The Dark Earth of Albion

There is something in the soil……

The Dark Earth of Albion by Gareth Spark

Plastic Brain Press is a creative and mind expanding enterprise putting out collections of short stories and poetry that dabble on the dark side with a lysergic sense of the surreal. Folk Horror Revival has previously reviewed Richard Daniels’ `Too Dead for Dreaming’ for this blog (also from Plastic Brain Press) and so when the postman delivered The Dark Earth of Albion to my door I knew I had an appointment with hours dreadful and things strange…..

The first thing to say at the start of this review is that rather than read this review you should order a copy of this book and read it for yourself.

The individual stories in this collection of 13 short tales reveal a multitude of characters and nightmare tinged settings from throughout this land’s dark and twisted past, present and maybe even our future. The introduction and unveiling of these various tales and their protagonists is an experience that no book review will ever do justice to.It is these experiences that links these stories together and the disassociated, outsider feel of these tales is as potent as is their link to some mysterious ancient invocation of the earth. Go and buy this book and immerse yourself in Gareth Sparks world.

The tales themselves vary in both length (some being just over a page long), subject matter and setting with Gareth turning his hand to desolate industrial estates, wartime nightclubs, remote coastal villages and muddy woodland clearings telling tales of abduction, apocalyptic survival, ancient rituals, Norse raids, biker gangs and polar bears in Whitby. What carries through all of these short stories and briefly glimpsed vignettes is Gareth’s delightful and delicious use of language. These stories are poetic – they flow with words that don’t just describe – they create, they mould and shape the story deep inside your head and occupy your thoughts.

As the press release states `The Dark Earth of Albion’ is a collection of tales tuned to a strange and savage folk horror frequency. Stories which have crawled from the mud and now stand dripping on your bedroom carpet watching you sleep. Stories that have the power to haunt, like the warning cries of crows on a cold northerly night.’ There are indeed stories here that genuinely chill and unnerve. Stories that begin weaving a dark scene onto which even darker events are played out…..

`Dane Franlkin lived in the far side of the forest close to where the tall, black pines shaved down to the moor as hair shaves down to a skull, He lived in the remains of an old caravan with his sister, Suzanne, who has, over the years, turned more than a little crazy. She’d wander the moors and woods in stone-cold rain and beneath clouds the colour of bruises in a wind that ripped like a flail across bracken and heather.’

After reading this as the start of a story who wouldn’t want to read on and find out what dark twisted paths Gareth is leading us down. And believe me it is very dark and twisted indeed!

Many of these tales exude creepy folk horror vibes and it can be no mere coincidence that Gareth Sparks hails from Whitby – a part of the world that holds up and is itself held up by local legends and folklore. A part of England where every window you look out of and every view you stop and admire is a story in itself – and that is exactly what Gareth has created here. A collection of writings that invite us to see the way he views the world through his window onto Albion’s grey and unpleasant lands. There are no dark and satanic mills here instead you are left with the impression that every mill is dark and satanic – or has the potential to be. The same goes for every cottage, wooded glade, derelict building, rain darkened moor and swollen brook.

As Gareth says `Folk Horror interests…as a response to a banal culture dominated by the vulgar and corrupted by commerce’. In `The Dark Earth of Albion’ he has certainly responded to that in a very powerful and entertaining way. Whilst some tales totally absorb the reader others will unsettle and unnerve but they are all presented with a sense of poetic understanding that is anything but banal.

You can find out more and order you copy of Gareth Spark’s `The Dark Earth of Albion’ from Plastic Brain Press here –

https://plasticbrainpress.com/product/the-dark-earth-of-albion-by-gareth-spark/

Reviewed for FHR by Jim Peters

British Folk Horror TV of the ’50s

In this series of articles I hope to create as complete a list as possible of folk horror-relevant programmes produced for British television, hopefully including documentaries and others that are not strictly folk horror but which are still relevant.

There will doubtless be some missing, so if you have any updates, additions, corrections etc. please either write in the comments or tweet to @folk_horror, and hopefully the article can be kept updated. Also if you have recollections of watching lost and forgotten productions from when they were broadcast I’d love to hear them.

This first part spans the 1940s and 1950s. Very little survives from this era due to most productions being performed live and not recorded, and most of what was recorded was not retained. There is also limited information that I could find for many of these productions and I’ve been fairly inclusive, so there may be some listed which didn’t have a significant component of what would now be considered folk horror.

Saturday Night Stories (15 mins, 20 episodes?)

Broadcast details: BBC/ 24th Jan 1948-22nd Oct 1949

Archive Status/ Availability: Missing

Notes: BBC Genome lists most of these as having been read by the author Algernon Blackwood, but also mentions readings by another famous writer of weird fiction, Lord Dunsany. Also mentioned are ones by Compton Mackenzie and Sir Christopher Lynch Robinson, so it is likely the series was not all supernatural. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any details of which stories were read, and although there were 20 broadcast some of the stories may have been repeated.

Algernon Blackwood also appeared in a 1949 series entitled A Strange Experience produced by Rayant Pictures, but again I was unable to discover where they were broadcast. Six episodes were made, and two episodes have been made available by the BFI to view online here:

‘Lock Your Door’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRy4D11qc8I

‘The Reformation of St. Jules’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATAOHgHJv3E

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/search/0/20?adv=1&order=asc&q=saturday+night+stories&svc=9371533&yf=1948&yt=1949#search

https://nicklouras.wordpress.com/2018/01/21/rare-film-of-algernon-blackwood/

Algernon Blackwood in ‘The Reformation of St. Jules’

Sunday-Night Theatre – ‘Witch Wood’ (1 hr 30 mins)

Broadcast details: BBC/ 30th May & 3rd Jun 1954

Archive status/ Availability: Missing

Notes: Adaptation of John Buchan’s 1927 novel about a witch cult surviving into the mid-17th century in the Scottish Borders. The play was performed live on Sunday evening and again the following Thursday, but neither performance is known to have been recorded. A second BBC adaptation was broadcast in 1964.

Two Ghost Stories (30 mins)

Broadcast details: BBC/ 14th Oct 1954

Archive status/ Availability: Missing

Notes: Readings of two short stories by M.R. James with visual effects added live: ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’ (narrated by Robert Farquharson) and ‘The Mezzotint’ (narrated by George Rose).

http://www.pardoes.info/roanddarroll/MediaList.html#anchor7441

The Creature (1 hr 30 mins)

Broadcast details: BBC/ 30th Jan & 3rd Feb 1955

Archive status/ Availability: Missing

Notes: Nigel Kneale play about an expedition led by Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing) into the Himalayas in search of the mysterious Yeti or Abominable Snowman. The play was performed live (with pre-filmed inserts shot in the Alps) twice, once on Sunday and again on the following Thursday, but as was standard at the time neither was recorded. However, Hammer Studios released a movie adaptation in 1957, re-titled The Abominable Snowman with Peter Cushing reprising his role, and this is available on DVD.

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/8e051ddcfcc14ae29640692616d159ec [original Radio Times listing]

http://www.britishtelevisiondrama.org.uk/?p=1141 [In depth article about the TV production]

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Abominable-Snowman-DVD-Peter-Cushing/dp/B0058CLCNY [Hammer Studios version on DVD]

Poster for Hammer Studios adaptation of The Creature

Colonel March of Scotland Yard (27 mins approx., 26 episodes in total, relevant episodes below)

Broadcast details: ITV/ 1955-56

Archive status/ Availability: All still exist, and are available on Amazon Prime UK at the time of writing

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Colonel-March-of-Scotland-Yard/dp/B01IAGGZJU

Notes: A detective series starring Boris Karloff as Colonel March. which included the following apparently supernatural episodes although I’m not sure they can be called folk horror. Episode descriptions taken from Amazon:

1. ‘The Sorcerer’ (1st Oct 1955)

"A psychologist is found stabbed to death in a seemingly sealed room. Inspector March needs to decide who had the most reason to kill him, and how did they accomplish the task."

2. ‘The Abominable Snowman’ (8th Oct 1955)

"Members of the Himalayan Mountaineering Club are threatened by what appears to be the abominable snowman, and someone leaves a strange footprint on a ledge outside Colonel March’s office."

3. ‘Present Tense’ (15th Oct 1955)

"Colonel March’s niece, a believer in spiritualism, thinks she hears her dead husband’s voice and others in the house become convinced her husband has returned as a ghost. But has he?"

11. ‘The Talking Head’ (17th Dec 1955)

"A 12-year-old boy insists his dead father told him to kill his mother’s new fiancée. But did the father truly die in an accidental plane crash?"

23. ‘The Case of the Lively Ghost’ (31st Dec 1955)

"A phony spiritualist believes she’s truly summoned a real ghost. Colonel March attends her next seance to discover the identity of the spirit’s killer- dead or alive."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonel_March_of_Scotland_Yard

Boris Karloff as Colonel March of Scotland Yard

Days of Grace (45 mins)

Broadcast details: BBC/ 18th Sep 1956

Archive status/ Availability: Missing

A Scottish ghost story based on a story by David Forbes Lorne, adapted by Moultrie R. Kelsall: "When somebody dies, his first duty is to keep watch from sunset until the day breaks, every night until the next dead soul relieves him…"

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/471624ea5e964cbea41d9aee8367d9a7

Out of Step – Witchcraft (25 mins)

Broadcast details: ITV/ 4th Dec 1957

Archive status/ Availability: Exists, and available as an extra on the BFI’s Blu-Ray and DVD release of 1970s witchsploitation films Secret Rites and Legend of the Witches

https://shop.bfi.org.uk/pre-order-legend-of-the-witches-secret-rites-flipside-039-dual-format-edition.html

Notes: Out of Step was a series of documentary shorts looking at “unconventional opinions”, and in this edition presenter Daniel Farson interviewed Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner about witchcraft, and discussed Aleister Crowley with Louis Wilkinson.

White Hunter – ‘Voodoo Wedding’ (30 mins)

Broadcast details: ITV/ 15th Oct 1958

Archive status/ Availability: Exists, but currently unavailable

Notes: White Hunter (1957-58) is a series about a Big Game hunter (appropriately called John Hunter) and his African assistant Atimbu which was shot in England with stock footage of Africa. In this episode a young woman believes she may have become the victim of a Voodoo curse. Probably not relevant but included for completeness.

https://web.archive.org/web/20170923163501/http://www.zone-sf.com/voodoouk.html [Archived version of 'Britain under the spell: representations of voodoo in British films and TV' by Paul Higson]

http://ctva.biz/UK/ITC/WhiteHunter.htm[White Hunter episode guide]

Armchair Theatre – ‘The Witching Hour’

Broadcast details: ITV/ 2nd Nov 1958

Archive status/ Availability: Missing

Notes: Quite possibly not relevant, but included for completeness.

"Jack Brookfield, a gambler with clairvoyant and hypnotic powers, is able to win at cards through his unique gift. But when he inadvertently hypnotizes young Clay Thorne, Thorne kills an enemy of Brookfield’s while under a trance. No one believes Brookfield’s protestations that Thorne is innocent of any murderous intent, so Brookfield teams up with retired lawyer Martin Prentice in hopes of saving the young man from the gallows."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1092687/ [Episode synopsis]

ITV Play of the Week – ‘The Crucible’ (1 hr 15 mins)

Broadcast details: ITV/ 3rd Nov 1959

Archive status/ Availability: Reels 1 and 2 of 3 exist, but the complete programme is lost

Notes: Adaptation of the play by Arthur Miller about the 17th century witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts, with early pre-fame appearances by Sean Connery and Susannah York.

The Voodoo Factor (30 mins, 6 episodes)

Broadcast details: ITV/ 12th Dec 1959-16th Jan 1960

Archive status/ Availability: Exists complete, but currently unavailable

Notes: A scientist battles against a killer epidemic that may either be caused by the curse of a Spider Goddess or contamination caused by nuclear testing. It’s surprising that a series from this era still exists complete, and a shame that it hasn’t been released on DVD as it is fondly remembered by reviewers on imdb.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0191746/?ref_=wl_li_tt

Quatermass and the Pit (30-35 mins, 6 episodes)

Broadcast details: BBC/ 22nd December 1958 – 26th January 1959

Archive status/ Availability: Exists complete, and available on DVD with the two surviving episodes of The Quatermass Experiment and the complete Quatermass 2 series

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quatermass-Collection-Experiment-Pit-DVD/dp/B000772838

Notes: A series that really should need no introduction. While the previous two Quatermass serials had dealt with sci-fi topics, for the third one Nigel Kneale dug deep into brought in everything from ghosts, goblins, the Devil, aliens, psychic powers and more. Hammer Studios re-made it as a feature film in 1967.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quatermass-Pit-DVD-Andrew-Keir/dp/B000HEVTKY [Hammer Studios adaptation on DVD]

Three principal sources, in addition to the obvious ones of imdb and Wikipedia, were invaluable while researching this article:

TVBrain – Database of British TV run by Kaleidoscope, dedicated to rediscovering lost British TV and have been instrumental in recovering many previously thought lost productions. Their work is ongoing and lost shows still turn up, so if you think you have a programme from the archives you can check and contact them.

https://www.tvbrain.info/

Haunted TV: A history of British supernatural television – a very comprehensive listing of British programmes, many extremely obscure, although it seems to no longer be updated.

http://webspace.webring.com/people/th/hauntedtv/index.htm

The Telefantasy List – A sadly defunct listing of principally British and American telefantasy, which is still available at the Internet Archive

https://web.archive.org/web/20160304084734/http://homepage.ntlworld.com/john.seymour1/telefantasylist/index.html

Article by Richard Hing. Thanks to all the contributors to Folk Horror Revival for giving many suggestions over the years that have helped build this list.

The Wick – A Folk Horror short.

Wick – The protector of a Witch is just as bad as a Witch.

The Wick-Poster-(Al)-Online

In August I had the tremendous honour of being invited to the wonderful Genesis cinema in Whitechapel for a private screening of the new Folk Horror short film `The Wick’. Written, produced by and starring the clearly very talented Michelle Coverley FHR caught up with her to discuss the film, how it has been received and what the future holds for her and The Wick.

Set in the early 19th century in rural England, ‘The Wick’ is a tale of deceit and persecution of a woman who fights for justice against a lawless witch hunter.

The story unfolds seventy-three years after witch trials were banned in the U.K. When Esther, a known herbal healer in a small close knit community, witnesses her friends murder at the hands of a lawless witch hunter, she finds herself entangled in a dangerous web of deceit, blind ignorance and superstition. We track Esther’s head on collision into this dark world and her realization that things clearly need to change. We follow her journey of attempting to put an end to the ignorance and barbarity of these outdated beliefs. This is a universal and timely story of a strong woman, striving for justice and fighting for the rights of the underrepresented and the misunderstood.

`THE WICK’ is a dark, period drama with the village that Esther, our female protagonist lives in, being extremely superstitious to the point that it is horrifying. What these villagers are led to believe, without much proof and the lengths that some of them go to, to ‘fix’ things is quite shocking. The deception and ignorance is quite barbaric, with folklore and religion being at the heart of it.

To this day, countless numbers of people are still being accused of witchcraft and persecuted around the world. They have no rights, no voice and are condemned by misguided beliefs

Folk Horror Revival: The Wick is a beautifully shot film with the landscape and nature very firmly embedded into the story telling adding to the sense of isolation that allows suspicion and paranoia to breed in the community. It has definite Folk Horror overtones not least in its subject matter – how do you feel now it is done and being presented as a finished piece? I guess really you are still working on it in a publicist capacity now.

Michelle Coverley: Thank you for such a great review. I’m so happy that people are picking up all those details from the film. That’s exactly what I wanted people to see in ‘The Wick’. I feel amazing now that it’s complete and that it’s setting off on its festival circuit. It was such a long journey to this point. Many ups and downs and so to finally have it finished is a big relief. Both, the director, Sabine Crossen and I are extremely proud of it.

FHR: You must be very pleased with the end result and how it has all come together – can you tell us a bit about some of those different components (location, music, costume, set dressing)

MC: I’m extremely pleased with what my team and I have accomplished. Everything was shot on location in Sussex and we were very lucky to have found those specific places. Thanks to the Weald and Downland museum, The national Trust and Sussex Wildlife Trust, we were able to achieve a very authentic look for ‘The Wick’. Our amazing costume designer, Emma Clark added to that by designing and singlehandedly making all our costumes from scratch. Without her dedication and sheer hard graft, we never would have done it. As well with our talented production designer, Karijn Nijmeijer, who transformed these amazing locations with her magic touch. She traveled all the way from Holland to be with us!

Apart from those visual aspects, the director and I felt it was important to give the film a modern feel, to accentuate the films topical themes so to help the audience observe and connect from a more contemporary point of view. We did this through working with the amazingly talented Micha Theofanopoulou & Hollie Buhagiar on the sound design & music and then with Pooya from Panchroma Studios on the colour grade, choosing vibrant colours and stark contrast.

 

SC-Esther-at-lake@

FHR: I really loved `The Wick’ and I know it got a big round of applause at the private screening I attended. How has it been received? It must be interesting to see how different people respond to the story and its message.

MC: We got an amazing response from all our guests at the private screening. Sabine, the director and I were pretty blown away with it all. Because we have been so close to it for the past year, and I for even longer, it was so amazing to hear the audience notice all the small nuances of the subject matter come though, as well as picking up the bigger picture of the societal corruption and female persecution and to realise that it still has relevance today. I had people coming up to me telling me it really affected them, that it was hard hitting, surprising and shocking but beautiful at the same time.

People wanted to see more which was fantastic to hear! They were also pretty

surprised of the style of music and sound design we chose as it was quite obscure and different to what a ‘classical’ period drama would have used. The director and I were intent on steering clear of making it look and sound like a classic period drama. It’s turned into a period thriller with a modern edge, which I love.

FHR What are you plans for the film now? Will people be able to see it at some point? (is there a feature length version in the pipeline maybe??)

MC: Yes, I would love to make ‘The Wick’ into a full-length feature film, which is the plan. I’m at this minute adapting a treatment I did for it some months ago with a friend who’s in the industry. Watch this space!

For ‘The Wick’ short film, it’s now in the film festival circuit stage. I can’t wait to share with you when it has its world premiere. Short films usually have a two year life span at festivals till you launch it on line or it gets taken up by a distributor. The point of this is to make contacts for future projects and to showcase everyone’s talent who worked on it. I feel indebted to all the amazing people who came on-board. So trying to get it into as many great film festivals as possible is what I’m aiming for. This stage is a whole other ball game. Since finishing post-production, I’ve been scouring the internet late into the night, submitting it into festivals all over the world. Fingers crossed, they start to bite.

FHR: And what about you – what are your plans? Any future projects you can share with folk yet??

MC: After the experience with writing and producing ‘The Wick’, I’m actually pretty interested in directing my next piece. I’ve been collecting images over this past year that inspire an idea I’ve had for a while. It’s still pretty raw and the framework is all over the place but it’s a psychological thriller piece with folk horror and magic realism at its core. I’m also very excited about putting my actor’s hat on again for other people’s projects. That was the whole point in fact with making ‘The Wick’, to showcase my acting. So I can’t wait to throw myself into that again.

SC-Meadow1@

 

If you get the chance to catch The Wick at one of the many film festivals that will no doubt be clamouring to showcase Michelle’s wonderful creation then you are in for a real treat. The landscape and presence of nature is wonderfully represented throughout giving the film a reassuringly bucolic feel that balances perfectly with the dark story that gradually unfolds. At times I was reminded of the way the landscape was shot in Winstanley and Witchfinder General in which small isolated incidents of great importance are played out within the vast expanse of the English countryside. Alongside this is a fantastically atmospheric score, a deep sense of authenticity and attention to detail and a perfectly paced story…in short The Wick is a triumph and hopefully it’s just the start for Michelle.

The Wyrd Kalendar – The Dee Day Do Mix

It is the Dee Day Do!

Raise a glass to Dr Dee.

Join us. Dance with the angels you have conjured in your scrying mirror.

Celebrate Doctor John Dee with this new mix from the Wyrd Kalendar. With tracks from Damon Albarn, Roy Orbison, Pink Floyd, Arcade Fire, Elbow, Nick Drake, The White Stripes, Matt Berry, Black Sabbath, The Doors, David Bowie, Moon Wiring Club, Gavin Friday, The Velvet Underground, PM Dawn, The Cult, The Ruby Suns, Ivor Cutler, Rufus Wainwright, Scroobius Pip Versus Dan le Sac, The Dee Felicio Trio, X, Doris Day, Tir na nOg, Frank Zappa, Dolly Dolly, Soundhog, The Mortlake Bookclub and Mick Smiley.

This mix also include extracts from Derek Jarman’s "Jubilee", the Wyrd Kalendar and an interview with Peter Jimerson of the Fork Horror Revival.

Tickets for the next corporeal Folk Horror Festival in Whitby are available to purchase here… https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-winter-ghosts-tickets-55468722442

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/chris-lambert/wyrd-kalendar/paperback/product-23371751.html

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar Album: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/wyrd-kalendar

The Wyrd Kalendar – Nickanan Night

This Shrovetide, feast on the collop and the pancake before knocking on doors and running away as part of Nickanan Night! Let this be your soundtrack to eggs, flour, bacon and mischief.

As well as insightful words on Shrovetide from Jim Moon’s excellent March folklore podcast (which you can subscribe to here: https://www.patreon.com/Hypnogoria), this also contains tracks by Spike Milligan, The White Stripes, The Medical Mission Sisters, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Dean Martin, The Doors, David Bowie, Top of the Poppers, Matt Berry, Rob Bravery, Bob Dylan, The Future Sound of London, Ivor Cutler, The Seahorses, The Honey Pot, David Arnold, Danny John-Jules, Sendelica, Rhett and Link, The Orb, Jaded, Dany Rosevear and Frank Zappa.

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/chris-lambert/wyrd-kalendar/paperback/product-23371751.html

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar Album: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/wyrd-kalendar

The Wyrd Kalendar – Spectral Fields Mix 3 (Chapters 27-39)

The Kalendar Host has been reading.

He has found himself lost in “A Year in the Country – Wandering Through Spectral Fields” by Stephen Prince. This incredible work has inspired a new journey out of the Kalendar Heath and across these Spectral Fields to discover music, ideas, stories, folk horror jaunts, hauntological treats and nostalgic terror.

This is the third of four mixes dedicated to this new book. This mix explores chapters 27-39 through music, sound and key extracts, acting as an accompaniment or, if you will allow, an aural appendix.

Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Country-Wandering-Pastoralism-Hauntology/dp/0957400721

Discover the delights of MacGillivray, Vashti Bunyan, Anne Briggs, The Owl Service, Audrey Copard, Watersons, David Cain, Howlround, Classroom Projects, Kate Bush, Jonathan Hodge, Roger Whittaker, Christopher Gunning, Johnny Hawksworth, Pierre Arvay, John Williams, COI, Magpahi, Jane Weaver, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council.

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/chris-lambert/wyrd-kalendar/paperback/product-23371751.html

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar Album: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/wyrd-kalendar

Wanderings With The Fae No.5. Some Roads Are Stranger Than Others.

The Bog Cush Road.

Have you ever found a stretch of road that just feels strange? For no apparent reason you’ll drive or walk that bit faster, a shiver running through you, an urge to look behind, an unexplained ominous air.

For years this stretch of road was part of my school run route and the way to my nearest shop. No matter how many times I drove along it, it never failed to leave me uneasy.

Was it the thought of sinking into the watery depths on either side of the road?

Did the spindly trees seem to close in on me?

I could find no folklore, no local tales of hauntings, nothing to explain my daily reaction, just a strange stretch of road that left me cold.

Have you ever found one?

A Guide for the Curious – An interview with Sarah K. Marr

Christmas has been a traditional time for the telling of tales of ghosts and the supernatural for many years, and the Edwardian author M.R. James’ short stories have become the most intimately associated with the season, as I’m sure needs no introduction to anyone reading this.

One of his most highly regarded stories is “A Warning to the Curious”, first published in 1925 and adapted by the BBC in 1972 for their Ghost Stories for Christmas strand.

Author Sarah K. Marr recently published an immensely detailed annotated guide to “A Warning to the Curious” on her website which thoroughly explores all aspects of the tale, accompanied by evocative photographs, illustrations, maps and much more.

You can download Sarah’s annotated “Warning to the Curious” here:
http://sarahkmarr.com/

Sarah kindly agreed to speak to Folk Horror Revival about the project.

Folk Horror Revival: Hi Sarah, thanks for agreeing to talk to us at Folk Horror Revival. Can you introduce yourself please?

Sarah Marr: Hi, Folk Horror Revival. I’m Sarah K. Marr, and I’m a writer living near London. I published my debut novel earlier this year—pretty sure I’m contractually obliged to say, All the Perverse Angels, available through all good bookshops—and now I’m turning my thoughts to writing the next one. You can follow me on Twitter, @sarahkmarr, if that’s your thing. Anyway, you’re talking to me because of my guide to M.R. James’s “A Warning to the Curious”.

FHR: What led to your fascination with the works of M.R. James and folk horror in general?

SM: I first read James when at I was at school, and then, some years later, I revisited his work whilst I was living alone in a small, old cottage in the Cotswolds: a perfect environment for those stories. For me, James provides the quintessential model for the English ghost story, the ‘urtext’ from which everything else is derived. Having said that, I do realize it’s a very ahistorical perspective—one can see the influence of earlier works in James’s writing—and that there’s a certain sensibility necessary for becoming immersed in James’s stories. Still, at a personal level, “Is this as good as James?” is a test for any uncanny tale I read.

I grew up in the seventies, so a lot of the ‘hauntological’ nostalgia—I use the term without negative connotations—which is around now harks back to my childhood: it’s still the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water which keeps me away from disused quarries. Children of the Stones was shown when I was seven, and a year or two later my parents took me to Avebury, where we took it in turns to touch the stones and collapse with appropriate drama. I read Alan Garner, too, and was particularly fond of Red Shift and The Owl Service, both of which shift away from the more fantastical worlds of his Elidor or The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and carry elements of more earthly myth across time periods. I came to The Wicker Man—the ‘gateway drug’ of folk horror—quite a bit later, and I’ve had a stronger focus on folk horror in my reading over the past couple of years, partly as a way of exploring narrative and the construction of story for my own work. There’s also something about the way folk horror is so situated in the landscape which lends itself to photographic interpretation, and then, it seems to me, it’s a question of finding the balance between atmosphere and the avoidance of photographic cliché: I can’t claim that I’m always successful.

FHR: Despite many of the books, films and TV series being around for many years it is only recently that ‘folk horror’ has become a ‘thing’. Do you have any thoughts on why folk horror has become such a growing area of interest to so many people?

SM: It’s one of those things which has arisen from the coming together of many threads, and I’m certainly not the best person to assess them all. Partly, I suspect, it’s a reaction to a language of horror—particularly in films—based around the urban experience, and a desire to ‘reconnect’ with the wider environment. Then there’s the overlap with hauntology, in its broadest sense, and the revisiting of works from the 70s and 80s which itself was grounded in folklore. (Although that, of course, raises the same question about the reasons for folk horror’s prevalence in those years. Flight from the technological realities of the Cold War, perhaps?) There’s also the effect of key pieces and players which cross genres or spheres of influence: The League of Gentleman, for example, bridging horror through comedy, a span which Mark Gatiss so effortlessly crosses and recrosses, of course. Even having the term “folk horror” has helped creators and commentators to coalesce around a shared, if somewhat amorphous, centre of commonality. In a Twitter thread last year I managed to trace its use back to 1936 (in The English Journal, Volume 25, University of Chicago Press), but it’s only really become a mainstream term-of-art in the past few years.

FHR: What was the thing that kickstarted the trip? Were you already familiar with the area so knew where to begin?

SM: I mention in the introduction to the “Annotated Warning to the Curious” that my mother’s unwell, and it was her desire to visit the sea which took me to Aldeburgh. I’d been there a couple of times before, so I had a rough idea of the place. I was also vaguely aware of the connection to James, and it seemed a good way to give the visit a focus; something to take our minds away from illness and into the landscape. The existing guides—particularly those by Darroll Pardoe and Adam Scovell—were a great place to start. “A Podcast to the Curious” has two superb episodes on “A Warning…”, to which I listened on the journey to the coast. Those episodes include an interview with Tom Baynham about his own trip to Aldeburgh to find James’s inspirations. I owe them all my thanks.

FHR: The wide-open landscapes of East Anglia seem to be especially inspirational for many writers of ghost stories. What is about the area that has prompted this?

SM: I’m pretty sure that a full answer to that question requires at least a PhD thesis. I will say, though, that topographically it’s a haunting landscape: flat, unpeopled, windswept. It has about it some element of the Romantic sublime: simultaneously awesome and enveloping, desolate and beautiful. Then, the history of the place adds layer upon layer of meaning and interpretation, each leaving its own traces, building foundations for the next. So, the liminality of the place—the sense that it’s a hinterland for sea, marsh, and downs—extends beyond topography, back through time. All of this, somehow, brings its own melancholy, often hidden just beneath the surface, but always sensed.

FHR: Did you sense any menacing presences over your shoulder or glimpse anything in the corner of your eye as you were wandering around the locations?

SM: I’m one of those people for whom the oh-so-delicious ‘scare’ of horror is partnered with an irreconcilable discontinuity between fiction and reality. A lack of belief in the reality of what one’s reading should remove the ability for it to disturb, but it doesn’t, even as each perspective tries to undermine the other: somehow, it works. So, I’m not one for ‘presences’, but I am one for letting my imagination run wild and facing the consequences. Friston church, early in the morning, was cold and silent and gave me the sense that it’s never truly unoccupied. But for sheer Jamesian disquiet, the award must go to the walk through the empty marshes from Sluice Cottage (supposed home of William Ager) to Paxton’s dig site. Then, I confess, I did look over my shoulder from time to time.

FHR: Such a huge amount of background detail is included in your guide that you must have spent many hours searching through dusty tomes in a manner reminiscent of James’ study of Medieval manuscripts. How many hours were you spent secluded in libraries? Equally how many days were spent traipsing up and down the lonely coastline seeking the locations?

SM: I wish I had been able to spend more time in old libraries: they, together with bookshops, are two of my favourite places in world. I have fond memories of the Bodleian and college libraries in Oxford, and, more recently, the Library of Congress. However, the research for this guide was all done at home, over the course of a month, mostly through Google Books coupled with census and newspaper searches made available through membership of my local library. (Libraries really are awesome.)

Half of my novel is set in 1887, and I used Google Books for a lot of contemporary texts for that, too, so I’ve had some practice. It’s a lot more effective for pre-c.1930 works, which are generally available as complete texts. Luckily, that covers the texts available to James, and much of his own output. The trick is to use the books one finds as one would if they were printed and taken from a library shelf: use their references to find other books, rather than relying solely on individual searches. Then the research grows more ‘organically’, and with more access to obscure details. It doesn’t help, of course, that searching for “M.R. James” turns up every “Mr James” ever printed: one has to go full “Montague Rhodes”.

I do, though, have two printed and well-thumbed copies of The Collected Ghost Stories, a battered first edition of James’s Suffolk and Norfolk, an e-book of the Ash-Tree Press’s A Pleasing Terror, and a fascimile of the 1925 O.S. map of Aldeburgh. I can’t make the trip back to Aldeburgh at the moment, but when I can, I want to use the library there to get tide tables and weather reports and, if possible, to track down a picture of the battery which used to sit by the martello tower.

As for traipsing, I had an afternoon and a morning in Aldeburgh. The afternoon covered the martello tower photographs and allowed me to scope out the rest of the in-town locations and the Sluice Cottage. The following day I got up at 6am and headed out whilst everyone else was asleep. That let me take the unpopulated photographs of the beach, the White Lion, and the churches at Aldeburgh and Froston. Then, after breakfast, there was time to visit Paxton’s dig site and Theberton church. I only identified some of the other locations, or potential locations—Thorpeness Halt station, Woolpit church, Walton Castle—when doing further research after the trip.

Anyway, it is possible to see everything in a fairly short amount of time, and my hope is that someone following in my, and James’s, and Paxton’s footsteps can visit Aldeburgh with all the information they need in one place, and situate themselves within the story itself.

FHR: Do you have any plans for further wanderings in the landscape of M.R. James?

SM: Perhaps: I love this kind of research, and James’s stories have just the right balance of fiction and real-world underpinnings for it to be effective. I was in Somerset recently and, entirely coincidentally, found myself driving past the New Inn in Sampford Courtenay, Devon, which appears in James’s “Martin’s Close”. I have a rather prosaic photograph of it. (I’ve also got a set of then-and-now photographs of Avebury, based on shots in Children of the Stones, and I ought to do something with them.) But undertaking something as detailed as the work on “A Warning to the Curious” is more of a challenge, so I’ll have to wait and see what opportunities present themselves.

Right now, my priorities are working on my own stories, and finishing a stage-/screen-play of “A Warning to the Curious”. I’d recommend the BBC’s 1972 adaption to anyone: although filmed in Norfolk, and although Paxton (played superbly by Peter Vaughan) is older than in James’s description, it does a phenomenal job of capturing the chilling essence of the story. Still, the layers in James’s tale mean there’s so much to bring out, and so many interpretations which can deliver real emotion without deviating from the text in any major way. I’m determined to explore them further. All I have to do now is find someone to stage/film it (and that’s always the toughest part).

FHR: Thank you Sarah for taking the time to speak to us about your Jamesian wanderings and best of luck with your future writings, looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.

Sarah’s book All the Perverse Angels can be purchased here:
And don’t forget to follow Sarah on Twitter here:
Interview conducted by Richard Hing
All photos ©Sarah K. Marr

The Wyrd Kalendar – The Winter Mix


Join the Kalendar Host this Winter for a delicious collection of wintry treats. Words from Wyrd Kalendar, Darren Charles and Howard Ingham mingle with music from the likes of The Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Moon Wiring Club, Tir na nOg, Keith Seatman, Sleeps in Oysters, Cleo Laine, Haushka, Sean Wesche, Atomic Rooster, Medieval Babes, Belle and Sebastian, Frank Zappa, Simon and Garfunkel, Aztec Camera, Faimly, Joy Division, Muddy Waters, Timo Hanninen, Panu Aatilo, David Cain, The Chills, The Fall, Vashti Bunyan, Wayne Slawson, John Williams, White Stripes, Gustavo Santolalla, Sigur Ros, Caravan, Kate Bush, The Tea Party, Danny Elfman, The Mamas and the Papas, Animal Collective, Pete and the Pirates, Gorillaz, Grouper, The Impressions and The Divine Comedy.

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/chris-lambert/wyrd-kalendar/paperback/product-23371751.html

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar Album: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/wyrd-kalendar

Lise Richardson’s Folk Horror Inktober 2018

Lise Richardson’s Folk Horror Inktober 2018

 

For those of you who have read Adam Scovell’s inspiring and enlightening Folk Horror book – `Hours Dreadful and Things Strange’ (2017) – will be well familiar with his list of definitive Folk Horror TV and Cinema and if you have ever wondered what those productions would look like as a charming sketchbook which almost act as a set of Folk Horror flash cards then look no further…..

Lise Richardson is an illustrator and comedy enthusiast based in Bath, UK. She designs posters for comedians, venues, and gigs as well as making books, zines editing The Independent Comedy Appreciation Society (it’s a nice magazine about thoughtful comedy written by comedians) This October Lise set herself an Inktober challenge inspired by the classics of the Folk Horror genre and fortunately for the rest of us she has put the results of this challenge into a lovely little zine.

Impressed by seeing her work on Instagram Folk Horror Revival got in touch with Lise to find out more.

Folk Horror Revival: Firstly can you tell us a little about yourself – your background, how you ended up as an illustrator and involved in the comedy scene?

Lise Richardson: I’ve been an illustrator on a broadly professional level for about nine years, give or take. I’ve always produced art as a hobby, but since I was about fifteen I’ve sold my work through commissions, online shops and at fairs and markets. I suppose I was never any good at anything except drawing, so it never even occurred to me not to try and make a living off it. I just finished my second degree – I did a BA in Graphic Communication here in Bath, having completed a four year vocational degree in Fine Art and Photography in 2014 back in Finland (I’m half Finnish).

I love comedy. I grew up on Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard and Monty Python. There’s not a huge stand-up scene in Finland, but I saw what I could live, and once I moved back to the UK I really wanted to see what live comedy was like on a grassroots level. We’ve got a club, Komedia, right in the centre of town, and after about eight months of anxiety over going to a gig on my own, I went and saw Mark Watsons tour show in 2016. Since then, I’ve seen… well, probably about 100 shows a year? I started running a terrible weekly gig in a pub with my partner in 2017, and off the back of that ran a venue for Bath Comedy Festival, then we got more ambitious and did semi-regular gigs in a slightly nicer pub, and then Komedia let us put on people’s Edinburgh shows in their Arts Cafe, and now I more or less live and breath live comedy.

Since I started going to gigs, I got to know a lot of “up and coming” acts, people working on their first Edinburgh shows and that sort of thing, and I started designing posters for them. I’m no good at stand-up (I’ve done a gig or two, and I think everyone who saw it can agree that I definitely Made an Attempt), so it’s a practical way of me being involved with the comedy industry professionally.

This year I started making a magazine with a deliberately clunky name; The Independent Comedy Appreciation Society. It’s really the culmination of my intense love for “alternative” comedy – I’ve grown tired of terrible club gigs and boring mainstream acts, so it’s me very earnestly (and I hope amusingly) shouting BE THOUGHTFUL! BE INTERESTING! at the world of comedy, with the help of a bunch of incredible contributing comedians, through the medium of paper and illustration.

FHR: Who are your influences/heroes?

LR: It’s interesting, I’d say as a creative my biggest influencers are people like Josie Long, Will Sheff, Moose Allain… funny, incredibly talented and earnest people who keep producing things because they can’t NOT produce them, be that art or comedy shows or music or zines. I find people who are giddy and excitable very inspiring, they make me want to make things and share them with people.

As an illustrator, I’m a big fan of Graham Humphrey’s work. I love old horror film posters, and I really enjoyed his promotional art for the first series of Inside No. 9… I wrote my first university essay about those! I think I tried to get away with writing about comedy for my design degree.

I went to a talk from Lizzy Stewart and just fell in love with her work and mentality towards producing work. She made a poster for Daniel Kitson, which impressed me so much I think I told about ten people within a day and then bought all her zines.

Oh, and overall my largest enduring influence has to be Reece Shearsmith. I’ve loved The League of Gentlemen since I was a teenager and I think he doesn’t receive as much credit as he’s due for being a multi-talented creative. His illustrations are incredible, they’re really characterful, kind of a Ralph Steadman vibe but he’s got his own strong style. Of course all his writing and directing and acting is brilliant as well.

FHR: Do you consider your work to fit into the Folk Horror genre and if so what is it about it that you feel fits that label?

LR: I’m fascinated by folk horror, I feel like I learn more about the genre all the time but it’s also all so familiar. I used to be in a folk metal band as a teenager, and I’d do loads of illustrations of very pagan things influenced by the music I was into at the time (it’s more just folk without the metal for me these days!) – lots of forests and witches and standing stones.

My Folk Horror zine is a celebration of the haunting characters, places, and thoughts from all the films I watched, but in terms of illustration, it’s also an exploration of what I can achieve in black and white. For me, folk horror is all about old, familiar foreboding, particular places and faces and feelings. Illustrating those characters and things was a way for me to spend some time reflecting on the genre. Some of the techniques I’ve used are influenced by the style of woodcuts and engravings (particularly for the first illustration in the zine, for A Field In England), which feel very fitting as well.

FHR: What are your experiences of Folk Horror? Do you have memories of particular films, books or TV shows?

LR: I’m relatively new to the genre, but I do think a lot of things I enjoyed growing up have a distinct element of folk horror to them. A Field in England was the only film I’d seen before I started the Folk Horror Inktober project, but I loved it from the moment I saw it.

Probably my earliest Folk Horror memory is from a tv play that was on at my nan’s house in at Christmas in the 1990s or early 2000s. I can’t even remember what it was, probably a Ghost Stories for Christmas? I feel like it might’ve been Lost Hearts, because that felt very familiar when I got to it for the zine. Either that or I’ve made up how haunted I was as a kid by the sound of a hurdy-gurdy.

FHR: Do you think of Folk Horror just as a genre or does it reflect on your life more widely than just being a topic or style you have used in some of your work?

LR: I think once you get into the genre, it colours your perception of other media. What is Withnail and I, if not a folk horror disguised as a comedy?

I’m quite keen to write and illustrate a folk horror myself. There are some really great horror stories that have been produced as graphic novels, I adore In The Pines by Erik Kriek which is five different murder ballads in one book, a bit like an anthology horror. That’s something I’d like to try making – maybe not quite as ambitious as five stories in one for my first attempt, but I’m keen to try it.

A little while ago I went to a comic and zine fair in Bristol, and I really think zines are a great medium for Folk Horror. That feeling of a particular place or person or atmosphere frozen in time, that can really be conveyed through a zine. I bought Henry Miller’s Records And Tea zine, which is actually a radio show in book form, and though that’s not overtly a Folk Horror, it’s got the feeling of one. You know at the end of Children of the Stones, where Adam and Matthew leave the village, and pass Hendrick coming back, and there’s that ominous feeling of it all repeating again and again forever? Records and Tea has that vibe, but it’s a benevolent version of it. It’s the past contained in a book in the present. Of course, there are actual folk horrors in zine form too. I picked up Christopher Harrison’s The North! The North!, which is a fantastic and funny take on the genre.

There’s definitely Folk Horror to be found in live comedy too. Not in straight telly stand-up, but in fringe shows. A friend of mine (also an avid zine collector), Sam Nicoresti, he’s working on a show at the moment that is almost more Folk Horror than it is traditional comedy (but it is very, very funny). He’s got these puppets of the characters of his mother and father, and they are these deeply pagan, haunting figures that loom over the audience in the dark. The whole show has this unpredictable foreboding to it. The same could be said for Sean Morley’s show this year. It’s called I Apologise For My Recent Behaviour, and there’s this part (which I shan’t spoil entirely) where he creates this incredible cult-like atmosphere, it’s a very unsettling show that really plays with the idea of what live comedy can achieve. I think a lot of comedy performers and writers are toying with bringing other genres into their work, sketch groups particularly. The Death Hilarious have been doing it for a while, I absolutely adore what they do – if you enjoy the Americana Folk Horror films, things like Wisconsin Death Trip or The Carnival of Souls, I think you’ll love the intense atmosphere they create in a room. The Delightful Sausage are another great example – you know the idea of modern technology not quite coping with a kind of enduring horror from the past? Like in The Stone Tape, or Blair Witch Project? That’s what they do. It starts off silly and fun and then the mood turns and there are these brilliantly creepy pagan creatures (by softsoftworkshop on Instagram, their puppets are amazing) and concerning thoughts and it’s beautiful and dark and so so funny. So yes, I do think Folk Horror impacts the way I see other things in my life, and in other genres too.

FHR: Can you give an outline of the content of your Inktober 2018 zine release and how/why you ended up creating it?

LR: It’s a month’s worth of illustration as part of the yearly Inktober challenge, plus a couple of bonus drawings I didn’t share on my social media. The idea of Inktober is to produce a drawing every day, it doesn’t have to be in actual ink but that’s what it started off being. It’s all about developing your mark-making skills, or improving your drawing practice if there is something you know you’re not particularly strong at. For me, it was a way of keeping myself accountable for a month, and becoming quicker at designing a single image in one sitting. There’s a list of official prompts for Inktober, but I had recently bought “We Don’t Go Back”. It’s not so much a straight list of film descriptions, as a collection of personal reflection relating to every film and tv show on this massive list and that’s what I based my challenge on.

We got through 33 items on that list, which is only a fraction I know, and I drew SOMETHING based on each one. For some, it was like a quick poster design (Murrain, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, The Stalls of Barchester), and for others it’s more like a study or snapshot of a particular scene (Häxan, Wisconsin Death Trip, Baby). For a lot of the illustrations, it’s me pushing myself to consider design elements even in quick drawings.

I’d wanted to see so many of the films for a while, initially because I wanted to see what The League of Gentlemen were referring to in their shows, and following that, out of fascination for the genre. My partner sourced an incredible amount of them online and from the library, so it was pretty budget friendly as a project. I never got my hands on The Wicker Man, though.

FHR: What is next?

LR: I’ve just finished work on the next issue of my quarterly self-published comedy magazine, so immediately next is producing badges to go with that, and sending out copies to subscribers. I’m taking part in a little pop-up comic and zine fair I’m helping out with here in Bath, on the 8th of December at Komedia. It’s a kind of charmingly DIY alternative to the big Christmas market. The Folk Horror zine will be available there, as well as all my other books and cards and whatnot. It’s all in my online shop too, of course.

In terms of projects, I’m working on a children’s picture book at the moment. I’ve done some illustration for kids but nothing in the form of a book, so I’m giving that a go. My mate Jenny Grene, who I work with on comedy colouring books and cards, is really good at illustrating for kids, and I find her work really spurs me on into experimenting outside of my very particular comedy niche. That’s kind of why I made the folk horror zine too, I feel it’s important to keep trying new ideas and finding new audiences. I’d hate to keep trotting out the same thing year after year. I used to be quite a prolific pet illustrator a few years ago, and then I produced a dog-themed flipbook that went a bit viral, and I practically stopped drawing dogs overnight. I think any hint of success drives me a little mad. A varied practice is important, and I think producing the Folk Horror zine gave me an opportunity to step away from comedy for a moment so I could get out of a kind of mental rut.

FHR: Do you have any particular artists that have left an impression on you (not necessarily Folk Horror)?

LR: At the moment I’m really into Richard Todd’s illustrations. He’s a comedian, and I only recently discovered his work – he had a fantastic poster in Edinburgh this year! I’m annoyed I didn’t find a flyer of it actually, I collect illustrated flyers. Well, all flyers, but the illustrated ones are my specialty, I wrote my second dissertation on them (which is a more accessible topic than my first, which was about comic foregrounds, those things at the seaside that you stick your head through and it’s your head on the body of a lady in a bikini or a bodybuilder). Illustrated posters are wonderful. I’ve got a bunch around the house, there are a couple screenprinted ones for Machynlleth Comedy Festival designed by Drew Millward who does brilliant super detailed work, and it’s really fun.

 

You can order Inktober 2018 (33 illustrations, 36 pages total. 120mm square booklet – roughly the size and shape of a CD sleeve, except a lot thicker and printed on nice thick recycled paper. Black & white) from (https://www.liserichardsonart.com/)

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