Pick up tips from ‘the master of the deceptive art’

James Freedman presents Man of Steel at Buxton's Pavilion Arts Centre on June 5.
James Freedman presents Man of Steel at Buxton's Pavilion Arts Centre on June 5.

Stealth crime expert James Freedman, dubbed ‘The World’s Number One Pickpocket’ has been hailed a genius in his field by Derren Brown.

Funny and fast-fingered, this “master of the deceptive arts”, is able to steal a whole lot more than you might expect and has to be seen to be believed.

Ahead of his visit to Buxton’s Pavilion Arts Centre next month, he told us about his show Man of Steal and the art of pickpocketing:

Q: How did you progress to become, in the words of Time Out: “the world’s number one pickpocket”?
A. A bit like the Artful Dodger, I started young! I’ve always been fascinated with crooks and beating the system but not because I ever wanted to be a criminal. It’s just that I see a Darwinian beauty in some of their methods and thinking. Even at school I was the one who could get your stuff back from the school bully.

Q. Who is the most famous person you’ve stolen from?
A. I’ve picked the pockets of the Mayor of London, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England. One of them had an empty wallet but I’m not saying who.

Q: Have you ever been pickpocketed or had any personal experience of crime?

A. I’ve not had my pocket picked but it only takes a moment and I know it could happen. Anyone can be targeted. When you see how easily I can steal, it changes the way you live your life.

Q. As a specialist advisor, you’ve been asked to teach quite a few famous folk how to pickpocket. Tell us more.

A. Roman Polanski asked me to teach Sir Ben Kingsley and other members of the cast when he directed Oliver Twist. The most gifted dip I ever taught was Helena Bonham Carter who learned how to steal for her role in Les Misérables. She was a complete natural. Pickpockets are people watchers and so are the best actors.

Q. You’ve recently been appointed as a Fraud Prevention Ambassador for the City of London Police. Tell us what this entails?

A. I’ve worked with several police forces over the years and several policemen helped to create the show. Mind you, so did some criminals. I help the police to highlight current threats or remind people how easily a skilled fraudster can take your money... and simple things we can do to stay safe.

Q. In a nutshell, tells us what we can expect from your show?

A. Well it’s a very theatrical show about theft and about what we each value most. Of course I reveal exactly how pickpockets and fraudsters operate but it’s much, much more than that because for the first time, I reveal a lot about myself too.

l James Freedman Man of Steal will be at Pavilion Arts Centre on Sunday, June 5, at 8pm. Tickets are priced at £17.50 and discounts are available, to buy tickets call Buxton Opera House on 01298 72050 or visit www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk