Two Weeks On

Well, it is now three weeks since ‘A Fiend in the Furrows’ and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our speakers and delegates for joining us in Belfast and making all our hard work worthwhile. The conference was a hectic but rewarding three days of papers, performances and screenings. We are incredibly grateful for all the kind words from everyone who made it there and the wellwishes from those who could not.

After we have all had a well-earned break we look forward to doing much more to celebrate and explore Folk Horror. Watch this space.

In the meantime, here is a Storify of all the Twitter activity we enjoyed during the conference!

 

Evening Entertainment

menagerie

If you are around after the conference on the evening of Sunday 21st September, one of our speakers/performers will be playing the Menagerie Bar in in Belfast. Sharron Kraus, a celebrated English folkmusician, will be supported by Catherine Hatt and Raising Holy Sparks.

 

Sharron Kraus

Heralded as one of the strongest voices in contemporary folk music, singer, musician and songwriter Sharron Kraus recasts centuries of pastoral tradition into uniquely spectral tales of tales of twilit secrets, dark lusts and rootless souls.

An alchemical writer and mesmeric performer, critics have hailed Sharron’s “wondrously dark creativity” (AllMusic) and describe her as the “genuine heiress to the UK folk ancestry… with a sparkling clear voice that can sound as ancient and elemental as rain, stone, or soil” (Pitchfork).

Outside of her 12-year solo career she has collaborated with Espers’ Meg Baird and Helena Espvall, United Bible Studies and the Iditarod, as well as touring with Fursaxa and James Blackshaw.

 

Catherine Hatt

Wyrd miniatures from the Belfast-based poet and singer-songwriter, refracting folk idioms through an inimitably singular worldview and style.

“A unique voice that manages to combine sweetness with vulnerability” (Michael Callaghan).

 

Raising Holy Sparks

Haunted drone through a haze of oneiric folk from lynchpin of the Irish experimental/freak underground scene David Colohan (United Bible Studies, Agitated Radio Pilot).

“The soundtrack to a thousand journeys, music as emotive and unique as this should not be neglected” (Deep Water Acres).

 

Also featuring a backdrop of selected folk horror visuals. 

Admission £5

5pm – 9pm, Sunday 21st September

The Menagerie, University St, Belfast

 

For more information, see the Facebook event.

 

 

Media Folk

We’ve been attracting quite a lot of press attention lately. Last week, Culture Northern Ireland ran a profile of the conference, featuring an interview with organisers Eamon and Craig. You can read John Higgins’ piece here.

And last Saturday we were surprised but delighted to find ourselves featured in The Guardian‘s rundown of ‘This week’s film events’, alongside the BFI’s Jim Jarmusch retrospective, the Dunoon Film Festival and the release of Tony Benn: Will and Testament!

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There are a few more exciting press features in the offing, so watch this space…

 

 

Fiendish Screenings!

The Queen’s Film Theatre‘s programme for September is now available and it includes listings for the exciting series of screenings we have planned as part of ‘A Fiend in the Furrows’. Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and Tigon’s The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) will be screened in the weekends leading up to the conference, while Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) and a double bill of 1970s television, Red Shift (1978) and The Ash Tree (1975) are showing over the conference weekend.

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QUATERMASS AND THE PIT

SAT 6 SEP DIR: ROY WARD BAKER UK 1967 Ÿ 1 HR 33 MINS

ŸHORROR/SF Ÿ CAST: ANDREW KEIR, BARBARA SHELLEY, JAMES DONALD

In Nigel Kneale’s third Hammer adventure for Prof. Bernard Quatermass, the streets of modern London are haunted by an ancient evil. The discovery of five million year old fossilized hominids and a Martian spacecraft during the excavation of Hobbs End underground station reactivates the spectral apparitions of local folklore.

THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW

SAT 13 SEP DIR: PIERS HAGGARDŸ UK 1971 Ÿ 1 HR 32 MINS

ŸHORROR Ÿ CAST: PATRICK WYMARK, LINDA HAYDEN, BARRY ANDREWS

In 17th century England, a ploughman turns up remains of a fiend in the furrows, reviving forgotten horrors and old superstitions, as the devil himself regenerates his skin on the bodies of local children. The rural landscapes, bleak in winter and blossoming in spring, are beautifully photographed by Dick Bush.

VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS

FRI 19 SEP DIR: JAROMIL JIREŠ CZECHOSLOVAKIA 1970 Ÿ 1 HR 13 MINS

ŸFANTASY/DRAMA Ÿ CAST: JAROSLAVA SCHALLEROVÀ, HELENA ANYŽKOVÀ, PETR KOPŘIVA

Jaromil Jireš was a key figure of the legendary Czech New Wave. The cultural revival of the mid-60’s witnessed a resurgence of interest in Gothic and fairy tale literature of the 1930’s avant-garde. Jireš 1970 film, made two years after the Soviet suppression of the ‘Prague Spring’, is an adaptation of Vítězslav Nezval’s surrealist novel. The dreamlike narrative tells of teenage Valerie’s fantastical progression to adulthood and her recurring encounters with magical beings, witches, vampires, and the living dead, alongside puritanical authority figures. The cinematography, art direction, and Luboš Fišer soundtrack create a potent evocation of lost innocence.

RED SHIFT

SUN 21 SEP DIR: JOHN MACKENZIE UK 1978 Ÿ 1 HR 15 MINS

ŸDRAMA Ÿ CAST: STEPHEN PETCHER, LESLEY DUNLOP, KEN HUTCHISON

Alan Garner’s adaptation of his complex 1973 novel for the BBC’s Play for Today is set in Mow Cop, Cheshire in three different time periods. A stone artifact is the trigger for the cyclical repetition of events on the site, forming an emotional correspondence between moments in time and space.

THE ASH TREE

SUN 21 SEP DIR: LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK UK 1975 Ÿ 32 MINS

ŸHORROR/DRAMA Ÿ CAST: EDWARD PETHERBRIDGE, BARBARA EWING, LALLA WARD

M.R. James’s short story was adapted by David Rudkin (Penda’s Fen) for the BBC series A Ghost Story for Christmas. The skillfully interweaving narrative relates the powerful influence of a local witch on two generations of the Fell family, as natural cycles of death and rebirth are contaminated by murrain.

Download the full QFT September programme here.

 

 

Turning Folk Horror up to 11

The author Adrian Bott got in touch with us on Twitter the other day and in the course of our illuminating discussion he brought this strange creation to our attention:

Pookiesnackenburger were formed in Brighton in the early 1980s, specialising in a flamboyant and theatrical take on a variety of popular musical genres. They would later morph into The Yes/No People, who in turn would give the world Stomp, the band/show who make innovative percussive use of everyday items and enjoyed worldwide success in the early 1990s. In between, they managed to secure an eponymous series on Channel 4 in its early days, lovingly satirising a different genre of music every week. The film above, Hell Bent (1985), is one such episode, concerning a fictitious heavy metal band called Iron Lung who attempt to summon Satan by recording an ancient canticle in a studio located in a converted church. While not all that funny for a comedy, the music is pretty damned good, with takes on both metal and folk that illustrate a knowledge of and love for the genres. In this way it bears comparison with Christopher Guest’s, Michael McKean’s and Harry Shearer’s twin musical identities as Spın̈al Tap and The Folksmen. Indeed, like This is Spın̈al Tap (1984), Pookiesnackenburger’s exploits take great fun in parodying heavy metal’s fascination with both paganism and folkmusic.

Central to the episode is a visit by Iron Lung to the local pub, where they are greeted by a brilliant homage to The Wicker Man. Unlike many ‘humorous’ nods to the tradition, this performance is not a twee ‘hey nonny non’ approximation of folkmusic but an accomplished song, complete with dancing by the Broughton and District Morris Dancers. Like Paul Giovanni’s and Magnet’s music for The Wicker Man, ‘Green Man and Corn Dolly’  is bawdy and earthy in a way that is entirely in keeping with the tradition.  As Adrian pointed out, the song and the film are notable for pitting folk paganism against the band’s Satanism, rather than equating the two in opposition to Christianity. A surprisingly subtle touch in what is otherwise an entertainingly hammy half-hour of folk horror television.

 

 

Green and Pleasant Land

The trailer for E4′s new series Glue looks very interesting…

A murder mystery set in a dark and sexy vision of the modern English countryside, the series may not be full on folk horror, but does seem to bear some of the hallmarks of the genre. Firstly, the concept of a crime thriller being used as a pretext for exploring unsavoury and even terrifying aspects of the countryside and by extension the rural/urban divide in modern society is pure Wicker Man, a conceit also recently explored in the BBC’s Mayday (2013) and HBO’s brilliant True Detective (2014). Secondly, as a series aimed at a teenage/young adult audience, Glue is at once typical of most E4 original programming (which is usually rather good) and reminiscent of the terrifying fare offered to younger viewers by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 in the 1970s and 1980s, much of which falls squarely in the folk horror category.

In the press release, writer Jack Thorne (Skins [2007-2013], This is England [2010-], The Fades [2011]), explains the inspiration behind the show:

“I grew up in Newbury and was constantly fascinated by life around the stables. In an age where the British countryside feels like its [sic] rotting through disrepair and no-one cares, we want to tell a story about ambition, hope, darkness and anarchy”.

Producers Joel Wilson and Jamie Campbell, meanwhile, argue:

“British drama often focuses on urban environments and the countryside tends to get neglected. The modern countryside is complex, exciting and rarely portrayed the way we’re going to show it. Glue should scare the shit out of anyone who thinks they might move there for a quiet life.”

Sounds right up our street.

 

 

Programme

Ladies and gentlemen, we present for your perusal the provisional programme for ‘A Fiend in the Furrows: Perspectives on ‘Folk Horror’ in Literature, Film and Music’. We stress that it is provisional as it is still subject to amendments and additions, but as you can see we have a rich collection of papers, presentations and performances! We are thrilled to welcome a diverse range of speakers from Ireland, Scotland, England, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, India, Australia and the United States of America. These include professional academics, early career researchers, postgraduates, independent researchers, writers, filmmakers and musicians. Thanks to everyone who has registered so far. Everyone else, get a move on so you don’t miss what is shaping up to be a wonderful event!

 

Folk Horror and the New World

the-village-beast

Here’s an interesting post from Kevin Cooney at Asymmetric Creativity. Over on Twitter, Kevin was puzzling over the lack of folk horror films set in New England. I suggested that M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (2004) has something of a folk horror feel, though as Kevin pointed out, the film is set in Pennsylvania rather than New England. Anyway, it led Kevin to explore these ideas in this article: ‘Built Inspiration: Folk Architecture and its Influence‘.

Leaving aside the question of its setting, The Village bears some of the hallmarks of folk horror cinema. Unlike the supernatural/science-fiction plots of Shyamalan’s other horror films The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002), the action of The Village is rooted in reality, with the mysterious creatures that terrify the villagers revealed to be nothing more than costumed men. Indeed, in many ways these hooded beasts resemble such European folk costumes as those documented by the French photographer Charles Fréger in his wonderful book Wilder Mann (2010). Moreover, the controversial plot twist of The Village illustrates the influence of the ur-text of folk horror, The Wicker Man (1973). Rather than being an early modern community of settlers as we are initially led to believe, the village of Covington is revealed to have been founded by a group of men and women scarred and frightened by the harsh realities of urban existence in 1970s America. Seeking to retreat into the apparent safety of an earlier rural existence, the inhabitants of Covington resemble those of Summerisle, who disdain the religion and society of 1970s Britain in favour of a folk culture and an agricultural society based on a magpie reconstruction of British and Irish folkways. Finally, just as it was the elder Lord Summerisle’s wealth that sustained his island experiment in The Wicker Man, in The Village it is the family fortune of Edward Walker that allows himself and his companions to purchase the site for their commune.

If you are interested in learning more about folk horror and New England check out this aptly titled blog: New England Folk Horror. Looking forward to seeing the site and the discussion develop.