May’s Folk Horror Revival Sketch Challenge Winners.

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

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

Jesseca Trainham

Week 1. Black Philip

 

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Week 2. John Barleycorn

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

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

 

Naama Mimis

Week 3. Cabinet of Curiosities

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

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

 

Andrew Foley

Week 4. A Wyrd Celebration

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Week 5. A Plague Year

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

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

 

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

Mysteries of Portsmouth : Review

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Local history books have always been a great source of folklore and Fortean material and it is always a pleasure to delve into one which concentrates on the weirder aspects of certain locales. A fine addition to the canon is Mysteries of Portsmouth by Matt Wingett.

Covering the area of Portsmouth, an island city on the south coast of England, we are of course treated to sea monsters and maritime tales but there is a wealth of other oddities that have come to haunt the lore of Pompey (as the city is affectionately known) so within its splendidly illustrated pages, Wingett treats us to UFOS, Egyptian curses, spiritualists & fortune-tellers, witches and many ghosts as well as other diverse oddities.

There is a much data covered verbatim from old newspapers which is culturally interesting to see how strange phenomenon was covered by local press in bygone times and the book will be of interest to local historians and other people from the area as well as visitors, folklorists, Forteans and other curiosity-seekers from further afield.

A thoroughly interesting, well researched and nicely presented addition to the British folklore shelves.

Available now from here – https://www.lifeisamazing.co.uk/product/mysteries-of-portsmouth-by-matt-wingett

Also available from Amazon and other booksellers

Read an Interview with the author here

Interview with Jackie Morris

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

FHR: What landscapes particularly inspire you?

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

FHR: Which fellow artists and writers do you admire?

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths ~ Review

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Stephen Prince and his project A Year In The Country are best known for their derives through the haunted areas of unusual folk music and folklore, occult British culture, pagan children’s TV shows of the 70s and 80s and the electronica of these isles such as Delia Derbyshire and Ghost Box Records. Their website charts a course through the shadows of modern culture of TV, literature, music and film, finding that which provides a more spectral, hauntological narrative of the last 50 years. Similarly, their music imprint has spawned several high quality compilations featuring artists such as The Heartwood Institute, The Rowan Amber Mill and Grey Frequency, as well as albums by Prince himself under the moniker A Year in the Country.
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‘The Corn Mother’ first (re)emerged in 2018, as the A Year in the Country music label issued a soundtrack inspired by the notorious, possibly imaginary and subsequently unreleased film of the same name. Renowned for its tortured production history and its fabled lost screenplay, the movie itself had become something apocryphal and of legend, rarely seen but oft mentioned. Described as a ‘folkloric fever dream’, how this piece of cinematic conjecture fitted within and contributed to the current folk horror trend or to aspects of psychotronic cinema has been left as, essentially, a question mark. Indeed, there has been much musing but little else solid or informative regarding ‘The Corn Mother’ to base any consideration of its urban myth upon, until now.

In its ongoing pursuit of exploring the more haunted and liminal aspects of this island’s culture, A Year in the Country has produced ‘The Corn Mother’ novella, furthering the themes and characters of this spectral and hidden world, as well as an accompanying soundtrack, entitled ‘Night Wraiths’. Both are described as being ‘explorations and reflections of the whispers that tumble forth from the corn mother’s kingdom. A place and story where fact, fiction, reality and dreams blur into one’. The novella itself is sequenced according to the cycles of the year, into four sections or seasons and 52 chapters of no more than 365 words each. This nod to nature throughout the structure of the story alludes to the rural and harvest horror that spawned the original tale of ‘The Corn Mother’. Beginning in the year 1877 in a tiny, rustic English village, we first encounter the innocent Mrs Jessop who is unfairly accused of poisoning and spoiling the crops by employing witchcraft. This initial section details the growing hysteria that descends upon the small, insular village, already unsettled by the encroaching industrial revolution and consequent unwanted changes in country life that technological progress is bringing to them. The persecution of Mrs Jessop and her subsequent revenge as ‘the corn mother’ proves both disquieting and compulsive reading.

Time then shifts rapidly on and we find ourselves in the 1970s, as scriptwriter Peter is working on a story concerning a wronged villager who causes a village to splinter, fight, go mad with guilt and eventually up and leave. Sound familiar? Arthouse director Alain, whose films sound like they inhabit a genre somewhere between the Czech New Wave and Blood on Satan’s Claw, picks up on this script, which has been named ‘The Corn Mother’, and it goes into production. Things seem to be progressing well with the movie; the character of Ellen is introduced, who is producing the movie’s soundtrack, as well as Sarah, who is to play Mrs Jessop (this asks an eerie unanswered question; how does Peter know of her, know of her name?). Each chapter is written in the first person, giving a varied perspective and a personal take on the unfolding mystery that reveals both motives and intrigue. We also hear from crooked film funder Hines, whose corrupt financial dealings result in the whole production being cancelled and all cinematic reels and work completed on the movie disappearing. All, except for those which are taken and stowed away by a certain crew member, kept safe and hidden in a basement until they eventually emerge more than twenty years later. Meanwhile, the decades roll on and the rumours circulate. There is talk of ‘The Corn Mother’ being available as a bootleg VHS. A collection of videotapes that may have an edit of the film appear and then just as quickly are gone, as if they never existed, almost as if someone or something is eliminating all trace of the film’s existence. We are introduced to Alan, a film obsessive, who spends a significant part of his life trying to track down proof of ‘The Corn Mother’s existence, attending comic cons and searching internet databases, in particular the websites dedicated to the burgeoning folk horror movement. However, as reference to the film builds, it just as quickly vanishes, deleted. The evidence that ‘The Corn Mother’ existed, is being removed, but by whom or what?

A fascinating and truly inventive novella, ‘The Corn Mother’ touches upon those familiar pillars that A Year In The Country have become known for, the hauntological (and the imagined film in this tale really is a ‘past that is haunting the present’), as well as recognisable folk horror lodestones such as The Wicker Man. The story even cleverly builds in, during a ‘meta’ moment, the existence of 2018’s ‘The Corn Mother’ compilation that was actually released by the A Year in the Country label. Additionally, the text serves as a cultural and social reference point; throughout the passing of the decades; mention is made to the three-day week and power cuts of the 70s, to the Blockbuster video chains of the 90s and the subsequent rise of the internet. Nevertheless, much is also pleasingly unexplained. Prince is in no rush or pressure to reveal or join the dots, he trusts the readers to do this themselves, to surmise or imagine what machinations are at work.

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The novella comes accompanied by ‘The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths’, a soundtrack for the stories as well as a standalone piece of work. The album itself is split in a similar fashion to the novella; inspired by the cycle of the year it is sequenced into seven tracks – as in seven days of the week. Spectral, swooping electronics and ominous analogue washes create a barren, shadowed landscape to illustrate ‘The Infernal Engines’, Mrs Jessop’s walks amongst the fields and the suspicion of ever nearing industry and mechanization. ‘Night Wraiths’ stays within this era, documenting the coming of the corn mother and her lysergic revenge upon the mob hysteria of the village. Chillingly effective and genuinely unsettling, the synth pulses and growls are an adept soundtrack to the terrors in the book itself and work in a similar manner; subtle, pervasive and with a creeping sense of unease. ‘I Have Brought a Myriad Fractures and Found Some Form of Peace’ is a ghost story of a track, decaying and ebbing as much as the village and the inhabitant’s psyches were cracking and breaking under the weight of their madness and guilt. ‘Ellen’s Theme’ then takes us into the 1980s and the synth soundtrack to the long lost film, the music inspired by such compositions as featured in that period’s horror cinema such as that of ‘Halloween 3: Season of the Witch’, electronic strings hinting at the darkness behind the reoccurring melody, a pulsing and layering paranoia. Hints of Coil, John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream float on a doomed, resonating motif that circles and breathes, growing in intensity. ‘Dreams of a Third Generation Grail’ references Andy’s search for ‘The Corn Mother’ film, a spooked sense of yearning and obsession played out in the ghost-strewn harmonies. ‘They Are All Here’ charts the disappearance of any record of the film ever existing, a lonely electronic arctic wind that is framed by solitary notes and unearthly bleeps. Finally, ‘An Unending Quest’ completes the album, hinting at the cyclical and repeating nature of ‘The Corn Mother’ saga itself.

This is an original and significant piece of work, not only in its novel, singular and successful approach to folk horror and ‘imaginary’ films (tropes which, as hinted at within the book, have perhaps reached saturation point in lesser hands), but in the creation of its own self referencing  folklore. This may not be the last we have heard of ‘The Corn Mother’, her myth has been sown and will undoubtedly spring forth anew once again. Both an excellent tale of the supernatural and an effective slice of spooked electronica, ‘The Corn Mother’ is waiting in the fields for those who watch and listen. Time to gather the crops.

Available from the 16th March at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk/shop/, Amazon and Lulu.

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Review by Grey Malkin

See also ~ https://folkhorrorrevival.com/2018/09/07/recording-our-own-ghosts-a-review-of-a-year-in-the-country-wandering-through-spectral-fields-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-further-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-o/

More Tales from The Black Meadow …

The Black Meadow Archive
Arriving through the dark and sodden mists and across the bare, barren fields comes ‘The Black Meadow Archive Volume 1’, a follow up of sorts to the compelling and essential ‘Tales of the Black Meadow’, which charted the mysterious happenings and events in the Black Meadow area of the North Yorkshire moors via the work of the missing Professor R Mullins. Mullins’ papers, found after he had disappeared without trace, were the basis for the wyrd and eerie snapshots of such Black Meadow based entities as ‘The Rag And Bone Man’ and ‘The Meadow Hag’, truly chilling and disquieting reportages from what appeared to be a Tarkovsky styled ‘Stalker’ type tear or rend in the area’s dimensional fabric. Both’ Tales of…’ and its bewitching accompanying soundtrack by The Soulless Party are crucial reading and listening for those with an interest in both the folk horror or hauntological domains and are best enjoyed and experienced together. Now author Chris Lambert, also known for the follow up ‘Christmas on the Black Meadow’ as well as the excellent ‘Wyrd Kalendar’ book and accompanying album, has sired this new archive, replete with evocative illustrations by Nigel Wilson, John Chadwick and Folk Horror Revival’s Andy Paciorek. So, come, let us traverse this new mapping of the meadow for just a short while. But do stay on the paths…

This new publication draws from the government’s Brightwater Archives; reports, interviews, legends and hearsay from this spooked countryside collude to build a picture of a place that has long been a site of occult and deeply strange occurrences. The missing in action Mullins features, as do tales of unnatural creatures and incidences that stretch back from medieval times (‘Lair of the Coyle’) to the modern day, including an explanatory and insightful chapter that features none other than Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and his singular visit to the meadow. Elsewhere, and across the ages, we are introduced to shape shifting horse people (‘Legend of the White Horse’) in a beautiful fairy tale-esque sequence, the vengeance of a giant, brutal supernatural entity that seeks retribution for his stolen farm produce (‘The Ploughman’s Wrath’) and an emotive and touching story of grief and loss in ‘The Maiden of the Mist’. Indeed, one of Lambert’s strengths is his ability to move from the terrifying and grim to the darkly comic, as well as the heartfelt and appropriately sentimental, with apparent ease and certain skill.

The stories themselves are sequenced into relevant sections pertaining to groups of myths or site specific events; we have the ‘Heather and Bramble’ compilation, which includes a number of blood filled folktales such as ‘The Blackberry Ghost (whereupon a bullying older child receives a gruesome comeuppance from the land itself) and ‘The Heart of Blackberry Field’ (a recount of a sacrificial feeding of the local harvest with a truly disturbing twist). There follows a ‘The Mysteries of Flyingdales House’ compendium which recounts such happenings as ‘Dead Man on the Moor’, a chilling account of occult protection and the acute danger that the meadow’s mist holds, as well as the extended poem ‘He Took Her Hand’, which ends with the hanging of an innocent man and a lover’s final disappearance into the black meadow itself. The sub-section on ‘Creatures from the Meadow’ is particularly haunting and effective, introducing murderous meadow hags, witches and spectral supernatural entities; we also find such preternatural beings amongst ’20th century Encounters’ – the story of the grotesque ‘Ticking Policeman’ is one that will linger with the reader long after putting the book down.

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‘The Black Meadow Archive Volume 1’ then is a necessary addition to any bookshelf that holds other Black Meadow publications, or to those who have an interest in the worlds of Hookland, Scarfolk or A Year In the Country, who enjoys the wyrd fiction of Robert Aickman or the work of Nigel Kneale, or that has a predilection towards the paranormal and the disturbing. Special mention must go the beautiful illustrations which compliment the tales and add a striking visual dimension to these horrors, this reader is reminded of the ghost story books of his youth where the artwork was equally as memorable and disturbing as the text itself. And, as with the previous collection in this series, there is an accompanying album by The Soulless party that marries gorgeous electronics with several of the tales from the book; experience them together for a truly immersive journey. Spend some time exploring the Black Meadow then, but do stay clear of the mist…

Review by Grey Malkin

You can now buy the book here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Meadow-Archive-1/dp/1688953167

And  the album here:

https://thesoullessparty-cis.bandcamp.com/album/the-black-meadow-archive-volume-1

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https://blackmeadowtales.blogspot.com/

Corpse Roads – Revised Edition

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Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads Revised Edition is here!! 690 pages of atmospheric poetry from authors passed and living and haunting photography.

Revised edition includes additional poetry, photographs, improved editing, layout design and a new cover.

LAUNCH OFFER – order before Midnight on 6th February to claim a whopping 40% Discount *

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The Gallows Pole & The Shining Levels : Review and Interview

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Never judge a book by its cover or so ‘they’ say … whomever ‘they’ are, ‘they’ don’t always get it right. The cover artwork of Benjamin Myer’s 2017 novel ‘The Gallows Pole’ designed by Delaney Williams captivated me at first sight. Instant reaction was that this wasn’t a new book but was one of Penguin books vintage green mystery and crime series and indeed though differing in time setting from the 20th Century noir of the majority of the Penguin books, ‘The Gallows Pole’ would be a more than worthy addition to the series. There is a ‘folk horror’ sensibility also to the artwork and within the novel itself there is an element of this sub-genre. Telling the tale of ‘King’ David Hartley, leader of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a troop of currency forgers living and working on the West Yorkshire Moors in the 18th Century, the sense of place and landscape is integral to the tale and this would in itself lend itself well to the folk horror reader but the visions of David Hartley and his reverence to a stag entity tie a tighter knot – as does the unfolding brutality as an outside agency heads north to the barren heaths to investigate the crimes against the crown.  Myer’s writing itself is visionary and atmospheric, transporting the reader to the time and place of the harsh drama, which itself is inspired by true events. The dark mystique of the cover indeed is highly evocative of the tale that Myers spins with great craft and gravity.

Benjamin Myers’ roots lie in the soil of County Durham, as does those of Folk Horror Revival and also of The Shining Levels, a band that inspired by Myer’s novel have created a beautiful album of music and lyrics also entitled The Gallows pole.
Having had the good fortune to see The Shining Levels perform live at The Old Cinema Launderette in Durham and at the lovely Victorian library in Darlington as part of the Hark music and literature event, I urge anyone who gets chance to see The Shining Levels in concert to do so as their live performance brings a further element of beauty and depth to the stunning creation that is The Gallows Pole.

Folk Horror Revival were honoured to have The Shining Levels answer a few of our queries …

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Folk Horror Revival: How did the collaboration with Ben Myers to produce a concept album inspired by his book The Gallows Pole come about?

The Shining Levels: The idea was first mentioned by Dan as a solution to me (Davey) whining about going through a creative void. It was a real light-bulb moment and the obvious thing was to create the album together which is exactly what we did once we had Ben’s permission and blessing to do so. He’d actually forgotten all about it and was genuinely shocked when I said it was nearly finished and could I get him to do a short piece of spoken word on it. Thankfully he really liked what we’d done and was happy to be associated with it. He was also very flattered that his book had inspired others to create their own work. Then we were then lucky enough to be taken on by our fantastic label Outre who did a great job of releasing a beautiful vinyl for us.

FHR: What is it about The Gallows Pole novel that you find particularly evocative and inspirational?

TSL: There is so much to delve into, the story of these poor people being able to stick it to a government that doesn’t care for them really resonated with us. There are so many defined characters with their own interesting storylines and there are several themes running through the book that really matter to people, like corruption, solidarity, treachery… I could go on. But when you add the thread of the supernatural, King David’s frightening visions of Stag Men and the alchemy of the coin replication it takes it to another level. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the way Ben writes and describes the landscape, it’s like another character,  as a songwriter it’s a gift to turn a landscape into a soundscape.

FHR:  Yourselves and Ben Myers hail from Durham (as incidentally do the founders of the Folk Horror Revival project); what is it about the county and / or city that you think inspires art of such a nature?

TSL: As I mentioned landscape is very important and we are lucky to have such beautiful surroundings here. From rich woodland to beautiful moorland and rolling hills, all mixed together. I’m a regular visitor to it all and I think you can feel its history coming up through your feet. Whether that is strolling the riverbanks in the city or moving further to the outskirts and hills, there are ghosts of our past right there. One day we’ll all be ghosts of it too so creating art out of that inspiration is very satisfying.

Not to forget the people, Durham has unique character and references. The city is very small so there are many cross connections and small degrees of separation. It’s a place with a full spectrum of characters to draw inspiration from.

FHR: Does your band name relate to the book ‘The Shining Levels’ by John Wyatt about his transition to rural life in the Lake District, or indeed the name applied to the lakes and tarns of Cumbria? Is this a book of any significance to you or did you come about the band name for a different reason?

TSL: Ben gave me a copy of that book about 20 years ago and I loved it.  We’d virtually finished the album before we arrived at our name. We were throwing names back and forth over text and email, between me and Dan and then myself and Ben and that one came up. I believe it was one of Ben’s ideas as I’d asked him for his thoughts and we immediately all agreed on that. The imagery it evokes and the fact it has a literary connection. It sounds bright, hopeful and grand to me. Ben gifted it to me twice.

FHR:  You recently performed live at the Hark event at Darlington Library which brought music and literature together as its theme and of course The Gallows Pole revolves around Ben’s novel; Are there any other books that you find of great inspiration or influence? Would you consider doing other albums pertaining to particular books?

TSL: I love the concept of art forms connecting and crossing over. Art inspiring art. I think we’re going to see more cross pollination in the future so it feels natural that we would follow up on the success of The Gallows Pole album with another literary connection which is what we are doing now.

Personally, I buy/receive more books than I have time to read which is ridiculous.  I’m a bit of a geek so my go to choice is generally sci – fi/fantasy fiction though I do read other genres and non – fiction too. I think music could be written to any book you like. That’s why we’re careful to use the term ‘Inspired by’ rather than suggest it’s a soundtrack.

FHR: What plans lie ahead for The Shining Levels?

TSL: In 2020 we plan on playing many more live events and will hopefully both finish and release our next album which we’re hard at work with now. Something different but it will still very definitely sound like us.

(A little birdy has chirped that The Shining Levels may be seen and heard at Folk Horror Revival’s Winter Ghosts event in Whitby in November … touchwood … keep watching this space …)

To listen to and buy a digital download of The Shining Levels – The Gallows Pole visit here – https://theshininglevels1.bandcamp.com/album/the-gallows-pole-ost

To purchase the album on vinyl –
www.piccadillyrecords.com/counter/product.php?pid=129015

or  www.normanrecords.com/records/175729-the-shining-levels-the-gallows-pole

Contact – theshininglevelsband@gmail.com
outredisque.com/the-shining-levels
Twitter
Facebook

https://i1.wp.com/images.thebubble.org.uk/ben-myers.jpg
Image © Kevin McGonnell

The Gallows Pole book is published by Bloomsbury and is available here and other on and offline bookshops.

Ben Myers website
Twitter

Contact – Ben Myers : For all literary enquiries please contact Jessica Woollard: jessicawoollard@davidhigham.co.uk

For all publicity enquiries (interviews, review copies, events) please contact Philippa Cotton at Bloomsbury Publishing: Philippa.cotton@bloomsbury.com

For all TV/radio/broadcast rights enquiries: clareisrael@davidhigham.co.uk

Also available …
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Ghostland: Review and Interview with Edward Parnell

Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country by Edward Parnell is a beautifully strange and important book. That someone had not previously wrote of a pilgrimage to the wandering grounds of some of Britain’s most significant authors of the supernatural (least not to my knowledge) seems unusual – it would seem a logical step that writers who have previously written about writers who have haunted the minds of others would walk in their footsteps to see what had indeed haunted their own imaginations. This void is filled by Edward Parnell’s Ghostland and how. This book is not merely a meandering biography of souls such as W.G. Sebald, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Alan Garner and other tellers of strange tales but is also a psychogeographic derive, a nature diary, memoir and journal of grief. For its observations on grieving and of nature (particularly birds) and references to literature there is a comparison to Helen MacDonald’s H for Hawk and indeed this book will likely be of interest to readers of ‘New Nature Writing’ and psychogeography as well as to those who have an interest in the ghostwriters that Parnell went in search of. As an exploration and cathartic endeavour of Parnell’s own grief,  Ghostland possesses a great power. His writing on the matter is subtle and is comparatively hardly mentioned really but its presence runs as an undercurrent throughout the entire book. It lends a new vantage point to his considerations of place and the personal lives of the writers whose storytelling have marked Britain as particularly spectral isles, but the horror and sadness of his own experiences adds a depth and poignancy to this book that is as beautiful as it is terrible in its invocation of memories and sorrow. From a personal note, I read this book at a time when the memories of my own mother’s illness and passing were again strong in my mind and also sadly at a time when several friends were experiencing loss or illness of their own, which of course was also highly present in my mind. So at times this book touched very deeply and sometimes brought pain – but that is grief. And though there is melancholia a’plenty in Ghostland, it is not a misery-sodden place in the slightest but a bittersweet, compelling, intriguing and touching journey and destination. What the late Simon Marsden invoked in his photographic studies of places, Edward Parnell has captured in words. An important, honest and beautiful work.

Folk Horror Revival is pleased to have put a few questions to Edward …

edward parnell

Folk Horror Revival: In writing Ghostland, did you always intend for it to be a grief journal?

Edward Parnell: At the start of 2017 I was keen to start exploring the ideas for a second novel that were starting to awaken in my head (my previous, The Listeners – a gothic story of family secrets set in rural Norfolk in 1940 – had come out in October 2014). With that in mind I visited Great Livermere, a village in the west Suffolk countryside that harbours a lost history but is most noticeable for the strange, ephemeral, mud-fringed mere that gives a name to the place. Livermere is also where the Victorian-born writer of ghost stories, Montague Rhodes James, spent his childhood; his father was the local rector. I’d long been a fan of James’s supernatural tales and half-fancied featuring the closed-off, stilted Cambridge don as a minor character in the story I was trying to flesh out. (It wouldn’t be the first time M. R. James had taken on such an afterlife – Penelope Fitzgerald’s 1990 novel The Gate of Angels features a version of MRJ in the form of the book’s Dr Matthews.)

On that day I wandered extensively, taking photos of James’s old house and St Peter’s graveyard. When I got home I wrote a piece about the place for my website. Some weeks later a commissioning editor at Harper Collins read it and emailed me to ask if I’d ever thought about writing a book on the subject of James and other writers of the weird and eerie. So I went down to London to meet him. We got on well, both sharing a love of trashy British horror movies from the 1960s and 70s – we discussed, for example, the zombie-biker flick Psychomania at length, a slice of kitsch that in the end didn’t make it onto the pages of Ghostland.

I went back to Norfolk and thought hard about whether I would like to write such a book – a book concerned with ghost stories and films and the places around Britain that fed into them. And I decided that I did. Because I’d grown up obsessed from a young age with the supernatural and horror. Like a lot of children born in the 1970s, my early years had been surrounded by morbid public information films and terrifying, offbeat TV programmes aimed at, but quite probably unsuitable for, our age group; without knowing it, I was part of what the Fortean Times has come to term the ‘haunted generation’.

I realised, however, that I only wanted to write about the subject if I could bring something of myself to the narrative. And when I started to do some proper thinking and research into who and where I’d want to explore, I realised that the locations I was considering were connected to my own family – a story which itself could be said to be somewhat haunted… Many of the writers I ended up delving into seemed also to have a wistful, troubled air about their lives; at any rate, these were the ones that most attracted me.

That’s broadly how Ghostland came about – morphing after that first meeting with my editor into a more personal and poignant exploration of my memories, revisiting barely remembered destinations we’d come to on long-ago family holidays. And, as I began to explore what M. R. James refers to as the ‘sequestered places’ of England, Scotland and Wales, the writing of the book became a way of reclaiming something that had been lost to me. A way of trying to give form to those half-glimpsed figures that otherwise languish in shadow on my father’s old Kodachrome slides.

So, although it’s a book about grief, I’d say really that it’s a book about memories, and how we have to not let those particular ghosts slip away, even when the very act of remembering is sometimes terribly painful. Because there’s something positive and healing in reconnecting with them.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/MRJames1900.jpg

(M.R. James)

FHR: Of all the ghost story writers you have written about, do you have a particular author or story you especially like? If so what is it about them that particularly grabs you?

EP: I suspect like most readers that I’m prone to fads where I become obsessed with a certain writer, probably for no discernible reason. But I do have a constant love for M. R. James’s stories, mainly for the way they evoke that very particular atmosphere of Victorian and Edwardian academia, as well as for the playfulness and chattiness of the way most of the stories are related to the reader.

Because James wasn’t prolific, his overall body of work remains so strong. There are other writers of the same era – like Algernon Blackwood or E. F. Benson, for instance, who wrote some wonderful stories, but also churned out a number of stories that aren’t particularly memorable. Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’, however, still might just be my favourite weird tale of all.

There are a couple of other writers of supernatural stories who I never tire of re-reading – Robert Aickman and Walter de la Mare. Because their stories are often far more elusive – much less straightforward – than the relatively simple, usually Medieval horrors of M. R. James (though some of his later tales do have much more of a tendency towards the ambiguous). As a writer, I find myself revisiting their work to try to discern the secret of the strange alchemy that makes it so beguiling. I still haven’t fathomed it.

https://cdn.britannica.com/18/30418-004-01598974/Algernon-Blackwood-1948.jpg
(Algernon Blackwood)

FHR: Are there any ghost stories that have not already been adapted to film, that you would especially like to see brought to the screen?

EP: I’d love to see an adaptation of William Hope Hodgson’s Galway-set masterpiece The House on the Borderland. Though perhaps there’s a reason it’s never been adapted… The first half of the novel with the ‘swine creatures’ and the story of this strange house in the middle of nowhere in the Irish countryside would probably be doable given a decent budget, but the psychedelic second half of the book with its astral journeys would be pretty hard to pull off, I suspect.

As a short one-off adaptation in the mould of the BBC’s 1970s A Ghost Story for Christmas strand then I think a story by a much lesser-known contemporary of M. R. James, Amyas Northcote, would work well – and be refreshing in that its protagonists are both women: Alice and Maggie, two sisters. ‘Brickett Bottom’ is the most well-known of Northcote’s stories (they all come from a solitary 1921 collection, In Ghostly Company). Separated from her more sensible sister, Alice becomes bewitched by the red-brick building and the polite, yet slightly odd, elderly couple she encounters tending its neat garden in a neighbouring wooded gully beneath the Downs. And then Alice is gone from that place – a kind of ominous Brigadoon that only manifests itself every so many years to lone young women traversing the little-used track through the tree-shaded glen. She has been spirited away, leaving her sister and father distraught. It’s an eerie, haunting tale that I could see taking on a wonderful Picnic at Hanging Rock-esque vibe on the screen.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/william_hope_hodgson.jpg

(William Hope Hodgson)
FHR: Through your own personal experiences, travels and research, have your own personal beliefs about ghosts or hauntings changed or developed in any way?

EP: I imagine that when I was a kid poring over stuff like The Usborne World of the Unknown Books that I definitely believed in ghosts. Though it’s hard to put myself exactly back into the mind of my younger self, at least in terms of what I did and didn’t accept as true in that particular moment. However, I do remember – I was probably around eight or nine – going with a friend down a local lane that he claimed was haunted, and I had this vague vision of a Victorian gentleman on a penny-farthing bicycle that I’m now certain was entirely a product of my overactive imagination; my friend didn’t see it.

As I grew older I became much more sceptical. Today I’d say that I don’t believe in ghosts, but equally that I don’t entirely not believe in them… In that regard my opinion probably isn’t too far removed from the answer to the question that M. R. James gave in the introduction to his Collected Ghost Stories: ‘Do I believe in ghosts? To which I answer that I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies me.’ Saying that, there are two (perhaps three) odd occurrences that I describe in Ghostland that I don’t have a convincing rational explanation for, though on balance I’d guess that the reasons behind them are probably more mundane than the conclusions it’s tempting to head towards.
FHR: Are there any places you have visited that strike you as having a particularly eerie or strange atmosphere or qualities?

EP: My editor described me at the Ghostland book launch as the least spooky person that he knows, and I don’t think I’m very susceptible to freaking myself out at places that might unnerve some people. I was in my local church choir as a boy, and after Sunday night services we used to mess around in the graveyard, which might have inoculated myself somewhat against the terrors that such places might induce in lots of others. In contrast, I have a couple of friends who claim to pick up odd sensations in certain buildings and places – like echoes of atrocities that might have happened there before – but I’m definitely at the opposite end of the radar.

Obviously though, many of the places that I visited in Ghostland did impress me with their atmosphere – whether that was for the solitude and loneliness of their aspect, the age of the building I was in (and all that associated, pressing history), the sublime sense of the natural world, or perhaps just a certain strange slant of light…
FHR: Are you currently working on or have any other books or projects planned? If so could you tell us something about that?

EP: I’m currently casting around trying to finesse a couple of possible ideas for a next narrative non-fiction book. I don’t think either are quite at the sharing stage yet! I don’t think I’m ever going to be a particularly prolific writer – I’m always amazed and slightly envious at other writers I talk to who as soon as they’ve finished one book have started the next; Ghostland was quite an emotionally exhausting book to write in places, so I’m not going to worry too much if I have a bit of a break before delving into the next project.

I would also like to write another novel – perhaps one where the supernatural is a factor – at some point in the not-too-distant future. We’ll see.

Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country is a work of narrative non-fiction was published in hardback by William Collins on 17 October 2019.

https://edwardparnell.com/

death 2 fade

 

Winter Ghosts ~ 2019 ~

Just to say a huge Thank You to Kt & Cobweb Mehers, Darren Charles, John Chadwick  – The Doorman, The Met Lounge & Ballroom, Esk Audio Ltd, The Ballroom at Hetty & Betty, George CromackSarah Caldwell Steele,  Peter Kennedy, Professor Barbara Ravelhofer (and team),  Al Ridenour and Lauren from LA Krampus Run, Elaine Edmunds and Laurence Mitchell for The Whitby Krampusae and The Threshold Art Exhibition, Chris Lambert,   Bob Fischer, Nigel, Kev Oyston of The Soulless Party, Burd Ellen, Big Hogg, Unearthing Forgotten Horrors, Hombre Verdąd, Scarlett Amaris, Melissa Saint-Hilaire, Gary Parsons,  Mark Goodall,  George Firth and finally our Founder The Art of Andy Paciorek

Big Thanks also to everyone who braved the cold nights, sea fret, Transylvanian vampires, gytrashes, amorous seamen, Padfoot, Bearded Fred and other perils to attend Winter Ghosts.
Hope you enjoyed it.

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Coming Soon … Corpse Roads: Revised Edition

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Wyrd Harvest Press are pleased to announce … A Revised Edition of our seminal poetry and photography anthology Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads will be available soon.

Featuring extra poetry, additional photography, new cover artwork and a much-improved design, this fantastic collection just got even better …

Keep watching the spirit paths and our Folk Horror Revival / Wyrd Harvest Press media for more details.

💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀💀

douglas lane gibbets hill