m working. I do this all over the world, and most times on my own.

I love the Fringe, because it makes me feel like I am part of a family. I don’t get to really hang out and connect with everyone like I want to, but that’s impossible at a huge festival like that; everyone is busy with their own stuff. But it’s still a break from my normal, individualistic existence. Thankfully, in my 4 years doing this ive made amazing friends, and the closest ones have been from my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Magic at the HospitalMark doing tricks for visitors at the Dublin Mater hospital

I’m a big fan of your work, your show, your style, your friendliness on the pitch and the reactions you get from your audience. Do you think this will affect the performer/audience relationship at all? Do you already have plans to use it? I just googled “one eyed street performer hat lines”, and nothing came up – this is your chance to create an entirely new genre! Or will everything go on just like before?

Mark: When people found out what had happened to me, my mailbox was blowing up with well-wishes, advice and prayers. I appreciate all of them so much, and reading every one of them greatly raised my spirits, especially when I was stuck in the hospital, hearing terrible news everyday. But my fave ones are the ones which made fun of the whole thing.

Magicians are already brainstorming with me on how to use the prosthetic as a gimmick, and I’m already receiving jokes and one-liners from some street performers about the eye.

But still, I’ve come the point that the street show is furthest from my mind. I cannot do them yet. My gear is incomplete – my amp along with my other magic stuff has been confiscated as evidence. And I’ve accepted my physical limitations and setbacks. Street shows require focus and energy which I do not have yet. I’m gonna do the time and recover. I have a lot of battles ahead of me, so I’ve started training and rehabilitation. When I come out, I come out stronger. What has happened is a game changer and the only thing to do now is make my weakness now, my greatest advantage.

friends and family supportMark having dinner with friends in London, two weeks after the attack

I’ve accepted the fate I have drawn, and pray to the universe to let me see truly what I must do. Maybe, it isn’t enough just to make people smile but do something to truly help. Rest assured, busking and magic will always be part of me and I will be active in our busking family.

As performers we walk in beauty, making life more fun, happier, more beautiful. We have a mission to spread the love.

Mark Beltran

losing an eye doesn't mean giving up

You can still donate to Mark here: https://www.youcaring.com/mark-beltran-648814

Stories from the Pitch podcast is dedicated to creating is a living oral history about street performers and some of the crazy characters that populate this world. Have a story you want to submit? Email us, or write your story here.