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.

Home

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.
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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 Sara Hannant

Folk Horror Revival is pleased to have put a few questions to accomplished photographer Sara Hannant …

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Folk Horror Revival: Hi Sara, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Firstly, could you tell our readers a little about yourself, your inspirations and how you came to become a photographer?

Sara Hannant: Photographs can transport you to other times and places.  That capacity for reverie and storytelling has always fascinated me.  When I first started making pictures, I wanted to tell stories about people or experiences that I felt had previously been misrepresented.  I initiated collaborative portraiture projects so that the people I photographed actively contributed to making the image.  While I was an art student at Dartington College of Arts, I worked with Gypsies and Travellers to portray their daily life, which was very different from how they were shown in the local press.  The exhibition Pictures of Ourselves was shown at Plymouth Arts Centre alongside Gypsies by the Magnum photographer Joseph Koudelka.  Seeing the emotional power of Koudelka’s work prompted me to study documentary photography at Newport College of Art.  After completing the course, I worked as a professional photographer for national papers and magazines, and charities in the UK and abroad, mainly on commissions about social issues.  Through experimental approaches, I continue to investigate how the photographic image can alter the perception and reception of subjects that are misunderstood or overlooked.

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Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers, Staffordshire

FHR: Your book Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the Ritual Year is a thorough and intriguing photo essay of traditional / contemporary English festivals and ceremonies. How did this book arise and were there any rites and rituals that particularly struck a personal chord with you?

SH: Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the Ritual Year started with a chance encounter in 2006 with Deptford Jack in the Green.  This discovery instigated my country-wide search for similar seasonal rites occurring through the wheel of the year.  I became interested in rituals which claim an ancient origin as well as those which are re-imagined or re-invented.  I am particularly fond of the fire festivals which light up the dark midwinter nights such as those at Ottery St Mary, Allendale and Lewes.  I also love the way the summer is welcomed in with performances of the Hal-an-tow in Helston Cornwall.  I aimed to capture the excitement and mystery of seasonal rites while celebrating the enduring social relevance of these popular customs for rural and urban communities.  I am delighted that Merrell published the book and the Horniman Museum showed the exhibition for nearly a year and subsequently toured the show.  It is the first British ethnographic exhibition that the museum has shown and the first to normalise representations of Paganism as part of English society.

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Burning effigies of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, Cliffe Bonfire Society, Lewes, Sussex

FHR: Are there any other festivals or rituals from anywhere around the world you would especially like to capture and perhaps produce a book upon?

SH: Before Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the Ritual Year, I had documented community festivals in Mexico, India and Prague and felt it was time to explore the rich folklore closer to home.  There are many more contemporary British folkloric practices I would like to photograph.  I had thought of extending Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the Ritual Year to produce subsequent books that explore seasonal rites in the rest of the UK and I have made a start on this.

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Baphomet, Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

FHR: Another of your books Of Shadows captures One Hundred Objects from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic contains some very beguiling objects and artefacts; which are your personal favourite pieces from the collection and were there any objects that gave you the creeps or otherwise gave you a particular feeling whilst in their presence?

SH: Yes, the museum is full of enchanted objects some of which appear to have an intense presence, especially at night.  However, all of the artefacts in the museum have a resonance whether it’s because of their original magical use, the intentions bound into their making or the undeniable materiality of magical belief.  There were times when this potency felt palpable, particularly with objects once used in rituals or to represent ritual practice such as Baphomet/Old Horny.  The objects made to harness natural or spirit forces were captivating and often embodied ancient knowledge.  One of my favourite pieces is an example of the knot magic used by local witches when ‘Selling the wind’ to sailors.  The implements of torture used during the Witch Trials gave me the creeps!

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Skull used for Ritual Magic, Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

FHR: The format and style taken in Of Shadows is very effective. It gives the items a presence as if their portraits and biographies are granted rather than simply catalogued. Are there any other museum or gallery collections you would like to similarly present?

SH: Thank you, I felt privileged to engage with the magical objects and their hidden histories.  Several collections fascinate me including those at the Horniman, Petrie and Cuming Museums.  Once objects are removed from their original context, it is a challenge to rekindle some of their original properties.  I enjoy responding to those traces of energy which remain in the material.

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Rapunzel

FHR:  On your website you have some other beautiful and bewitching albums. Numinous is very well named as the images have a certain unearthly, spiritual allure whilst Ladybird, ladybird and Cinderella: Your House is on Fire combine nostalgia with the somewhat sinister and visually seductive encroachment of flames. Could you tell us more about the inspiration behind these images?

SH: Both of these projects reveal the process by which one thing, through intention, becomes another.  Numinous is inspired by healing rituals at sacred wells in Cornwall.  The images are deliberately ambiguous and explore magical belief and transformation.  In folklore, a strip of cloth or ‘cloutie’ is torn from a person’s garment, dipped into the well then hung on a nearby tree.  As it falls to the earth and rots, it is believed the illness will disappear. The cloths are said to connect to the divine power or spirits thought to inhabit the sacred place. Unfortunately, some people leave fabrics that will not biodegrade, and the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network consequently removes the offerings.  I have re-animated these discarded cloths using natural forces in keeping with the folk magic, symbolised by the classical elements.

Cinderella: Your House is on Fire and Ladybird, ladybird question the agency of the persecuted heroine in fairy tales.  On rediscovering my childhood copy of Cinderella, I felt compelled to revise the stereotyped images of the female protagonist to tell a different story.  Fire—a symbol of hearth and home, destruction, trial, purging, and purification seemed like the ideal agent for change.  As the pages burn, images and text are revealed or juxtaposed, re-visioning old stereotypes to enable new ideas and narratives.

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Remembering

FHR: Finally, could you tell us any other photographers and artists whose work inspires or speaks to you? Also, what are you currently working on and what projects do you have planned or are considering for the future?

SH: I admire many photographers and artists from a variety of genres.  Research into other disciplines such as history, folklore and magic also inform and inspire my practice.  I am currently working on a book Touching Witchcraft and Sorcery with the folklorist Jeremy Harte.  We have gone into the archives, into the forgotten places, to catch stories of witchcraft in tale and image.  My work is included in two upcoming exhibitions at Gallery Valid Foto in Madrid from May 8-25th Women Photographer’s Now: 12th Julia Margaret Cameron Award and the 12th Pollux Award.  In July, I will be showing a Moon inspired exhibition at Charlton House in London as part of the Moon Festival which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

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The Fool, Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, Staffordshire

All Photography © Sara Hannant
https://www.sarahannant.com/

https://www.sarahannant.com/book/

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

Folklore Thursday: The Rye Wolf & The Tit Wife … and Other Tastes of Ergot

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Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) is a fungal parasite of grasses and cereal crops, particularly Rye, which if cooked and ingested, generally as bread, can cause wild symptoms including the sensation of burning of the limbs, gangrene necrosis of the flesh, intense hallucinations, miscarriage in pregnant women, and in the extreme, a horrific painful death.

Ergotism is sometimes known as Holy Fire or Saint Anthony’s Fire, named after the hermitic Desert Father Saint Anthony of Egypt, renowned for the visions of seduction and terror that he endured whilst in the solitude of devotion. The monks of the Order of St Anthony were said to be very skilled in dealing with Ergotism victims.

Convulsive Ergotism due to its profound symptoms and hallucinatory influence, has also been suggested as the possible cause of several outbreaks of Werewolf and Witch Hysteria in Europe, including the instance of Elfdale and Mora in 17th Century Sweden, whereupon a number of people were executed upon the testimony of children. The English Anglian Witch-hunts and also the infamous Witch-trial of Salem in 1692 have also been suggested as possible cases of Ergot infestation. Regarding the latter it was said that the New England founding fathers reputedly preferred bread made from Rye rather than the native Maize (which does not become infected by Ergot).

In Germanic and East European lore, Ergot is associated with the Crone-goddess, Roggenmutter ~ the Rye Mother. (Known also as the Iron Woman, Rugia Boba and the Tit-Wife, there has been comparison drawn to Baba Yaga, the witch of numerous Russian folktales). It is said that
the Rye Mother will lure children to the grain fields and suckle them upon her iron, Ergotamine-tainted nipples, causing them to become wild and insane.

Ergot and the Rye was also associated with wolves and included amongst the many colloquial names for Ergot are Roggenwulf (Rye Wolf), Wulfzahn (Wolf’s tooth) and Roggunhund (Rye Dog). An old Germanic saying states “The werewolf sits amid the grain.” It may be a cruel coincidence that in the harshest weather where the poor may have had no choice but to eat tainted bread (Ergot infestation also causes a considered drop in yield) were also the same conditions which may have forced starving wolves to enter the towns and villages.

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It has suggested that the name of the mythical Anglo-Saxon hero, Beowulf, translates as ‘Barley Wolf’. He is of course remembered for his battles against woeful otherworldly monsters.

Though apparent accounts of Ergotism date back to 857AD and there is theory that the ancient Greeks and Mesopotamians were well aware of the properties of the unassuming smut on grass and folklore had drawn the association between the tainted cereal and the malady, science started to draw the link between fungus and symptoms in the 18th Century, and it wasn’t until the 20th Century that proper research was conducted upon Ergot. Whilst synthesising Ergot alkaloids in 1943, chemist Albert Hoffman accidentally absorbed traces of the active chemical d-lysergic diethylamide into his skin. His cycle ride home from work was far from the usual and upon that day LSD was born into the world.

Though scientific and agricultural practice have sought efficient measures to counter the problems of Ergot, Ergotism outbreaks are not impossible in the modern world. In 1951 in Pont St Esprit in France, 6 people died and 130 were hospitalised (many describing being attacked by wild animals as they were admitted) following the consumption of ergot-tainted bread.

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Text and images © Andy Paciorek

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

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?

Wyrd Harvest Press: Charity Donation – Winter 2018

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The winter 2018 charity handover from the profits of Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror Revival books has now been made. Congratulations to Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust who receive £500.00 for their Save the Meadows Appeal

In thanks to our donation, we have been given the chance to name a newborn lamb in April (yes I have requested a black one) so we will be asking then (Not Now) for name suggestions and we will put a short-list to a poll on the group

Thank you for voting and Thank You especially for buying our books. We will continue to charitably donate the sales profits we receive for our books quarterly to the Wildlife Trusts, and we have more great books coming in 2019, so please continue to stock your bookshelves with our quality books with the extra bonus of helping biodiversity and natural habitats

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