After having to cancel last year’s Winter Ghosts due to our old friend Covid-19 we are pulling out all the stops to ensure this year’s event is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears. This year’s event features the usual selection of talks and music as well as some pretty exciting performances, that we’re keeping a little bit under wraps for the time being, as well as a classic film that we will be unveiling in the very near future.
As many of us are based in wyrm country, up in the North East we have chosen a cryptid theme to this year’s event. So, expect to be regaled with tales of dragons, serpents and sea monsters.
Anyway, without further ado, here is our first lineup announcement. We are keeping all the juicy details close to our chests for now, but we wanted to share with you the supremely talented individuals who will be set to entertain you across the weekend of November 27th and 28th.
First up on the speaker list is an old friend of Folk Horror Revival, Dr Sarah Caldwell Steele – proprietor of The Ebor Jetworks, Gemologist, jewellery designer and expert in all things Jet. Sarah will be presenting a fascinating new talk for us.
The Shrouded Republic is a performance piece inspired by Rev. Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle author of “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies: A Study in Folklore and Psychical Research” and brings together once again the team that were responsible for the rather wonderful Leasungspell. Led by poet and author Bob Beagrie this promises to be a fascinating piece that needs to be seen.
Up next is Dr David. R Rowe or “Doc” for short. Doc Rowe is an archivist and collector, who has been recording and filming cultural tradition and vernacular arts, folklore, song and dance of Britain and Ireland since the 1960s. His collection currently represents the most extensive collection of audio and video material to celebrate the variety and richness of traditional folk culture of these islands. We look forward to revealing more details about his talk.
We are also incredibly proud to announce that Richard Freeman – Cryptozoologist, writer of both fiction and non-fiction and one of the world’s leading experts on all things Dragon will be joining us to present a talk on what lies behind the dragon legends and is there a possibility that these were more than just folklore?
We are also joined by The Hazelsong Theatre, whose work is rooted in the songs, stories, myth and folklore of the North and the Borderlands and the many cultures that have made the North their home. Hazelsong creates performances which bring together music, storytelling, puppetry and theatre borne of the knowledge that these stories and songs are very much alive. For us they will be presenting a talk on John McKinnell with a vaguely tame wyrm or two in attendance.
Evening Music Lineup
Our evening musical lineup is also very strong and features some of the most interesting performers working within the field today.
Folk Horror Revival are really pleased to be working with one of the brightest new lights in electronic music, Everyday Dust. Everyday Dust is a producer based in Scotland, who uses analogue synthesizers, effects and tape machines to create his own unique narrative-driven music. His most recent album for Castles in Space records, Black Water is a deeply immersive electronic album of sonar explorations which celebrate the ongoing search for the creature at large in Loch Ness. We think you’ll love what could well turn out to be his debut live performance.
Nathalie Stern and the Noizechoir are local legends in the Newcastle music scene, mixing drones and lush harmonised vocals Nathalie and the choir perform music to invoke elder gods to. Why not have a listen to last year’s Nerves and Skin album by Nathalie, that should give you an idea of what to expect from what is a hotly anticipated set.
Our final musical act are darkwave and industrial legends Attrition, after more than 40 years of producing interesting dark electronic music they remain as strong as ever, continually adapting and honing their sound, the group led by Martin Bowes remain at the cutting edge of modern day electronica and remain as influential on today’s artists as they ever have. We are very excited to see what they have in store for us at Winter Ghosts.
Ok that’s almost it, apart from one more artist, a super-secret film screening that we will be announcing in the not-too-distant future, and the relaxed Sunday lineup that is also coming soon. I hope that has whetted your appetite for this year’s Winter Ghosts. Tickets are available now from our Eventbrite page below priced at a modest £13 for the whole weekend. We hope to see many of you there.
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.
Apologies for the delay in publishing this, our second Winter Ghosts announcement, but we have been very busy bringing together a lineup that will hopefully whet the appetite of Revivalists everywhere. Anyway, without further ado here are our latest additions to the lineup.
The Soulless Party
Since 2013 Chris Lambert and Kev Oyston of the Soulless Party have worked tirelessly to bring the mysteries and secrets of the Black Meadow into the public eye. As everyone knows The Black Meadow is located just a few miles from Whitby on the outskirts of the village of Sleights. A strange place where, it is said, that if the mist rises a village will appear. This a place populated by tales of horse-men, meadow hags, land spheres, rag and bone men, maidens of mist, strange rituals and unexplained phenomena. It is no coincidence that this is where the MOD chose to put one of their bases – RAF Fylingdales whose strange Golf Ball Radomes dominated the landscape until the early 1990’s. The Soulless Party will launch their new collection of findings at Whitby Ghosts as they share a haunting mix of music, song, stories, images and interviews. This will be a hauntological experience in which folk horror meets urban legend through the medium of electronica tinged memory and dream.
Find out more about Black Meadow and The Soulless Party by visiting:
Sarah Steele graduated from Durham with a Degree in Geology in1992. She has since qualified as a professional gemmologist and was awarded Fellowship of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain in 2013, and subsequently Diamond Fellowship in 2015. Sarah is also a member of the International Accredited Gemologists Association and is a regularly asked to speak and deliver workshops at gem conferences around the world. She is also a freelance writer for Gems and Jewellery Magazine. Sarah’s particular expertise lies in the identification of natural thermoset and thermoplastic materials used in C19th jewellery, and she is considered the world’s leading authority on the Jet Group of gemstones. Her research collaborations are challenging our previous perceptions of the material jet. Sarah will return to Durham university in October to continue her postgraduate research on the subject. We are very pleased to have Sarah with us in December to give us a rather fascinating talk on her key topic of interest, Whitby Jet. Sarah is the only scientist currently working in the field of Jet research, and as such it is a prilevege for us at Folk Horror Revival to have her on board to present especially for us a talk about her research and the cultural and historic importance of this most beautiful and tactile gem.
Barbara Ravelhofer is Professor in English Literature at Durham University and a Research Associate of the Centre for History and Economics, Cambridge. After a degree in English and German Literature from the University of Munich she continued for her Ph.D. at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College. She has also held Visiting Fellowships at the Universities of Bologna, Princeton, and Harvard.
Professor Ravelhofer is co-director of the Records of Early English Drama North-East, which is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The key aim of the organisation is to find, catalogue and edit all records pertaining to music, spectacle, ceremony, dance and theatre in England’s North-East from about the ninth century to 1642. The project is directed by Prof. Ravelhofer in collaboration with Prof. John McKinnell and the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS) Durham, the Cathedral and Durham’s World Heritage Site. Prof. Ravelhofer will be speaking to us about the history and folklore behind this wonderful tradition, and whilst the good professor herself is a big enough coup she will also be accompanied by an actual Mari Lwyd who will be loose in the auditorium.
For further details about the Records of Early English Drama North-East please see the project website.
Peter Kennedy is a writer born in a North-East fishing village, who as a child was told a story about how the plague moved up country in the 17th century. In it, the fishermen decided that the best way to stave off the pestilence would be to throw fishing nets over the archway leading to the headland. This legend was the inspiration for Peter to write his story Behind the Net Curtain, which would become the opening chapter of his debut novel Fishermen’s Tales. Inspired by that story Peter went off on a quest for more northern folklore that celebrated its maritime heritage. He trawled the seas, combed the beaches and crafted a collection of dark fables, from sea coal and rumour, and driftwood and bullshit.
The stories compiled in Fishermen’s Tales are part of an older oral tradition that were shared around campfires and passed down through generations. In reference to the book Peter says he is “trying to reclaim and romanticise the working class heritage that I came from. I read at a poetry club one night and one of the other performers said ‘this guy’s brought his own mythology’. I thought, ‘yeah, he gets it!” Over time the novel became a project that included musical accompaniment and theatrical performance, which is what Peter will be bringing to Winter Ghosts this December.
That’s it for this announcement, they join Burd Ellen, Al Ridenour, Elaine Edmunds, Laurence Mitchell and George Cromack on this year’s lineup. We still have one or two acts to announce and our programme of short films to come, but we’ll leave those for another time. Tickets are available now, priced at the princely sum of £13 sterling for the full day or just £7 for the evening session, these are available from Eventbrite at the link below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
We took so many photographs at the Whitby Krampus Run on Saturday that we have decided to post some of our favourites to the blog for you to enjoy. The first couple of posts feature Andy Paciorek’s shots from the day and this post features some of my own shots. Many thanks to Elaine and Louse of Decadent Drawing for putting the whole thing together. We had a blast and we hope to see many of you there next year.
All photographs in this blogpost copyright 2018 by Darren Charles
In August 2017 via the pages of Fortean Times Magazine I first heard of the film Holy Terrors created by Mark Goodall and Julian Butler much to my delight and anxiety. Not only was it a movie featuring 6 weird tales of Arthur Machen but it was made in Whitby! Machen and Whitby – two things I cherish very dearly so I was very eager to see this film but also worried that it might be awful. (Those worries were happily unnecessary.)
Also at the time we at Folk Horror Revival were organising the Winter Ghosts event for the following December in Whitby. I mentioned to our Events Manager, Darren Charles how the film could’ve been a good addition to our bill if it were not already fully booked. Then much to my surprise and delight, I received an email from the film director Mark Goodall, who had heard about our event and was wondering if we would like to screen Holy Terrors there. Would we?? Is a bear Catholic? Does the pope … Yes! We were interested!
Some jiggling around of schedule and the film was added to the bill and was indeed an atmospheric and beautiful end-piece to the event.
Before discussing the film further, just a short resume of Arthur Machen, for although his light is belatedly beginning to shine brighter, outside of certain horror fiction circles, he is still something of an unknown quantity to many folk.
Born in Wales in 1863, Machen’s career in weird fiction blossomed out of the Symbolist and Aesthetic fin de siècle of the 1890’s. Like a number of other artists and writers of the era, Machen’s work was a curious brew of spirituality and decadence. Blending paganism and Christianity both in his work and in his own personal mysticism, born the son of an Anglican minister he was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but did not renounce his Christian faith. He therefore, in a sense, has an air of the notion of Celtic or Insular Christianity, whereby it has been suggested that some of the earliest priests of the Celtic Church were possibly former druids some of whom preferred to preach in the outside cathedral of nature than within a church; and that numerous acolytes of which were ascetic hermits that lived in remote quiet places. Oddly enough it is often claimed that the Synod of Whitby marked the official end of the Celtic Church. (The Synod of Whitby (664 A.D.) was a Northumbrian synod where King Oswiu of Northumbria ruled that his kingdom would calculate Easter and observe the monastic tonsure according to the customs of Rome, rather than the customs practised by Irish monks at Iona and its satellite institutions. The synod was summoned at Hilda’s double monastery of Streonshalh (Streanæshalch), later called Whitby Abbey.)
Machen was one of the early masters of weird fiction, particularly a faction of which, with his own use of folklore (notably the use of fairies not in their tiny twee Disneyfied forms but as the strange human sized people of old lore) and spirit of place, may now frequently be referred to as Folk Horror.
Those who cite Machen as an inspiration or to express enthusiasm for his work include figures as diverse as the writers H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Stephen King, Ramsay Campbell, Alan Moore, Iain Sinclair and Sir John Betjeman through to musicians such as Mark E. Smith, Belbury Poly and Current 93. Notorious occultist Aleister Crowley was a fan of Machen’s work but reputedly it was far from being reciprocated, with Machen having a personal dislike for the man.
So how would Machen’s subtle strange tales translate to screen?
Holy Terrors slowly fades in to scenes of an empty shore and a desolate man. The hauntological soundscape of composer David Chatton Barker (Folklore Tapes) leads us to the body of a man beneath a bridge. Thus opens ‘A Cosy Room’ the first of the 6-weird tales of Arthur Machen. (Indeed, I can vouch it is a cosy room and one not devoid of otherly presence either as I recognised it straight away as a room that I myself have spent several nights in. In fact, after viewing Holy Terrors for the first time at Winter Ghosts, it was the room that I would return to sleep in that very night. The filming location for this segment was The Stoker Room of the cool and quirky hotel La Rosa in Whitby’s East Terrace. Overlooking a great view of Whitby Abbey and the harbour, the wonderful building-sized cabinet of curiosities that is La Rosa hotel has a plaque outside marking it as a place that author Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll of Wonderland fame amongst other things, stayed at several times. The Angel Hotel in New Quay Road is also suitably plaque-bearing as a residence where Machen stayed.)
The opening wordless narrative shot in atmospheric black and white marked in me the feeling that I was really going to like this film, but also mark it as a film that would not appeal to viewers who only like their horror visceral, fast and with a simple plot and conclusion. Like the tales of Machen, this film adaptation is steady, subtle, atmospheric and most often strange rather than horrific. Some of the tales do not build up to a definite explanation and conclusion but remain more as captures of a strange moment or sequence, rather like many reported real life anomalous experiences.
So, it is safe to say from the outset I could see that Holy Terrors will not be to all tastes but is deliciously to mine.
We are then invited to taste The White Powder of the second tale. This is one of the Machen stories to have a more typical sense of narrative in that it follows an event to a solid culmination. It is a tale of both dread and decadence and has both the air of M.R. James ‘The Ash Tree and Kafka’s Metamorphosis but still remains essentially a Machen tale.
(an amusing synchronicity with the screening at Winter Ghosts was that the imbiber of the said White Powder of the film develops an odd black spot on his hand as an early symptom that something is amiss. The black spot very much resembled the black spot on the audience members’ hands that bore the blurred remains of the mark of the Folk Horror Revival sun symbol hand-stamp.)
The White Powder is a solidly told tale and it really brings forth the power of Goodall’s film-making. Relying strongly on an audio narration that bonds Machen completely with these new dreaming of his creations, the character that is etched within the faces, particularly the eyes of the actors in this film is a strong motif, that in its use becomes somewhat hypnotic. Another film-making skill that Goodall employs to great effect is making Whitby timeless; the use of soft focus, careful framing and light bleached backgrounds removes any trappings of modern life such as shopfront banners and so forth.
The third tale is one of Machen’s most famous, not because it is his best work or most identifiable of his style but because it has been noted as being the possible origin of the Angels of Mons legend. At the Battle of Mons on the French borders in 1914, it was claimed and published in the British Spiritualist magazine in 1915, that British soldiers were protected in battle by a host of Heavenly angels. However, in 1914 The Evening News newspaper had published Machen’s story The Bowmen, in which a battalion headed by Saint George intervenes in a conflict between World War I British and German forces.
Out of all the stories within the Holy Terrors film The Bowmen could have been the most problematic for a low budget production. By the effective use of old newsreels of wartime footage, Goodall skillfully conquers this problem and overall the artistry of the entire film does not give the slightest impression at all that it is not studio funded. The photography, editing and production is on the contrary not only skillful but beautiful.
The fourth segment of the portmanteau initiates us into the Ritual. It is however not a ritual of hooded or sky-clad figures in the depths of a wood or desecrated church but that of a playground game of schoolchildren. The simplicity of this has a deeply unsettling nature and again the actors of Holy Terrors deserve applause. To act without words uttered needs to tread a line between expression, subtlety and communicative skill lest it become exaggerated like a mime performance. Again, we find great casting is at work here, for the children have a look to them that would not see their faces out of place in antique Victorian or Edwardian photography.
The next tale, The Happy Children remains with the theme of strange youths. Unlike those in Ritual, there is a question arises as to whether these children are alive or even of human nature – a Celtic belief about Fairies is that they are spirits of the dead and the Happy Children indeed have an otherworldly sense to them. This segment again effectively uses the townscape of Whitby as a strange and beautiful filming location, and with good cause for this tale is set in Whitby. It is renamed Banwick but the tale is undeniably inspired by Machen’s visit to Whitby on a journalistic task to report on the town’s Jet industry. The story reveals Machen’s mystical sensitivity both of place and to the horrors of war. Whitby and other towns on the North Eastern English coast had been subject to wartime attack by the Germans and Machen’s reference also to the biblical slaughter of the innocents undertaken by Herod in his efforts to eliminate the infant messiah.
A phrase within the story describing Whitby as The Town of Magical Dream is a perfect description (it also is aptly used by Carolyn Waudby for her excellent essay on Whitby). The night after Winter Ghosts I walked Whitby’s streets and the pier and the 199 steps to Saint Mary’s Church and the Abbey, and it was not mere suggestion but there was a palpable otherness to the coastal town darkened save for the twinkling of Christmas lights. There was a definite presence, not unwelcoming for the most part save for the pool behind the abbey where I felt that I was not meant to proceed further so I didn’t and for a strange unsettling sensation in the Screaming Tunnel of the Khyber Pass. I know that I am far from being the only one to sense something strange in Whitby’s thin sea fretted air – Machen sensed the liminality as did Bram Stoker and Mark Goodall captures it in Holy Terrors as do Michael Smith and Maxy Neil Bianco in their atmospheric and poetic short film ~ Stranger on the Shore: Hounds of Whitby.
Francis Frith: The Peart family. Whitby 1891
Holy Terrors concludes with Midsummer and for the first time, the effective ambient monochrome palette is replaced with colour; but this is the colour of hand-tinted antique photographs, the faded pastels of half-remembered dreams and half-forgotten memories. It is a fitting place to leave the darkness and step into the light, but minding always that they are integral to and part of each other.
And on this note we will depart this house of souls, with the conclusion that whilst Holy Terrors may not suit the constitution of all, it is a film that has found its way under my skin and into my head and heart and for it its understated beauty and mesmeric invocations, it is something I feel that has touched me deeply. When I first read about this film with my mingled feelings of trepidation and tantalisation, I happily know now that I had nothing to worry about but happily a fair bit perhaps to fear.
A final reminder that the Hark: Alternative Yule Art Exhibition at the Stuart Duckett Design Store in Whitby runs until 2nd January 2018
Last chance to see this collective of great art in the beautiful coastal town of Whitby this season.
Features such talents as ~
Julia Jeffrey – Stonemaiden Art
Erin Sorrey – Glass Coffin
Drawing in Dark
& more (apologies to those not named – rush to get this final hark posted)