CULTure Babylon and Folk Horror Revival present a one-day Midsummer celebration of the spirits and folklore of the East Anglian landscape in fact and fiction. Including talks, live music, live readings of stories of the supernatural and a rare screening of 70s Folk Horror Classic, Penda’s Fen. We felt it was about time we told you a little more about this wonderful event, and the rather fabulous speakers we have lined up for you.
Summer Spirits takes place 2pm – 10pm Saturday June 22 at the Space Upstairs – the Priory Centre, Downham Market, Norfolk. Tickets priced £15.
Louise Hodgson: Deep into the Land – the Beauty and the Terror
Louise Hodgson, has spent most of her life in areas of natural beauty.
She has taught classes at a local College on ‘Landscape and Spirituality’ and given workshops on both the Earth Mysteries and Shamanism.
We are very pleased that Louise will be bringing her talk sharing her fascination with the hidden landscape and exploring some of her own experiences of both light and dark sides of connecting with the landscape.
Dr Francis Young: Bogie Tales of East Anglia
Dr Young, an expert on the history of catholicism in East Anglia will be talking about his most recent publication – a reprinted edition of the earliest book devoted to East Anglian folklore, Bogie Tales of East Anglia (1891) by Margaret Helen James. Bogie Tales is an important folklore collection and until now has been so rare that copies have been known to sell online for over £1,500.
Ed Parnell: Reading from ‘Ghostland’
Edward Parnell has had a lifelong interest in ghost stories and horror films. His first book, the gothic, WWII-set The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. His new narrative non-fiction book, Ghostland, will be published by William Collins in October 2019. In it he examines the haunted landscapes that inspired writers including M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood and William Hope Hodgson – as well as trying to lay to rest his own haunted past.
Christine Pike: Live readings of tales of the supernatural and macabre
Christine is a lifelong fan of Gothic fiction and is the inspiration behind Lady Chillers – a touring project created to revive the works of forgotten women authors of ghost stories in atmospheric performed readings. Christine will be reading three stories, including one from Norfolk’s own Elizabeth Coulson.
Sharron Kraus is a singer of folk songs, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose solo work and collaborations offer a dark and subversive take on traditional music. As well as drawing on the folk traditions of England and Appalachia, her music is influenced by gothic literature, surrealism, myth and magick. Sharron will be performing two live acoustic sets for us.
FILM: Penda’s Fen (1974) Writer: David Rudkin Dir. Alan Clarke
Set against the backdrop of the Malvern Hills, Penda’s Fen has become a classic of Folk Horror television. An adolescent parson’s son must question everything he believes and holds true: his religion, his sexuality, his family, in order to grow and develop into an adult. Angels, Edward Elgar and King Penda himself all make appearances in this made-for-television drama, which after 45 years remains powerful and challenging.
Tickets for this wonderful event are priced at just £15.00 per person.
Kit Lewis Interview
We also thought it was high time we had a chat with Kit Lewis, head honcho at CULTure Babylon and the driving force behind Summer Spirits. Kit very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about Summer Spirits, CULTure Babylon, his other event Fear in the Fens and Folk Horror in general.
1.Can you tell our readers a little bit about CULTure Babylon, what it’s aims are and how it all came about?
CULTure Babylon is an arts organisation that aims to put the CULT into culture – we provide events based around cult film and other media combined with leading speakers on related subjects.
People seem to find something very satisfying about this combination of information and pure entertainment.
2. Summer Spirits – Shadows on the Fen is a new event that is taking place June 22nd in Downham Market, Can you tell us a little bit about the event and those involved?
This is going to be a different kind of event to some that we’ve put on, as it is going to have such a wide variety of entertainment, from live readings of ghost stories to film, and from book readings to acoustic music. Throughout the day, there will be something different happening all the time.
We’ve got some great speakers:
We are very pleased that Louise Hodgson,will be bringing her talk Deep into the Land – the Beauty and the Terror in which she shares her fascination with the hidden landscape and explores some of her own experiences of both light and dark sides of connecting with the landscape.
Dr Francis Young will be talking about his most recent publication – a reprinted edition of the earliest book devoted to East Anglian folklore, Bogie Tales of East Anglia (1891) by Margaret Helen James.
Bogie Tales is an important folklore collection which had almost entirely disappeared from view. Very few copies survive, and the book is so rare that copies have been known to sell online for over £1,500.
Ed Parnell will be reading from his book, ’Ghostland’– a narrative non-fiction book about how the British landscape has influenced various writers, filmmakers and artists whose work deals with the weird and the eerie.
We’ll also have live performance:
Christine Pike is a lifelong fan of Gothic fiction and is the inspiration behind Lady Chillers – a touring project created to revive the works of forgotten women authors of ghost stories in atmospheric performed readings.She will be reading stories set in summer – that have a winter chill about them.
Sharron Kraus is a singer of folk songs, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose solo work and collaborations offer a dark and subversive take on traditional music. As well as drawing on the folk traditions of England and Appalachia, her music is influenced by gothic literature, surrealism, myth and magick. Sharron will be providing two short sets for us during the day.
3. Summer Spirits is billed as a celebration of East Anglian landscape in folklore, fact and fiction, can you tell us a little bit about some of the foklore that is local to the area?
Like a lot of very rural areas, Christianity came to Norfolk quite late, so the ‘old ways’ remain very much part of the culture here. The most notable legend is teh giant balck dog with red eyes called Black Shuck, which can either be an omen of death, or a protector of those out on the fens at night, depending on which stories you listen to.
This was also where Matthew Hopkins did a lot of his work, and there is a lot of history around the witch trials in the region too.
4. You are screening the Alan Clarke classic Penda’s Fen, one of the true Folk Horror masterpieces of UK 70s TV. Do you think that modern Folk Horror films can stand the test of time in the same way something like Penda’s Fen, Red Shift or The Stone Tape can?
Time will tell… in my experience of cult films, it’s often the least popular film of its day that goes on to gain a lasting audience.If you think of a film like Psychomania (1973), which was considered so poor at the time, that George Sanders is said to have killed himself after seeing a preview – that’s a film that gets a lot of love now.
5. Can I ask you how you got into organising events of this nature?
My wife was working in an art gallery that had a pop-up cinema kit for hire.
I hired it for the evening, screened my favourite film, Night of the Demon (1957) and asked Tony Earnshaw (who wrote the definitive book on the film) to come and talk about it…
We got around 30 people to turn up for that, and I just about broke even.
I basically wanted to put on the kind of events that I’d like to go to (but nobody did)… I’m now in my fourth year of running a three-day festival!
6. Fear in the Fens has become something of a favourite weekend in the Folk Horror calendar and this years looks like being no exception with a marvellous lineup taking shape. Do you think Summer Spirits has the potential to become another key event like this?
I hope so. Fear in the Fens takes up a lot of time and energy, so I can’t put on as many small events as I’d like, so last May we put on ‘Ruined Childhood’ a celebration of children’s television of the 70s, which was great.
There’s definitely a vacant slot for a summer event for CULTure Babylon, and it would be great if Summer Spirits could become a regular thing.
7. One question we always like to ask is how would you define Folk Horror?
To me Folk Horror is about the notion that nature is sentient – and does not wish us well. I’ve often been in the countryside and had an unsettling sense that, despite the landscape being aesthetically pleasing and the environment itself not hazardous, it was hostile. There was a pretty woods on the River Tamar near where my sister lived in Devon. I felt that hostility there and later learned it had been the scene of number of unpleasant incidents…
That to me is folk horror, a sense of place, and a feeling of dread.
Summer Spirits takes place 2pm – 10pm Saturday June 22 at the Space Upstairs – the Priory Centre, Downham Market, Norfolk. Tickets are priced £15.