Folk Horror Revival Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/folkhorror/) has been going for two years, and in that time has gathered together in excess of 16,000 members. While the core of Folk Horror is the unholy triumvirate of The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, and Blood on Satan’s Claw, discussions explore everything from Hungarian Folktales to Indonesian Horror Movies, Church architecture to Japanese Rock Museums.
On 16th October Folk Horror Revival held Otherworldly at the British Museum. To give you some idea of the popularity, all 350 tickets sold out in two days. For a first event Otherworldly was extremely well organised. On registration each attendee was given an enamelled pin badge to identify each other amongst the throngs of the BM.
Chris Lambert, curator of the Black Meadow (http://blackmeadowtales.blogspot.co.uk/) was compère for the day. Chris kept proceedings on track, and filled the occasional gap with a poem from the Black Meadow archives. Beyond The Moor was unsettling enough to chill the ski off anyone.
Andy Paciorek, Founder of Folk Horror Revival, and forum administrator Darren Charles took us on a rapid tour through the genre, showing the true breadth of the subject. They pointed out Folk Horror is characterised by landscape, isolation, skewed morality, and violent or supernatural events. With these definitions it has a truly global reach.
In The Ghost of Song Eamon Byers talked about the character of folk music in the 21st century, and the long history that influences contemporary writers and musicians.
In the adjacent lecture theatre, poet Bob Beagrie performed Leasungspell. Accompanied by musicians Sara Dennis, Kev Howard, Stewart John Forth and Peter Lagan, Bob told his epic poem of Oswin travelling through the hostile 7th century landscape between Hartlepool and Whitby.
One of the highlights of the day was writer and psychogeographer Iain Sinclair in discussion with John Pilgrim. A lot of the talk focussed on London, but Iain did discuss his book Black Apples of Gower, and his experiences during the writing, pointing out the landscape of carboniferous cliffs felt so ancient that the self would dissolve entirely.
He also talked about his walks outside the capital, particularly the journey titled Edge of the Orison, following the route taken by 19th century poet John Clare, from High Beach Asylum, in the New Forest, toward Northborough.
Over lunch we had a chance to explore the various British Museum galleries. Our hand-out highlighted a number of folk horror exhibits, such as Dr John Dee’s obsidian mirror, and the mermaid in gallery 1.
In my day job I’m an archaeologist, and have researched various aspects of prehistory over the years, so couldn’t miss a chance to visit gallery 51. This was an opportunity to see one of the Mesolithic Star Carr Antler Head-dresses. These objects have been adapted to be worn, and whether that is for hunting, ritual or entertainment, they have an otherworldliness, echoing from that part of the imagination where animals and humans conjoin. An unexpected treat was the strange wooden cabinet stuffed with seashells recovered from the site.
The afternoon began with Gary Parsons showing his new film, Conjuration. Filmed in several locations across Europe, it focussed on magic as a neutral energy and included a full Alexandrian witchcraft ritual.
Adam Scovell’s talk, Analogue Hauntings, explored equipment and hauntings in films and TV dramas. He explained how devices such as reel-to-reel tapes, motion sensors and oscilloscopes all feature in classic programmes like The Stone Tapes. Adam then showed his own two short films; The Coastal Path, and No Diggin’ Here.
James Riley discussed the lonely places of the canal network, and the folk horror character of this isolation. He talked about how places such as factories and WWII pillboxes next to the water accumulate a strangeness, and how this transforms into a sinister sensation of bad things to come.
Gary Lachman (better known to some as Blondie’s bassist), explored the work of writer Colin Wilson and the Angry Young Outsiders. Wilson burst on to the literary scene with The Outsider, (but may be be better known to horror fans for his 1960 novel Ritual in the Dark, and 1971 book The Occult). Wilson was considered part of the Angry Young Outsiders (a movement of working and middle class playwrights and novelists, centred around Kingsley Amis and John Osborne) who made London their home. Lachman explored how their work related to the landscape of the city, for example when Wilson slept rough on Hampstead Heath to save money, while writing in the British Museum Reading Room.
Finishing his talk Lachman was joined on stage by Jim Peters (member of the FHR team, and Collections Manager at the British Museum), Andy Paciorek, Darren Charles, Reece Shearsmith, and Sharron Krauss. They took questions from the floor on subjects ranging from psychedelics and their use in horror, to which traditions scared the panel.
Folk Horror Revival has always been a great place to discuss film, art and stories. As a writer it’s a useful group to get inspiration. With Otherworldly, Folk Horror Revival showed it could carry that friendly and passionate nature into the real world.
Steve Toase is an author, archaeologist and journalist living in North Yorkshire and
occasionally Munich, Germany. As an author he writes mythic fiction, weaving elements from folklore and legend into a contemporary setting. His work has appeared in venues like Scheherezade’s Bequest, Pantheon Magazine, and Fiction Vortex. He has been reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year volume 6.
The photos featured are by Steve.
Steve’s flash fiction can be found at https://stevetoase.wordpress.com/
His other sites are: