May’s Folk Horror Revival Sketch Challenge Winners.

Facebook Group member Brian Gomien devised a cunning plan to get FHR members sketching. He set up the Folk Horror Revival Sketch Challenge, a weekly competition for members to show off their artistic skills. We were so thrilled to see the competition take off that we asked Brian if he would continue to curate the competition in conjunction with the group. Thankfully he said yes and it seems to grow in popularity week on week.

Anyway, what we’ve decided to do is put together a blog post once a month highlighting the amazing work of each week’s competition winner. Folk Horror Revival was always intended to promote the work of the amazingly creative people in the group so this feels like a natural thing for us to be doing. So without further ado, here are the first batch of sketch challenge winners.

Jesseca Trainham

Week 1. Black Philip

 

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Week 2. John Barleycorn

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Two time winner Jesseca Trainham graduated in 2001 with a BA in Studio Art from SUNY Potsdam. In 2005 she began selling Norse Myth and Viking-inspired woodworking on eBay, later moving to Etsy under the seller name Lady Buckthorn. She has produced illustrations for author Robin Artisson, as well as heathen poet and scholar Eirik Westcoat, among others. Jesseca resides in rural central NY, where she is currently taking a sabbatical to reinvent her style.

https://www.etsy.com/people/ladybuckthorn

 

Naama Mimis

Week 3. Cabinet of Curiosities

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Naama Mimis is a concept art and digital illustration student from Israel, with a love of all things vintage and retro. Naama has been fascinated with folk horror since the age of five.

https://www.instagram.com/naamamimis/?hl=en

 

Andrew Foley

Week 4. A Wyrd Celebration

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Week 5. A Plague Year

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Andrew Foley was born in St Andrews in Scotland in the 1970’s. Raised in an ex-mining village, Blantyre, in South Lanarkshire, Andrew went on to study illustration and design at the Glasgow School of Art graduating in 1992. He has worked in the arts ever since, as a freelance illustrator but also in the field of community arts, education and in collaboration with his wife, artist Fiona Foley, working in the medium of stained glass. Andrew now lives in the Southern Uplands of Scotland in a small ex-mining village, where from his home studio, he continues to explore a number of creative avenues, whilst raising his three children alongside Fiona.

http://www.leafywonder.com/biography.html

 

Thank you to all of the talented artists, firstly for taking part and most importantly for allowing us to reproduce their incredible artwork. I would also like to thank Brian for bringing the whole thing together and making it such a roaring success. It gives me great pleasure to see such strong competition among Revivalists and I very much look forward to seeing future entries. That’s pretty much it for now, other than to ask the question, which is your favourite?

Interview with Will Parsons of the British Pilgrimage Trust.

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Pilgrimage is experiencing is a revival.  Many of the currents which animate this resurgence also pulse through the veins of the Folk Horror Revival. A re-imagining of our experience of the landscape. An uncovering of forgotten paths. An openness to explore strange edges and the fascinations of writers such as Ronald Hutton and Robert Macfarlane. FHR’s John Pilgrim was the natural person to enquire about these shared currents and the work of the British Pilgrimage Trust more generally.  His interview with Will Parsons of the BPT took place in 2019 and takes the reader along some curious paths.

 

FHR: Please can you explain the background to the formation of the British Pilgrimage Trust?

 

The British Pilgrimage Trust was formed in 2014, initially as a Charitable Trust, and since 2017 as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (1176035).

 

There are many reason why the BPT came into being. As I see it, the lack of accessible pilgrimage in Britain was getting silly, which annoyed the Universe.

 

In personal terms, a more immediate reason for founding it (with Guy Hayward and Merlin Sheldrake) was what happened when Guy and I went for a walk to the source of a song.

 

I met Guy the year before at Rupert Sheldrake’s house (the scientist behind the ‘Morphic Resonance’ theory, and the BPT’s first patron). Guy had seen my wandering minstrel work and wanted to go for a walk. I offered the plan of walking a Romany Gypsy song back to the place it originated.

 

The song was called The Hartlake Bridge Tragedy, and it was written in 1852 about 37 hop-pickers who all died when a bridge collapsed over the River Medway. In one family, three generations were lost. Upkeep of the bridge had been the responsibility of the Medway Navigation Trust, local businessmen like the Mayor and his pals. But the hop-pickers were poor Irish and Gypsy itinerant labourers, not the sort of people who could expect too much justice in Victorian England. Sure enough, at the Inquest the Navigation Trust was absolved of all blame.

 

A subscription was taken up, which raised enough for a small concrete memorial, ambitiously said to resemble an oast (a building in which hops are dried). All 37 are buried there.

 

But the most moving survival of this tragedy is a song, written by family members. Its melody lilts jollily, while its lyrics hang heavy with coded social protest. It is a strange classic. The song reached me via the song collector Sam Lee, who learns Romany folksong from its living lineage holders. It was never really any good for busking, but you know how it is with songs – once in, you can’t unlearn them. So I suggested to Guy that we take this song home, by walking it from my house to the bridge where it happened.

 

Guy agreed, and we prepared. He was not ready. He didn’t know that boots can keep out water, or sleeping bags zip up. He came straight from 23 unbroken years of school – education-old but world-young. I have a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo from this walk, and you can see his eyes go from screeny to hawkish.

 

We walked, and the journey was strong. We met the right strangers, some who taught us songs, including the bedtime lullabies that an 80 year old ex-Methodist minister sung to his Dementia suffering wife. We met an ex-Eastenders star who would not sing, and Kent’s oldest Yew trees at Ulcombe. Guy had boots that didn’t quite fit his feet, so he had blisters within the first half hour, but I knew the right leaves and we kept walking. We slept in the woods, filtered water from streams and cooked on fires. It worked.

 

At this point, nobody I knew was talking about pilgrimage. I had spent ten years as a wandering minstrel, a ‘close-but-definitely-not’ pilgrim, and as such I had never made a journey with such a specific destination, or so clear an intention. My multi-month walks had always been ‘West’, ‘to Cornwall’ or ‘to Wales’. But now I knew exactly which bridge I was going to, and what to do when I got there. I had always believed such a model of journey-making was inferior, a contrived version of wayfaring with insufficient liberty – but I soon found myself wrong. It turns out that the limitations on the journey enabled a tightening of the field, to allow co-incidence to flourish. It really worked. Having an intention and set destination was like tightening the strings on a fiddle – suddenly everything hummed with new intensity and harmonic potential, and we could sing along.

 

The best example came at the journey’s end. Not at the bridge itself, where things got a bit strange, but before that, at the grave of the dead hop-pickers in Hadlow village church. We arrived here after five days walking, to find two other people stood graveside. This is rare in a Kentish churchyard. So we asked – gently – why they were there at that time. They told us that they were related to three of the hop-pickers who had died.  We were amazed. Did they come often? Never before. So we asked if we might sing the song? They answered: what song? They’d never heard of it. So stood over the bodies of the hop-pickers, beside their living descendants, we sung the song. And it was the most incredibly resonant connection to realise that we were not returning the song to a river, but to its bloodline.

 

I can still feel the shocking wholeness of this moment, the comforting echo of its extreme unlikeliness. The song had become (had always been) a gift from the dead to their living descendants, given through generations. For me, this moment first triggered my understanding of the framework of pilgrimage, as a journey on foot with an intention and a holy destination.

 

After the graveyard, we walked to the bridge, where we met old Mother Medway, in the form of a fearsome rambling shell-suited lady with a muzzled Jack Russell cross. The dog was eating other dogs’ poo, and its muzzle was smeared foully, but the lady, who kept disappearing into bushes then reappearing in different places, repeatedly asked Guy to ‘touch the dog – go on, touch him, just once’. Guy did not. I’m still not sure if he passed the test or not.

 

We nearly came a cropper soon after, when I was inappropriately trying to film us singing on my phone and mini tripod. We began to discuss keeping our pilgrim staffs, rather than flinging them into the river (as a gift). We had intended to, but now fancied holding onto them. But as soon as we said this, Guy banged his head against the bridge, although he was stood still and looking right at it, and my tripod leg pinged off, sheared clean away. The sun went in, and up rose a confused awareness of imminent threat. Translating this, we realised we could not retract the promised gift, so we gave our hazel bodies, with a whoosh and plop, to be claimed by River Medway.

 

This was the first time I had ever made a pilgrimage that ‘worked’. And in the greater journey of life, the timing was good for me. Wandering minstrelsy had dried up (everyone had children). And this new (ancient) pilgrimage format of setting an intention and destination seemed to lead me straight back into that parallel Britain, the good old land beyond the tarmac and supermarkets.

 

So the BPT was formed, in an attempt to renew Britain’s pilgrimage tradition. We vowed to remain a spiritual organisation, as well as a tech start-up, and a social movement. We would remain independent of affiliations, belonging only to ourselves, but welcoming faiths and non-faiths equally. It seemed like the fruitful middle ground, in fact the whole plateau of pilgrimage in Britain, had been left abandoned. It was an opportunity just waiting to happen, with potentially huge benefits. What else could there possibly be to do?

British Pilgrim Photo 5b

 

FHR: What do you hope to achieve through the formation of the Trust and what are your hopes for the future?

 

To me, the BPT was a way to give my dreams respectability and efficacy. This started off as ‘The British Pilgrimage Revival Trust’, until original Trustee Merlin Sheldrake advised we cut Revival out: “People need to know that pilgrimage never went away!”.

 

What is great about a charitable trust is how easily they can be set up. You simply need a constitution (downloaded off google and adapted) with aims that benefit the public. Then you need three trustees and a witness, some signatures and a tenner in an envelope, and you legally exist as an unincorporated Charitable Trust. We got a friend to make us a logo for £20, and we built an ultra-simple website. Help started to come.

 

I hoped that this organisational form would let us present pilgrimage with clarity and authority in its simplified universal form (an intentional journey on foot to a holy place).  It seemed to me that the main reason pilgrimage was not already happening in Britain was its confused religious affiliation. Was it Catholic? Christian? Pagan? Humanist? Could Muslims and Hindus and Atheists do it? Who was making up the rules? Who was is in charge? It seemed no-one was. So we decided to be.

 

The vision was to offer an inclusive and unifying centre space for British pilgrimage. I hoped for many more people to travel on foot, connecting the holy places of our landscape – the hilltops, ancient trees, stone circles and river sources, as well as the chapels, churches and cathedrals (of all faiths). Britain’s holy places I see as a single unified pilgrimage landscape, to which we all share access (and responsibility). The BPT’s aim was to help more people walk slowly among these beautiful, powerful and spiritually brilliant places in Britain.

 

Of course, pilgrimage is a universal human tradition, used throughout history, and no more ‘belongs’ to a single faith (or non-faith) than ‘music’ does. It’s a common inheritance, probably used by people of every imaginable belief (and many more. And in modern Britain, success seemed unlikely if we tried to promote pilgrimage under the flag of a single faith, which it seemed would inspire as much opposition as unity.  So I found a canny acronym called OTA – Open to All (with the optional tagline: Bring Your Own Beliefs). This seemed to enshrine the universalist approach to pilgrimage that reflected Britain’s modern diversity of beliefs. OTA would enable everyone, whatever their faith or non-faith, to feel they owned this pilgrimage tradition. But we were also keen not to reduce the activity to mere non-spiritual ‘hiking’, to cut out spirituality for fear of excluding non-believers. I think this OTA solution works well.

 

Another key ambition for the Trust was to solve the problem of low cost pilgrim accommodation. The problem is simple: there isn’t any. While a wandering minstrel, I had either slept in strangers’ houses (with permission) or the woods (without). But that could not scale up. So there were two possible solutions: pilgrims sleeping in churches, which is currently a scheme afoot, and about which I’ve said a lot elsewhere – and Pilgrim Acres, wild-camping shrines to host pilgrims in new-planted ‘sacred groves’ with borehole-dug ‘holy wells’. I still cherish this dream, of a wild green pilgrimage infrastructure to be forever Pilgrims’ England. This network of Coldharbours would be grown from bare fields, a re-greening and OTA monastic movement of sacred woodland hospitallers. This scheme has not yet come into reality. But we shall see. Can you help?

 

One of the BPT’s main ‘actual’ projects is our flagship route, called the Old Way, a path found on Britain’s oldest road map. I walked this twice last year (it takes 3 weeks) and I am trying to get it waymarked and a guidebook written, with re-opened ancient holy wells at its start and end (Southampton and Canterbury). Other BPT projects include a database of all Britain’s pilgrimage routes, and micro-pilgrimages to every British cathedral.

 

In truth, the BPT’s ambitions are large. Probably endless. But it’s not pilgrimage if you don’t have a decent holy place to aim for.

british pilgrim photo

 

FHR: You have an intriguing and impressive range of Trustees. The interest of Folk Horror Revivalists is likely to be piqued by the involvement of Ronald Hutton who brings his expertise on ancient and medieval paganism and witchcraft; Robert Macfarlane who many Revivalists will know from his writings on landscape and his essay on the Eeriness of the English Countryside in particular and Philip Carr-Gomm, Leader of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. It is most refreshing to see the inclusion of such figures as part of a broad church approach to pilgrimage. Can you say a little about your thinking for their inclusion and the scope for opening up a broader alliance of perspectives?

 

Pilgrimage is to my mind a kind of universal yoga that spans human cultures and traditions. It is the quest, the fool’s journey, the labyrinth at large. And this dynamism is particularly suited to Western folk, the restless people, seekers of holy grail, people of Odyssey. Our heroes do not sit still and go inward, but roam outward, over the hills and far away.

 

But pilgrimage, Britain’s popular expression of this itinerant impulse, was banned in 1538 as part of the Protestant Reformation. The shrines were dismantled, the shelters demolished, and the whole premise made criminal. Much was rejected violently in a short time. This was a traumatic and harsh change, and had left a lingering toxicity and sad disenchantment about the practice, which has lasted almost 500 years.

 

So with the intent to refresh the tradition, the BPT claimed the open middle ground, as a space from which to host the revival of British pilgrimage with radically inclusive (but deeply traditional) accessibility. It simply doesn’t make sense to limit the practice into small cultural groups. When everyone in Britain was Christian, in the Middle Ages, pilgrimage was obviously a Christian practice. But now Britain is plural and diverse, so must pilgrimage be. Or it will simply continue to not happen. This is obviously not the case in Spain, where the Camino remains a Catholic church project. But this is Britain, and we had Henry VIII, so ours is a different story. I believe that OTA is how the best of all worlds can be included and expressed of the pilgrimage tradition going forward.

 

Within its journey form limits, pilgrimage enjoys free-form rituality. Almost anything can happen. Your church is the world as it unfolds around you. The guides are not dressed differently. They may not even be human. They may not even exist outside your own mind. Buy you’ll meet them, as the path you follow reveals the encounters you need. What you make of these is up to you. Pilgrimage is a creative act. You take a pill or a holiday, but you make a pilgrimage.

 

In an OTA format, people of very different beliefs can walk side by side toward a shared destination, having different spiritual experiences in perfect harmony. British pilgrimage can offer an open forum for shared spiritual practice without the reductionist bridges typically required. It doesn’t have to be either/or about religion, or require spirituality to be boiled out for popular consumption. Pilgrimage even works for hardcore followers of materialist atheism (if you believe they really exist).

 

Having a space for spirituality to enjoy both diversity and community is incredibly rare. And I believe it’s extremely important, perhaps our greatest hope for proper change in this world. I do not mean religious fundamentalism, but more like a basic accord, a common truth, a universal wink, that changes our whole minds. A return to innocence via experience. A freedom from fear. I believe spirituality will be the source of this great revolution, the one we’ve always been waiting for. It has always been about spirituality. Why else do we strive for truth, freedom, justice, love? These are spiritual pursuits.

 

I should add, this is not what we discuss at Trustee meetings.

 

Having a wide range of expert friends to guide us, like Rob McFarlane, Jill Purse, Satish Kumar, and Ronald Hutton, is essential for allowing us to keep pilgrimage hosted in this wide open middle space, in the gap between religious and not religious, in the spaces between place. This is where the BPT aims to send pilgrims, on foot, with their best hopes forward. What expert would not have something to add to this?

British Piligrm photo 6

 

FHR: You have previously spent time as a ‘wandering minstrel’. Music, singing, landscape and pilgrimage are clearly intertwined for you. How can these different aspects be brought together in fruitful ways -do you have any personal examples which are particularly meaningful to you?

 

I think that song is a sacred human mystery ritual as powerful and important as pilgrimage. Song can amplify pilgrimage by functioning as a destination, or as a gift to offer at holy places to unify and ‘tune’ your journey. The song you sing is the tune you get!

 

Songs are great for churches, where many people don’t know what to do. The right song always works. It’s an instant ritual that weighs nothing and never runs out.

 

I also use SONG as an acronym to describe the four layers of spiritual connection: Self, Other, Nature and God. The methodology to follow this is SING – Slowness, Intention, Needs, Gifts. I think I’m on some kind of spectrum with this stuff, but I find it helps.

Beltingham Yew

 

FHR: We live in troubled times. How can pilgrimage help us in the modern world?

 

Pilgrimage is the most ecologically sincere act we can make, in terms of reducing your carbon footprint. I am waiting to meet an eco-statistician who can work out how much less CO2 Britain would release if everyone in Britain made a two week pilgrimage each year.

 

But of course it is ecological, is it fundamental and basic. Pilgrimage is a dive deep into the simple animal reality of life on earth. It is a way to reconnect on many levels (see SONG above). It allows access to truth through the most immediate and powerful form – personal experience, unmediated, raw and true. It is the holy day we need.

 

Pilgrimage offers health for the physical body, by curing the disease of being sedentary lives. It gets the blood flowing, the bones and muscles in communication, and the mind active. It also helps us to relax, and to face our emotional issues. It forces us to meet people outside our normal community groups, which is good for both the pilgrim and the community.

 

Pilgrimage also offers economic benefits, for both pilgrim and host communities. It’s a cheap way to get therapy and exercise and a holiday, which in return drip-feeds the rural economy. It’s tourism without cars.

 

Another of the gifts of pilgrimage is that once the trappings of status are removed, the car, house and bank balance, what remains is something more essential. It’s you, on your path, journeying toward your hopes. This is not a loss of self – it’s more like a revealing! In the context of pilgrimage, disconnected from friends and family, work colleagues and children, the expectations to behave in certain set ways are entirely gone. Apart from walking, how you fill your mind and time is yours to decide. Who you are, really, has the space to become who you are, actually. This helps people be more interesting, happy, and beautiful.

 

Pilgrimage is a cultural practice that aims to normalise taking 3 weeks ‘off’, to walk through beautiful countryside with only the possessions you carry, meeting strangers and making friends, among the weather and the landscape, with your blood flowing and muscles moving as they were made to do. If we can make this a reality in Britain, we’ll simply have better lives.

 

Pilgrimage is not made irrelevant by the modern world. The more crazy, digital, sedentary and fearful our modern world becomes, the more relevant and timely is pilgrimage as a clarion of health and sanity.

 

 

FHR: I was particularly interested to hear about your discovery of the old pilgrimage route from Southampton to Canterbury. This comes at a time when the work of Shirley Collins with her deep connection to the South Downs landscape is enjoying a remarkable renaissance. Some Revivalists will also be familiar with Justin Hopper’s The Old Weird Albion which charts a series of explorations of myths and forgotten histories across the South Downs of Hampshire and Sussex. With Rupert Sheldrake as one of your Trustees I am tempted to see these connections as a form of morphic resonance! Can you tell us a bit about this route and any reflections you might have on associated connections and synchronicities.

 

It may be morphic resonance – or it might be because all these people are based in London and the South East, for whom Sussex is the local fay space.

 

The Old Way route I found on the Gough Map, Britain’s oldest road map. The truth is, I only found this by following Daily Mail clickbait. But that’s how everyday synchronicity works.

 

Pilgrimage, as a connective activity, naturally encourages co-incidence and syn-chrony.  This is the whole point. It forms connections. The pilgrim becomes the connective ligament between places, communities and landscapes, and the journey becomes s connective metaphor for the pilgrims whole existence. If you are a follower of faith, the journey will bring you closer to your God. This is how pilgrimage functions. It forms connections, slowly, thoroughly, and on foot.

 

The Old Way route is Europe’s pilgrimage route to Canterbury. It was erased from history by Henry VIII, but thankfully this wonderful Gough Map survived to show its path. It connects Southampton with Cantebury, and it has been plotted to follow the best possible path. The BPT mantra for route-planning is ‘Maximum Holy, Minimum Road’. Old Way is launching in 2020. I’m currently writing the guidebook. I think it ‘may’ become one of the world’s best-loved caminos. Watch this space.

 

 

FHR: In addition to more established notions of ‘folk horror’ FHR also explores psychogeography, hauntology, folklore, cultural rituals and costume, earth mysteries, archaic history, hauntings, Southern Gothic, ‘landscapism/visionary naturalism & geography’, backwoods, murder ballads, carnivalia, dark psychedelia, wyrd Forteana and other strange edges. Are there any experiences which you have had during your various pilgrimages which speak to the theme of the haunted landscape?

 

Dark and light are strange bedfellows. Through pilgrimage, I have slept in long barrows and haunted houses, have drunk from holy wells and river sources, have sung in caves, chapels and hollow trees, to cows, snails, nightingales, refugees, madmen and Princes. I have been given food, shelter, symbols, songs, maps, lessons, animals, quests, and (once) a diamond. I have followed rivers from source to sea, and sung to their every tributary. I’ve made pilgrimage to battle sites, river confluences, hilltops, graves, pubs, hedges, trees, cathedrals, people, and an invisible palace (once). I’ve met prostitutes, mercenaries, psychics and oil tycoons. Once, I met a giant, and surrendered it my life. There have been several ghosts, and possibly one angel.

 

But the strangest thing that has ever happened, and the oddest encounter I have ever experienced as a wandering minstrel or a pilgrim, is me. Being me is the strangest challenge of my life. But it’s also pretty much the only thing I have any choice over.  I think we all know this.

 

FHR: Do you have some final reflections for Folk Horror Revivalists?

 

I’d like to leave this interview with a core message. You are already a pilgrim. And there is a journey that you already know you need to make.  So name the place that may offer your hoped-for wholeness, the completeness you lack. This is your destination, and a holy place.  Then tell yourself what answer or blessing you seek. This is your intention, and you should hold it closely. Then walk. Carry your intention to your destination, and when the two meet, connection will be made.

 

That’s pilgrimage, in a nut-shell. And now the tradition is as much yours as mine.

 

See you on the path. Walk well.

 

 

FHR Footnote: In March 2020 Will Parsons announced that he was standing down from his role at the British Pilgrimage Trust in order to follow other paths. One of these is the path from his home in Canterbury to Anglesey (and back), his aim being to connect these two great centres of British spirituality. His journey can be followed at @willwalking. Folk Horror Revival wishes Will all the best in his future travels.

Interview with Jackie Morris

 

Jackie Morris is a British writer and illustrator whose work is informed by a deep love of the natural world. Her books have been published in fourteen languages and The Lost Words, which she illustrated was voted the most beautiful book of 2016 by UK booksellers. She lives in Pembrokeshire by the sea and is fascinated by bears and myths of transformation.  Folk Horror Revival’s John Pilgrim was pleased to catch up with Jackie last year to make the following enquiries about her world.

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FHR: Let me firstly provide a bit of context for those Folk Horror Revivalists who may not be familiar with The Lost Worlds by quoting from the cover jacket of the book.

 

“All over the country, there are words disappearing from children’s lives. These are the words of the natural world — Dandelion, Otter, Bramble and Acorn, all gone. The rich landscape of wild imagination and wild play is rapidly fading from our children’s minds. The Lost Words stands against the disappearance of wild childhood. It is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke. With acrostic spell-poems by award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane and hand-painted illustration by Jackie Morris, this enchanting book captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages.”

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FHR: The Lost Words has enchanted many people in the deepest sense of the word. Can you share some stories about the effect which it has had on people. How has their understanding and experience of the natural world changed?

 

JM: Since the launch of The Lost Words at Foyles in 2017 it has taken on a life of its own. Robert and I are both astonished and heart-glad at the way it has been taken into people’s hearts and homes. There have been so many tales sent to us, of how people have shared it with loved ones living with dementia, of how it has helped people to cope with depression, of how it links generations in families, how teachers respond to it, and children also.

 

It has an amazing wild life. I love how people send us pictures of the book outside in the world, tucked up with children, the work that children have done with the book as catalyst.

 

 

FHR: The introduction to The Lost Words warns us that the rich landscape of wild imagination and wild play is rapidly fading from children’s minds. It’s been inspiring to see the efforts that have been made to make the book freely available to children through schools and libraries. Can you tell us some more about this?

 

JM: It began with a tweet from a lady in Scotland who saw how the book could connect children to nature again.  She made it her mission to crowdfund to place a book in every school in Scotland.  Her success snowballed into several other campaigns, and I think the Explorer’s Notes, which are a wonderful guide to using the book in schools, also helped with this. Now almost half of the UK schools, hospices over the whole of the UK, care homes in Wales and other institutions have been gifted the book by what has grown to be a great community of crowdfunders. Their energy and enthusiasm for the book and for working beyond its pages to reconnect the lives of children and adults to the more than human world around us all is wonderful.

FHR:  The notion of wild imagination and wild play is one that strikes a chord – are there signs of hope in rekindling wildness which you’ve become aware of?

 

JM: The young people who are rising up against the ignorance, arrogance and greed of older generations gives me hope. The new wave of politically minded and erudite youngsters put our politicians and their self-serving party politics to shame.

 

 

FHR: What role does myth and folklore play in your artistic practice and experience of the natural world?

 

In the same way that some people see themselves as set apart from the natural world, when they are in fact only the tiniest part of the wonderful biosphere, so are storytellers the new myth makers. As a species we are hardwired to learn through the power of story.

I write, I illustrate, to try and make sense of the crazy world we live in, and my hope is that in so doing I help other people to do the same. And there are some powerful minds working in the field at the moment. Richard Powers’ Overstory is a case in point, teaching people to see, really see, and seek out the trees that every day are taken for granted.

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FHR: Having been being fascinated by peregrines as a boy while on holiday in Pembrokeshire I loved your book Queen of the Sky.   For those who aren’t familiar with this book, could you say a little about the themes which you explore here?

 

JM: Queen of the Sky is a book about how a friend of mine found and rescued a wild peregrine falcon and released her back into the wild. It’s a story of great patience. A love story in a way, but one where something is loved so much that the person who loves it sets it free, to be as it should be. It’s a story about respect. And if H is for Hawk is a tale of how a woman was saved by a hawk, this is a tale of how a hawk is saved by a woman.

 

FHR: What landscapes particularly inspire you?

JM: Terrestrial. Including the ocean, above and below.

 

FHR: I read that you have been learning to work with wood engravings. How has this been for you?

 

JM: I’ve moved away from wood engravings. My eyesight is perhaps not good enough for the fine detail. But also my language is liquid and sumi ink has taken over as my medium of choice. But as with everything it takes a lifetime to master. But I am learning.

FHR:  In his book Being a Beast Charles Foster relays his experiences of seeking to live as animals such as badgers and foxes. I’m not sure whether you would want to go as far as eating worms as Foster has done, but I sense that through your art you are seeking to bring us closer to animals as fellow spirits?

 

JM: I’ve not read it yet. I wanted to be a bear when I was young, but would happily become an otter. And most of my work is about shapeshifting.

FHR: To what extent do you think it is important to acknowledge that despite its beauty nature is also ‘red in tooth and claw’?  Are there dangers in projecting human characteristics on to animals?

 

JM: I’m not a fan of ego-centric anthropomorphism if that’s what you mean. Is nature ‘red in tooth and claw’? That implies some morality? It’s not always kind. But we know so little about the world around us. It has so much to teach us. We just need to listen.

 

 

FHR: Which fellow artists and writers do you admire?

 

JM: So many. I love Robin Hobb’s books. Robert Macfarlane is an exceptional writer, and I need to explore Richard Powers more. John Irving has long been a favourite of mine.  Katherine Arden, James Mayhew, Brian Wildsmith, Chagall, Tunnicliffe, Alan Garner, Shaun Tan, Frieda Kahlo, Tom Bullough. Nicola Bailey, oh, so many. Picasso.  Look at me with my gender imbalance of people who spring to mind! (Though Robin Hobb is a woman, who writes under a gender-neutral name, because many men don’t read books by women.)

 

 

FHR: What are you working on at the moment and what projects would you like to take forward in the future?

 

JM: I’m working with the finest group of musicians to make a cd/lp and show built around The Lost Words. I’m working on a book that was written almost a century ago, writing a forward to re-introduce it to the world and painting images to decorate/illustrate it [now published as The House Without Windows]. I’m working on a book called The Keeper of Lost Dreams that I hope will be a catalyst for dreaming and a solace for troubled souls in our curious and turbulent times. And I am beginning to work on a new book with Robert, but that’s under wraps at the moment until we understand more of what it is that we are making [Ed: this has now been published as The Lost Spells; other recent publications include Mrs Noah’s Garden, with James Mayhew, published by Otter-Barry Books and The Secret of the Tattered Shoes with Ehsan Abdollahi, a wonderful Iranian illustrator, published by Tiny Owl.]

 

I’m also trying to take time to open my eyes to the wonderful wild world around me, wide as wide can be, and understand what is important, what time is, and how to live.

 

Winter Ghosts Musical Lineup

With our Winter Ghosts event just days away we have decided that it feels appropriate to collate all the information about our musical acts for you. A little taster of what you can expect from the evening session and another chance for me to gush about the wealth of astonishing musical talent we have cajoled into performing for us in what promises to be a quite brilliant and intimate setting. Anyway, without further ado here we go.

The Soulless Party

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Our Master of Ceremonies Chris Lambert will be covering double duties this weekend and I can assure you he and his partner in crime Kev Oyston, who makes up the other half of The Soulless Party have a real treat in store for Revivalists this Saturday.

Formed in 2013 Chris and Kev have worked tirelessly to bring the mysteries and secrets of the Black Meadow into the public eye. As everyone knows The Black Meadow is located just a few miles from Whitby on the outskirts of the village of Sleights. A strange place where, it is said, that if the mist rises a village will appear. This a place populated by tales of horse-men, meadow hags, land spheres, rag and bone men, maidens of mist, strange rituals and unexplained phenomena. It is no coincidence that this is where the MOD chose to put one of their bases – RAF Fylingdales whose strange Golf Ball Radomes dominated the landscape until the early 1990’s. The Soulless Party will launch their new collection of findings at Whitby Ghosts as they share a haunting mix of music, song, stories, images and interviews. This will be a hauntological experience in which folk horror meets urban legend through the medium of electronica tinged memory and dream.

Find out more about Black Meadow and The Soulless Party by visiting:

http://www.blackmeadowtales.blogspot.co.uk

http://www.thesoullessparty.bandcamp.com

 

Big Hogg

Next up we have Scottish progressive rockers Big Hogg,  a 6 piece Canterbury influenced group mixing threads of acid folk , Dr John , Kevin Ayers and 60s and 70s west coast psych. They released their eponymous debut album on Neon Tetra in 2015 and built up a glowing live reputation following shows at the Barrowlands , Rockaway Beach ,Wickerman and Eden festivals. In 2017 they signed with London label BEM who released their critically acclaimed “Gargoyles” album in May of that year. Record Collector magazine described it as ” An epic fantasia through Glasgow’s grimy underbelly with tumbling brass and suspended jazz chords” , while prog magazine describes them as ” masters of weaving an aural tapestry of influences together to create some suitably brilliant and uplifting music in the true spirit of the Canterbury pioneers” The band are currently recording their third album.

Of added interest to Revivalists is the fact that one of our favourite artists, the supremely talented Julia Jeffrey supplied typically outstanding artwork for both albums. On top of that band leader and guitarist Justin Lumsden is also responsible for the rather excellent Duke ’72 who made their vinyl debut earlier this year with “The Mid Shire’s Herald” as well as working alongside Gillian Chadwick on Ex Reverie’s rather excellent 2019 release “Isobel Gowdie”. We can’t wait to unleash them on Whitby.

https://bighogg.bandcamp.com/

 

Burd Ellen

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Finally, our headline act is the sensational Burd Ellen, the new solo project from Debbie Armour (Alasdair Roberts, Green Ribbons, Alex Rex) featuring Gayle Brogan (Pefkin, Barrett’s Dottled Beauty) and Lucy Duncan (Luki). The group uses traditional song to explore and evoke dark landscapes and deep stories. Innovative instrumentation, drone and sound-wash support detailed vocal work to create a unique sonic atmosphere.

Burd Ellen self-released their debut album SILVER CAME in Feb 2019, on limited edition CD. A record exploring women’s narratives in British folk song, SILVER CAME investigates ideas of persistence, defiance, devotion and transformation. The album was recorded by Jer Reid (Painted X-Ray, Claquer, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra) over two days in the rehearsal space of Glasgow Theatre Arts Collective.

I was lucky enough to catch them performing live in Newcastle earlier this year and was blown away by their unique sound.  Debbie Armour has an astonishing voice, and is backed so beautifully by Gayle and Lucy. If you’re still considering whether to attend or not they are planning a special seasonal setlist just for Winter Ghosts, you may not get another chance to see this one again.

“sonically adventurous … with an emotional range and a raw inventiveness which is all too rare in contemporary folk circles.” – Alex Neilson
“A masterclass in shimmering, ethereal folk music… Cannot recommend highly enough” – Kyle Lonsdale, Earth Recordings

burdellen.com – burdellen.bandcamp.com
Sweet Lemany music video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSRB5Vsvx2A 

So that’s prett much it, other than to say that after our bands finish I (Darren Charles) shall be spinning some tunes for your terpsichorian pleasure before we finish the evening with our short films. I’ll be covering all musical bases from folk, acid rock and prog, to goth, metal and electronica and everything in between. I will be hoping to get you all up on the dance floor for some Folk Horror inspired tunes.

Tickets will remain available until 6pm on Friday evening when they will be removed from sale, however we will have some availability to pay on the door for the same price of £13 for all day and £7 for the evening session.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-winter-ghosts-tickets-55468722442

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Final Winter Ghosts Announcement!

So as the Autumn takes full hold it is time for us to announce the final acts for this year’s Folk Horror Revival – Winter Ghosts event that takes place December 14th at the Metropole in Whitby.

Our final musical act are the rather wonderful Scottish prog rockers Big Hogg.

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Big Hogg are a 6 piece Canterbury influenced progressive group mixing threads of acid folk , Dr John , Kevin Ayers and 60s and 70s west coast psych.They released their eponymous debut album on Neon Tetra in 2015 and built up a glowing live reputation following shows at the Barrowlands , Rockaway Beach ,Wickerman and Eden festivals. In 2017 they signed with London label BEM who released their critically acclaimed “Gargoyles” album in May of that year. Record Collector magazine described it as ” An epic fantasia through Glasgow’s grimy underbelly with tumbling brass and suspended jazz chords” , while prog magazine describes them as ” masters of weaving an aural tapestry of influences together to create some suitably brilliant and uplifting music in the true spirit of the Canterbury pioneers” The band are currently recording their third album.

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Joining the lineup is our very own Darren Charles who will be bringing his Unearthing Forgotten Horrors radio show to the event. Featuring an eclectic mix of music, Darren’s aim will be to get everyone up and dancing to the very best in prog, folk, metal, goth, alternative, electronica and psychedelic music.

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Finally we will be screening three rather fabulous short films.

 

American Witch

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Welcome to a voyage from novice to initiate. The chthonic path is the common thread that weaves together the various underground religions in America from Wicca to Voodoo and Stregheria to Santeria, and everything in between. Along our pilgrimage, we will unfold the historical background in places where witchcraft came into its own distinctive form such as Salem, New Orleans, New York City, and Los Angeles. American Witch will also explore the stories of practitioners and how it’s changed their lives.

Scarlett Amaris has co-written scripts for the seminal horror anthology THE THEATRE
BIZARRE (2011), the award-winning, supernatural documentary THE OTHERWORLD
(L’AUTRE MONDE) (2013), featuring years of her research into the mysteries of the South of France, in which she appears as a resident expert, and the horror film REPLACE (2017). She’s co-written the dark fantasy trilogy SAURIMONDE I, II & III, and her first contemporary fiction novel DESIRED PYROTECHNICS will debut in 2019. A well-regarded authority on alternative history, her research has been featured in numerous books and anthologies. She also teaches comparative mythology and witchcraft at The Crooked Path Occult Apothecary in Los Angeles, and is a founding member of the Tridents of Hekate coven. Scarlett’s screenplay for H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space is currently receiving a great deal of praise across the festival circuit ahead of its release.

Melissa St. Hilaire wrote film and music reviews for The Heights Inc. Her poetry has appeared in the periodicals Shards, The Outer Fringe, and The Laughing Medusa. She co-authored several scripts for Tone-East Productions. She has written articles for Feminine Power Circle, Savvy Authors, SF Signal, and The Qwillery, among others. She has also appeared in the anthology books Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies and Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads. Her debut book was a memoir titled In The Now. She co-wrote the dark fantasy series, Saurimonde, with Scarlett Amaris, and is currently finishing a sci-fi novel called X’odus. She is also a founding member of the Tridents of Hekate coven.

Conjuration

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Gary Parsons is an MA film graduate from Goldsmiths College London who specialises in short films. Utilizing both, elements of the surrealist genre and images of the occult, these films are both beautiful and at times disturbing. They also tap into the verisimilitude of the erotic and the unconventional.

Gary has been influenced by film-makers such as Jan Svankmajer, Kenneth Anger, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Luis Bunuel, Hans Richter, Man Ray and Jean Rollin. All these elements meet within a melting pot to find visual references within the work.

Gary’s films can be viewed in many different ways, as straight forward narrative pieces but also as ritual film as demonstrated by similar film-makers such as Maya Derren or even as music promo video. The films stand as an ongoing obsession of their maker as an overall understanding of the human psyche within certain specific landscapes.

Conjuration is Gary’s most recent film and is based around an Alexandrian ritual. It deals with modern day magick, but also correlates it with magick’s heritage through Gary’s impeccable choice of shooting locations. Several powerful ancient sites, notably Avebury, Glastonbury, Pompeii and Oslo were chosen for this purpose.

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Louhi, The Northern Witch

Directed by Lauri Löytökoski, Louhi, The Northern Witch is a silent film with an ambient-folk score, based on The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, the story draws from its shamanistic aspects.

The lead character is Runoi; a nascent witch who confronts his mother’s night terrors and is quickly transported into the realm of Louhi, the witch-queen of the undead. He journeys to axis mundi, the mythical pillar connecting heaven, earth and the underworld.

Main characters of The Kalevala are introduced as vessels for him to pass through. In the lines of Carl G. Jung’s anima/animus theory, they represent subconscious element of one’s sexuality, the opposite of the dominant side.

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So, that pretty much completes this year’s action packed lineup. Tickets are currently available from the eventbrite page below. We hope to see you all there for what promises to be another spectacular weekend of music, film, talks and art.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-winter-ghosts-tickets-55468722442

Don’t forget as well as the main Saturday event there will be the Thresholds Art Show in conjunction with Decadent Drawing, the unofficial Friday ice-breaker featuring Storm Chorus at the Rifle Club, and the Ghost story readings at the Hetty and Betty Cafe in Baxtergate on Sunday 15th.

 

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https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-winter-ghosts-tickets-55468722442

Winter Ghosts Announcement Number 2

Apologies for the delay in publishing this, our second Winter Ghosts announcement, but we have been very busy bringing together a lineup that will hopefully whet the appetite of Revivalists everywhere. Anyway, without further ado here are our latest additions to the lineup.

The Soulless Party

 

 

Since 2013 Chris Lambert and Kev Oyston of the Soulless Party have worked tirelessly to bring the mysteries and secrets of the Black Meadow into the public eye. As everyone knows The Black Meadow is located just a few miles from Whitby on the outskirts of the village of Sleights. A strange place where, it is said, that if the mist rises a village will appear. This a place populated by tales of horse-men, meadow hags, land spheres, rag and bone men, maidens of mist, strange rituals and unexplained phenomena. It is no coincidence that this is where the MOD chose to put one of their bases – RAF Fylingdales whose strange Golf Ball Radomes dominated the landscape until the early 1990’s. The Soulless Party will launch their new collection of findings at Whitby Ghosts as they share a haunting mix of music, song, stories, images and interviews. This will be a hauntological experience in which folk horror meets urban legend through the medium of electronica tinged memory and dream.

Find out more about Black Meadow and The Soulless Party by visiting:
Sarah Steel
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Sarah Steele graduated from Durham with a Degree in Geology in1992. She has since qualified as a professional gemmologist and was awarded Fellowship of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain in 2013, and subsequently Diamond Fellowship in 2015. Sarah is also a member of the International Accredited Gemologists Association and is a regularly asked to speak and deliver workshops at gem conferences around the world. She is also a freelance writer for Gems and Jewellery Magazine. Sarah’s particular expertise lies in the identification of natural thermoset and thermoplastic materials used in C19th jewellery, and she is considered the world’s leading authority on the Jet Group of gemstones. Her research collaborations are challenging our previous perceptions of the material jet. Sarah will return to Durham university in October to continue her postgraduate research on the subject. We are very pleased to have Sarah with us in December to give us a rather fascinating talk on her key topic of interest, Whitby Jet. Sarah is the only scientist currently working in the field of Jet research, and as such it is a prilevege for us at Folk Horror Revival to have her on board to present especially for us a talk about her research and the cultural and historic importance of this most beautiful and tactile gem.

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Barbara Ravelhofer

Barbara Ravelhofer is Professor in English Literature at Durham University and a Research Associate of the Centre for History and Economics, Cambridge. After a degree in English and German Literature from the University of Munich she continued for her Ph.D. at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College. She has also held Visiting Fellowships at the Universities of Bologna, Princeton, and Harvard.

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Professor Ravelhofer is co-director of the Records of Early English Drama North-East, which is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The key aim of the organisation is to find, catalogue and edit all records pertaining to music, spectacle, ceremony, dance and theatre in England’s North-East from about the ninth century to 1642. The project is directed by Prof. Ravelhofer in collaboration with Prof. John McKinnell and the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS) Durham, the Cathedral and Durham’s World Heritage Site. Prof. Ravelhofer will be speaking to us about the history and folklore behind this wonderful tradition, and whilst the good professor herself is a big enough coup she will also be accompanied by an actual Mari Lwyd who will be loose in the auditorium.

For further details about the Records of Early English Drama North-East please see the project website.

Peter Kennedy

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Peter Kennedy is a writer born in a North-East fishing village, who as a child was told a story about how the plague moved up country in the 17th century. In it, the fishermen decided that the best way to stave off the pestilence would be to throw fishing nets over the archway leading to the headland.  This legend was the inspiration for Peter to write his story Behind the Net Curtain, which would become the opening chapter of his debut novel Fishermen’s Tales. Inspired by that story Peter went off on a quest for more northern folklore that celebrated its maritime heritage. He trawled the seas, combed the beaches and crafted a collection of dark fables, from sea coal and rumour, and driftwood and bullshit.

The stories compiled in Fishermen’s Tales are part of an older oral tradition that were shared around campfires and passed down through generations. In reference to the book Peter says he is “trying to reclaim and romanticise the working class heritage that I came from. I read at a poetry club one night and one of the other performers said ‘this guy’s brought his own mythology’. I thought, ‘yeah, he gets it!” Over time the novel became a project that included musical accompaniment and theatrical performance, which is what Peter will be bringing to Winter Ghosts this December.

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That’s it for this announcement, they join Burd Ellen, Al Ridenour, Elaine Edmunds, Laurence Mitchell and George Cromack on this year’s lineup. We still have one or two acts to announce and our programme of short films to come, but we’ll leave those for another time. Tickets are available now, priced at the princely sum of £13 sterling for the full day or just £7 for the evening session, these are available from Eventbrite at the link below.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-winter-ghosts-tickets-55468722442

 

Summer Spirits: Shadows on the Fen and Kit Lewis Interview

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CULTure Babylon and Folk Horror Revival present a one-day Midsummer celebration of the spirits and folklore of the East Anglian landscape in fact and fiction. Including talks, live music, live readings of stories of the supernatural and a rare screening of 70s Folk Horror Classic, Penda’s Fen. We felt it was about time we told you a little more about this wonderful event, and the rather fabulous speakers we have lined up for you.

Summer Spirits takes place 2pm – 10pm Saturday June 22 at the Space Upstairs – the Priory Centre, Downham Market, Norfolk. Tickets priced £15.

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Louise Hodgson: Deep into the Land – the Beauty and the Terror

Louise Hodgson, has spent most of her life in areas of natural beauty.
She has taught classes at a local College on ‘Landscape and Spirituality’ and given workshops on both the Earth Mysteries and Shamanism.

We are very pleased that Louise will be bringing her talk sharing her fascination with the hidden landscape and exploring some of her own experiences of both light and dark sides of connecting with the landscape.

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Dr Francis Young: Bogie Tales of East Anglia

Dr Young, an expert on the history of catholicism in East Anglia will be talking about his most recent publication – a reprinted edition of the earliest book devoted to East Anglian folklore, Bogie Tales of East Anglia (1891) by Margaret Helen James. Bogie Tales is an important folklore collection and until now has been so rare that copies have been known to sell online for over £1,500.
http://francisyoung.wordpress.com

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Ed Parnell: Reading from ‘Ghostland’

Edward Parnell has had a lifelong interest in ghost stories and horror films. His first book, the gothic, WWII-set The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. His new narrative non-fiction book, Ghostland, will be published by William Collins in October 2019. In it he examines the haunted landscapes that inspired writers including M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood and William Hope Hodgson – as well as trying to lay to rest his own haunted past.

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Christine Pike: Live readings of tales of the supernatural and macabre

Christine is a lifelong fan of Gothic fiction and is the inspiration behind Lady Chillers – a touring project created to revive the works of forgotten women authors of ghost stories in atmospheric performed readings. Christine will be reading three stories, including one from Norfolk’s own Elizabeth Coulson.
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Sharron Kraus

Sharron Kraus is a singer of folk songs, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose solo work and collaborations offer a dark and subversive take on traditional music. As well as drawing on the folk traditions of England and Appalachia, her music is influenced by gothic literature, surrealism, myth and magick. Sharron will be performing two live acoustic sets for us.

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FILM: Penda’s Fen (1974) Writer: David Rudkin Dir. Alan Clarke

Set against the backdrop of the Malvern Hills, Penda’s Fen has become a classic of Folk Horror television. An adolescent parson’s son must question everything he believes and holds true: his religion, his sexuality, his family, in order to grow and develop into an adult. Angels, Edward Elgar and King Penda himself all make appearances in this made-for-television drama, which after 45 years remains powerful and challenging.

Tickets for this wonderful event are priced at just £15.00 per person.

http://summerspirits.culturebabylon.com

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Kit Lewis Interview

We also thought it was high time we  had a chat with Kit Lewis, head honcho at CULTure Babylon and the driving force behind Summer Spirits. Kit very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about Summer Spirits, CULTure Babylon, his other event Fear in the Fens and Folk Horror in general.

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1.Can you tell our readers a little bit about CULTure Babylon, what it’s aims are and how it all came about?

CULTure Babylon is an arts organisation that aims to put the CULT into culture – we provide events based around cult film and other media combined with leading speakers on related subjects.
People seem to find something very satisfying about this combination of information and pure entertainment.  

2. Summer Spirits – Shadows on the Fen is a new event that is taking place June 22nd in Downham Market, Can you tell us a little bit about the event and those involved?

This is going to be a different kind of event to some that we’ve put on, as it is going to have such a wide variety of entertainment, from live readings of ghost stories to film, and from book readings to acoustic music. Throughout the day, there will be something different happening all the time.

We’ve got some great speakers:

We are very pleased that Louise Hodgson,will be bringing her talk Deep into the Land – the Beauty and the Terror in which she shares her fascination with the hidden landscape and explores some of her own experiences of both light and dark sides of connecting with the landscape.

Dr Francis Young will be talking about his most recent publication – a reprinted edition of the earliest book devoted to East Anglian folklore, Bogie Tales of East Anglia (1891) by Margaret Helen James. 
Bogie Tales is an important folklore collection which had almost entirely disappeared from view. Very few copies survive, and the book is so rare that copies have been known to sell online for over £1,500.

Ed Parnell will be reading from his book, ’Ghostland’– a narrative non-fiction book about how the British landscape has influenced various writers, filmmakers and artists whose work deals with the weird and the eerie.  

We’ll also have live performance:

Christine Pike is a lifelong fan of Gothic fiction and is the inspiration behind Lady Chillers – a touring project created to revive the works of forgotten women authors of ghost stories in atmospheric performed readings.She will be reading stories set in summer – that have a winter chill about them.

Sharron Kraus is a singer of folk songs, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose solo work and collaborations offer a dark and subversive take on traditional music. As well as drawing on the folk traditions of England and Appalachia, her music is influenced by gothic literature, surrealism, myth and magick. Sharron will be providing two short sets for us during the day.

3. Summer Spirits is billed as a celebration of East Anglian landscape in folklore, fact and fiction, can you tell us a little bit about some of the foklore that is local to the area?

Like a lot of very rural areas, Christianity came to Norfolk quite late, so the ‘old ways’ remain very much part of the culture here. The most notable legend is teh giant balck dog with red eyes called Black Shuck, which can either be an omen of death, or a protector of those out on the fens at night, depending on which stories you listen to.
This was also where Matthew Hopkins did a lot of his work, and there is a lot of history around the witch trials in the region too.

4. You are screening the Alan Clarke classic Penda’s Fen, one of the true Folk Horror masterpieces of UK 70s TV. Do you think that modern Folk Horror films can stand the test of time in the same way something like Penda’s Fen, Red Shift or The Stone Tape can?

Time will tell… in my experience of cult films, it’s often the least popular film of its day that goes on to gain a lasting audience.If you think of a film like Psychomania (1973), which was considered so poor at the time, that George Sanders is said to have killed himself after seeing a preview – that’s a film that gets a lot of love now.

5. Can I ask you how you got into organising events of this nature? 

My wife was working in an art gallery that had a pop-up cinema kit for hire.
I hired it for the evening, screened my favourite film, Night of the Demon (1957) and asked Tony Earnshaw (who wrote the definitive book on the film) to come and talk about it…

We got around 30 people to turn up for that, and I just about broke even.
I basically wanted to put on the kind of events that I’d like to go to (but nobody did)… I’m now in my fourth year of running a three-day festival!

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6. Fear in the Fens has become something of a favourite weekend in the Folk Horror calendar and this years looks like being no exception with a marvellous lineup taking shape. Do you think Summer Spirits has the potential to become another key event like this?

I hope so. Fear in the Fens takes up a lot of time and energy, so I can’t put on as many small events as I’d like, so last May we put on ‘Ruined Childhood’ a celebration of children’s television of the 70s, which was great.
There’s definitely a vacant slot for a summer event for CULTure Babylon, and it would be great if Summer Spirits could become a regular thing.

7. One question we always like to ask is how would you define Folk Horror?

To me Folk Horror is about the notion that nature is sentient – and does not wish us well. I’ve often been in the countryside and had an unsettling sense that, despite the landscape being aesthetically pleasing and the environment itself not hazardous, it was hostile. There was a pretty woods on the River Tamar near where my sister lived in Devon. I felt that hostility there and later learned it had been the scene of  number of unpleasant incidents…
That to me is folk horror, a sense of place, and a feeling of dread.

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Summer Spirits takes place 2pm – 10pm Saturday June 22 at the Space Upstairs – the Priory Centre, Downham Market, Norfolk. Tickets are priced £15.

https://tinyurl.com/y6obofm3

 

Folk Horror Revival – Winter Ghosts 2019 – First Announcement!

This December, Folk Horror Revival, will be returning to Whitby for our second Winter Ghosts event. The all day happening takes place at the Metropole ballroom, on December 14th 2019. The event will run from 1pm until after midnight and features some truly outstanding talks, stories, music, films and much, much more besides. The lineup itself has been handpicked by our team, and features some truly incredible talent that we simply can’t wait for you to see.

It is with much excitement that we would like to announce Al Ridenour as our first guest.

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Explore the authentic folklore, history and contemporary practices associated with the Krampus with Al Ridenour, author of The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas and
preeminent English-language expert on the subject. Ridenour’s lively presentation,
illustrated with slides, archival video (and a drop-in by a LIVE KRAMPUS) reveals how
this often-misunderstood figure is connected to centuries-old witchcraft beliefs and an
older darker understanding of the Christmas season as a time offering access to the spirit
world. Now in its second printing, The Krampus was described by LA Times’ books critic
Elizabeth as “gleefully erudite,” and a book that “deserves to become a classic.”
Ridenour is also a producer of Krampus events in Los Angeles, an artist and mask-maker,
and host of the folk-horror podcast, Bone and Sickle.

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https://www.boneandsickle.com/

Joining Al for more Krampus related fun and frolics will be Whitby’s very own Elaine Edmunds and Laurence Mitchell of Decadent Drawing, organisers of the annual Whitby Krampus run that takes place each December, and raises much needed funds for The Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary.

https://www.decadentdrawing.com/

 

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We don’t want to say too much at this stage, but we can promise Al, Elaine and Laurence have something a little special planned for Winter Ghosts, and we can’t wait for you all to see it.

Our first musical addition to the lineup is the sensational Burd Ellen, the new solo project from Debbie Armour (Alasdair Roberts, Green Ribbons, Alex Rex) featuring Gayle Brogan (Pefkin, Barrett’s Dottled Beauty) and Lucy Duncan (Luki). The group uses traditional song to explore and evoke dark landscapes and deep stories. Innovative instrumentation, drone and sound-wash support detailed vocal work to create a unique sonic atmosphere.
Image result for burd ellen

Burd Ellen self-released their debut album SILVER CAME in Feb 2019, on limited edition CD. A record exploring women’s narratives in British folk song, SILVER CAME investigates ideas of persistence, defiance, devotion and transformation. The album was recorded by Jer Reid (Painted X-Ray, Claquer, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra) over two days in the rehearsal space of Glasgow Theatre Arts Collective.

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“sonically adventurous … with an emotional range and a raw inventiveness which is all too rare in contemporary folk circles.” – Alex Neilson
“A masterclass in shimmering, ethereal folk music… Cannot recommend highly enough” – Kyle Lonsdale, Earth Recordings

burdellen.com – burdellen.bandcamp.com
Sweet Lemany music video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSRB5Vsvx2A

Our final guest for this first announcement is George Cromack, a writer, sessional tutor and lecturer whose core subject areas are creative fiction, specifically Scriptwriting for film & T.V, and Film Studies. For almost ten years George taught on a number of programmes at the University of Hull’s Scarborough Campus – including modules on their Creative Writing Degree. It was during this time he developed his interest in what has become widely known as the Folk Horror genre, the subject of his film based PhD thesis, delivering a paper on some of its narrative conventions at the Fiend in the Furrows Conference in Belfast.  A keen advocate of adult and community education, George also teaches evening classes in Film Studies & Creative Writing for the local Scarborough branch of the WEA and introduces the occasional film screening at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Recently one of his fictional short stories was included in Terrors Tales for a Winter’s Eve, a small collection of ghostly tales from local writers.

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George’s talk ‘Home for the Holidays’ will take inspiration from adaptations of popular children’s stories in film and television such as The Children of Green Knowe, Moondial and the Amazing Mr Blunden examining their use of the ‘time slip’ narrative, notions of ‘ancestral mystery’ and speculating on their appeal.

Right that’s it for now, we’ve much more still to come, so please keep checking back for further announcements. Tickets are available from the link below priced at £13 for the full day and £7 for the evening. So what are you waiting for, grab your tickets now while stocks last.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-winter-ghosts-tickets-55468722442.ant

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An Interview with David Bramwell, on his upcoming Cult of Water show.

David Bramwell is a name familiar to many Revivalists, his Singalong-A-Wicker Man show has become almost legendary in our little corner of the internet. David is an incredibly busy and talented man. He has produced programmes for BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, he gives talks and performs one man shows on a variety of fascinating topics from tricksters to ghost villages. He also co-hosts the Odditorium, a rather splendid podcast based around the book of the same name, one of several that he has co-written with Jo Tinsley (formerly Keeling). We could go on, David’s achievements are many and varied, but they are always interesting and always done with an incredible sense of joy. His latest one man show The Cult of Water opens at the Soho Theatre in London on the 28th January, and I was lucky enough to catch up with David for a chat about this new show and a few other interesting titbits Revivalists may enjoy.

 

 

FHR: Hi David, can you tell us a little bit about your new show, The Cult of Water? Would it be fair to describe it as a psychogeographical journey around the waterways of the Yorkshire of your youth, or is that perhaps a little too simplistic a reading of it?

 

David: That’s a pretty good summary. I grew up in Doncaster. It’s a personal journey up the river Don – told through story, music and and archive film – in search of the supernatural secrets of our inland waterways and to uncover a mystery concerning the drowned village at Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire. It’s also a journey back through time to the source of the Don and an age of water worship; the Don originally took its name from the water goddess, Danu.

Along the way I learn about hydromancy from magician Alan Moore, encounter Jarvis Cocker on his own adventures sailing down the Don on an inflatable inner tube, and come face to face with ‘the spirit of dark and lonely water’ from the old public information film of the 70s.

I also uncover the story of artist Mark Golding who, with the help of LSD, unearthed a sacred spring in Hastings – believed to have been frequented by Aleister Crowley – and whose waters saved his son from a terminal lung disease.

At the heart of The Cult of Water is an exploration of the symbolism around water, its association with feminine power and the profound ways in which the elements affect our psyche.

https://sohotheatre.com/shows/the-cult-of-water/

 

 

FHR: I believe you’re being joined in the show by folklorist Chris Roberts who is going to discuss the lost rivers of London? This sounds like a fascinating talk in its own right. What can you tell our readers about Chris and his work?

 

David: Chris is a South London based tour guide, author and expert on many aspects of London folklore and history. Most of his walks are river focused, whether Thames or other, and all of them are rich with legends of the city. He’s written a book (Cross River Traffic) on the history of London’ Bridges and articles on the lost gods of the river as well as delivering talks on the folktales associated with London’s water from feral swine in the Fleet to sacred wells to Saxon goddesses and the ongoing religious rites on the Thames from the Jewish, Pagan, Christian and Hindu traditions.  He was folklore consultant for Stella Duffy’s theatrical piece Taniwha Thames in which a New Zealand river spirit follows a ship back to London and takes up residency under Waterloo Bridge.

 

In 2007 Chris founded the magazine One Eyed Grey, which took many of London’s old myths and legends – such as the legendary shape shifting sorceress of the sewers and hidden rivers Queen Rat – and re-imagined them in a modern context. It culminated for the two of us in a collaboration for Radio 4, a programme called London Nights, in which Chris did the heavy lifting in actually writing the stories while I read them out in my best Martin Jarvis. These stories featured a ghost boat on the Thames and a mermaid at Brockwell Park Lido. Brockwell lido is sort of Chris’s unofficial office, all year round. He’s a water baby. And made of hardier stuff than me.

 

FHR: Can I ask what inspired you to write this show now? Is this something that has been on your mind for some time or was it triggered by recent events in your life?

 

David: I’ve wrestled all my life with thalassophobia – the fear of large bodies of water – and wanted to confront this fear. In the last ten years I went down a rabbit hole researching water cults, sacred springs and wells. I wanted to pay my respect to water. I also became interested in the idea of following a river back to its source. I knew if I was going to make this journey as a pilgrimage it’d have to be along the river Don where I grew up, to search for its lost water goddess and to trace its biological and metaphorical death and resurrection over the millennia. When I discovered that Sheffield adopted Vulcan – the Roman god of fire and forge – as its mascot in the 1800s, the story began to catalyse as a mythic battle of the sexes: goddess of water vs god of fire. During the industrial revolution Danu was the equivalent of a princess locked in a tower and being force-fed MacDonalds for 200 years.

I also wanted to draw on my experiences of being haunted by the image of the drowned church of Ladybower Reservoir poking through the waters during the drought and ladybird plague of 1976. This led to a deeper exploration of the symbolism of stone and water, lines and circles, male and female, the line and circle and finally binary code. I figured if I tell this story and make amends for Vulcan then thalassophobia might loosen its grip. (It has).

In terms of how I wanted to tell the story, Alan Moore’s live spoken performances with music – Snakes and Ladders, The Birth Caul and Highbury Working – were a big influence. When he agreed to provide his voice for some of the Cult of Water I was over the moon. The central premise of his novel Jerusalem seems to be that in staying put anywhere (in his case Northampton) and digging deep enough, all the meaning and myths are there, as long as you know how and where to look. It’s the same with Alan Garner remaining in Alderely Edge for sixty-odd years and mining a different kind of landscape for stories. If Moore could rewrite Northampton as Jerusalem I figured it was time to try my hand at doing that with my old home town of Doncaster.

FHR: I believe the show is directed by Daisy Campbell, the daughter of theatre legend Ken Campbell. Have you known each other for some time, or did you specifically come together with this project in mind?

David: My first solo show, The Haunted Moustache, which delved into magic, spiritualism and the occult, was created with Ken Campbell’s help. I got to know Daisy because of Ken. She’s been a friend for many years. We’re currently collaborating on a podcast series, making her dad’s vast archive of recorded one-man shows available for the first time. Being a seeker, Daisy was the obvious choice for directing this show.

 

FHR: I believe you have worked on a number of broadcasts for both BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 including a programme about the legendary Ivor Cutler. Can you tell us about any amusing encounters you may have had with him?

 

David: In the mid-90s I sent some scribblings to the poet Ian MacMillan who, at the time, had a slot on the Mark and Lard show on BBC Radio One. Ian seemed to like my poems so I sent a bunch to my hero Ivor Cutler. Cutler was less than enthusiastic and suggested I do something useful with my life instead, such as ‘becoming a teacher or a botanist’. He was right of course, my poetry was awful. But it’s hard getting a rejection letter from your hero.

20 years on I’d started presenting programmes for Radio 4 and got a call from a producer saying that she was considering me as presenter for an Archive Hour on Ivor Cutler and offered me a minute on the phone to ‘sell myself’. I thought for a moment then remembered the rejection letter from Ivor. ‘Do you still have it?’ she asked. ‘I dug it out, read it to her and got the job. So thanks inadvertently to Ivor, I got to make a documentary about him, meet his friends and family and even perform live on one of his harmoniums. If Ivor had still been alive to hear the programme I’m sure I’d have received another rejection letter.

FHR: Many of us know you from your rather wonderful and always well received Singalong-A-Wickerman show. What have been the strangest things to have happened during the various performances of this show? Do you think you were able to invoke something of the ritual spirit that infused the original film?

 

David: Things got strange when, ten years ago, the director Robin Hardy started showing up at our gigs, sometimes with wife and family in tow. I never imagined I’d be leading the director of the Wicker Man in the actions to the Maypole Dance. It was delight to have Robin’s support for the show but it was always a bit odd him being there; we do at times, gently take the piss out of some of the clunky dialogue in the film. The relationship culminated in us us doing the show with Robin in the Elengowan Hotel in Dumfries and Galloway, which is where all the original bar scenes were shot.

Over the years we’ve also had several individuals overcome with the desire to re-enact the naked scenes from Willow’s Song on stage with us. It’s always men. And someone in Belfast once threatened to shoot me for blasphemy. My blood turned cold when he whispered into my ear: ‘I’ve killed before and I’’d kill again.’ I believed him.

 

 

FHR: Beyond adapting The Wicker Man as a sing-a-long. Can I ask you about how the ideas of Folk Horror have influenced your work in general? Are there specific artists, film makers and writers whose work has particularly been influential to you or do you draw more inspiration from the countryside around you?

David: Folk Horror has been, and continues to be, a huge inspiration. Like many of a certain age I really was scarred for life by the spirit of dark and lonely water and haunted by TV programmes like Children of the Stones. I love the unsettled atmosphere of Garner’s work and films like The Shout, Penda’s Fen. And of course The Wicker Man, despite having watched it now over 100 times. More recently the work of Peter Strickland and films like November show the genre is evolving.

There’s a line by Alan Moore that I’ve used in The Cult of Water and also in a track by my band Oddfellow’s Casino: we have wandered too far from some ancient totem. Something central to us that we have misplaced and must find our way back to, following a hair of meaning.’  For me, Folk Horror re-connects us to an age of magic, when everything was imbued with meaning. For me at least, the dark heart of Folk Horror beats strongly in The Cult of Water.

 

 

Thank you to David for speaking to us at FHR, and if you want to buy tickets for The Cult of Water they are available now from the Soho Theatre priced from £10. Just head along to the link below.

 

https://sohotheatre.com/shows/the-cult-of-water/

You can also check out David’s own website for more information on David and any future events or shows.

http://www.drbramwell.com/

Review – Jon Towlson’s Candyman

“Candyman suggests that oral storytelling and, by extension, urban legends are valuable forms of historical memory, and that the process of historical amnesia will be apocalyptic” – Kirsten Moana Thompson, 2007

 

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In 1992 director Bernard Rose released his movie Candyman, loosely based on Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden, it would go on to become a popular shocker, but there was much more to Candyman than a mere horror film. The film has several different narrative threads running through it, that deal with issues of race, gender and class.

The key protagonist in the story is Helen Lyle, played by Virginia Madsen, a graduate student undertaking research on the topic of urban legends, she visits the Cabrini-Green housing projects to investigate rumours of a hook handed killer known as the Candyman, who was alleged to have been lynched in the late 19th century after fathering a child with a white land owners daughter. With the help of resident Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) and a young boy called Jake, Helen was able to uncover the apartment where the Candyman killings are alleged to have taken place. Helen is later attacked by a drug dealer who is using the Candyman persona to spread fear among the residents.

Helen is eventually visited by the real Candyman, played by Tony Todd, who places her in a trance. Upon waking she finds herself  in Anne-Marie’s apartment, covered in blood, and is duly arrested for the abduction and possible murder of Anne-Marie’s baby son, Anthony. Helen must go out of her way to clear her name, stop the Candyman and attempt to save baby Anthony. I won’t go into any further details for those who may not have seen the film, but it is highly recommended if you want a little more from your horror movies than just blood, guts and gore.

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Devil’s Advocates is a new and ongoing series of monographs from Auteur publishing, concerned with the exploration of the classics of horror cinema, other entries in the series that may be of interest to revivalists include Witchfinder General, Black Sunday and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Contributors to the series are drawn from the spheres of education, academia, journalism and literature, but what they each share is a proclivity towards the horror movie.

Candyman is written by Jon Towlson, film critic and author of several classic books on horror cinema including both “Subversive Horror Cinema: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present” and “The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films”. Candyman is his first entry in the Devil’s Advocates series and I would like to think more will surely follow.

There is a great deal of information to unpack and evaluate from Candyman, one of the few films of its era to subvert the genre, and to ask more important socio-political questions about race, gender and class than most of its contemporaries. Towlson manages to handle this in a most assured fashion. His book is insightful, thoroughly researched and written in a readable and yet academic style. The section looking at the Candyman and the Return of the Repressed really gets to the crux of the film’s ideas but it also draws our attention to the different meanings that can be read into the film’s narratives, thus allowing the reader a chance to formulate their own opinions on the issues at play. One thing that is drawn out from all of this is the affinity between the Candyman and Helen, Towlson makes clear that this is at the heart of the film. He calls it a sympathetic indentification between the two. Both are framed as slave and victim, and both are exploited by the capitalist structures of white patriarchy.

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The section of the book dealing with urban legends is also of particular interest to revivalists, especially those with an interest in the Urban Wyrd. Towlson digs into those urban legends that were the inspiration for the Candyman character and how both Bernard Rose and Clive Barker were responsible for bringing those urban legends to the table in the creation and development of the film and the character of the Candyman. This returns us to the quote at the top of this review from Kirsten Moana Thompson about the validity of oral storytelling and urban legends as valuable forms of historical memory. Bernard Rose uses those myths or urban legends to engage us with those deeper problems of race, gender and class that pepper the film’s narrative.

The book also looks at how Bernard Rose took Barker’s short story and developed it for cinema, and how it was received by the mainstream media and horror fans alike. There is also a chapter dedicated to the sequels and some of the other films to have dealt with urban legends in the wake of Candyman’s success. I feel it also worth noting that there is a fascinating and informative interview that Towlson conducted with Bernard Rose in 2016 included as an added  bonus.

Candyman by Jon Towlson is available to purchase from Amazon priced at £9.99

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Candyman-Devils-Advocates-Jon-Towlson/dp/191132554X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547639724&sr=8-1&keywords=candyman+jon+towlson