As a young boy growing up in the rural town of Rathfriland, David Meade never dreamt that one day he would be entertaining thousands of people every night with his amazing mentalist show, or that he would front his own television show that would astound the world by cheating a Las Vegas casino out of £1 million.
Now renowned as Northern Ireland’s answer to Derren Brown, David worked hard to perfect his craft before turning his back on his teaching career and striking out on his own to become the entertainer that he is today.
Admitting he wasn’t very academic at school, David went on to study hotel management at college but he didn’t enjoy the course. However, it was thanks to one of his teachers that he began to find his true calling as a public speaker.
“A teacher took me aside and told me I was going to fail the course,” explained David. “When I told her I hated it, she said to find one thing about it that I liked.
“That was when I realised I loved giving presentations. I really, really loved it and it didn’t matter what the subject was. So I convinced myself I was going to be a teacher.”
David went on to lecture and teach in the field of business and leadership, something which stood him in good stead for the years to come as he now travels the world as a keynote speaker.
“I started teaching on a masters programme and I realised I loved doing it. That was a fundamental part of me doing what I do now. There were 100 students in the class so it was like a gig and I had to be entertaining. If the students didn’t enjoy the class, they didn’t come back. I would interpret their body language, influence their decision making and tell the class what decisions they would make. I think even then I wanted to be a keynote speaker and now that is 70-80% of my work.”
But it is his television and stage shows that David is most well known for and it took some determination and a little bit of luck to make that happen.
“I took a year out and it was a disaster,” David revealed. “By the end of the year everything was on credit cards. It was so bad and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working. So I decided I needed to raise my profile and get myself a TV show.
“I tried to get a meeting with TV producer Kieran Doherty. In the end I called his secretary and pretended I needed to change the time of my meeting with Kieran, even though I didn’t have a meeting. When she said there was nothing in the diary I pretended I was outraged at the oversight and she slotted me in the next day. I don’t think she ever found out I had lied. Although I could tell that Kieran knew I had lied my way into it. I knew I had about 10 minutes to win him over. I wrote him a cheque and said I would read his mind five times in a row and if I got it wrong he could keep the cheque. I didn’t get it wrong and we started developing ideas for a TV show.”
At the time Derren Brown was a huge household name in the UK and David is certain Derren’s popularity played a big role in his own success. “Because he was taking off it was really a great shorthand for me,” explained David. “His popularity was pivotal for me. If he hadn’t been doing what he was doing I am confident I would still be a teacher.
“When I got my first show on TV he was incredibly kind and supportive.”
David’s TV career quickly took off with local people warming to his amazing mentalist feats, as well as his down to earth attitude and the massive streak of humour that always runs through his shows.
One of the most outstanding moments in David’s career to date was the BBC NI show Million Dollar Bet, which saw him travel to Las Vegas to attempt a feat that many before him had tried and failed - to use his mentalist skills to win a million dollars in the casino.
“When the Million Dollar show came out it felt like everything changed and it felt like a proper career,” continued David.
“It is something mentalists have tried to do for decades. I was 100% confident until the night before and I think I had a bit of a breakdown in my hotel room. I started sweating and having heart palpitations. I didn’t know for certain it was going to work but it was incredible. I am not sure I would be brave enough to do it now though.”
When David isn’t jetting around the world, taking to the stage or standing in front of a television camera, he is at home spending valuable time with his family.
David was just 15 when he met his childhood sweetheart Elaine and now, 20 years later, the couple are happily married, living in Banbridge with their two children Tilly and George, who has a number of complex health conditions. “George was on life support in Intensive Care,” said David. “It was a really worrying time for us and we didn’t know what was going on.
“George needs 24 hour care and he still has a huge amount of seizures, about 200 a day, but he’s a very happy little boy. We have come to terms with the fact that he is probably never going to walk or talk and we look at life differently now.”
One of David’s favourite times in the week is going to ukelele lessons with his daughter Tilly. “We go every Saturday and I love it,” he added. “It is good quality time with her, even though she is way better than me.”
Find out more about David’s upcoming shows online at www.davidmeade.co.uk.