The ‘Folklore on Screen’ conference will bring together scholars for two days of discussion about folklore in its many forms: its history, present and complex future in relation to cinema, television, photography, digital and online media studies. The conference aims to explores the meaning, import and relevance of folklore in the media and its representation, communication and perpetuation. The multidisciplinary nature of the conference is aimed at a broad spectrum of scholars with either a particular specialism in folklore or an interest in folklore studies as pertaining to their own subject. Featured confirmed speakers include folklorist and film scholar Mikel J. Koven (author of Film, Folklore and Urban Legends), television scholar Helen Wheatley (author of Gothic Television) and journalist Bob Fischer (writer of ‘The Haunted Generation’ in Fortean Times). Talks will present topics including: UFOs, hauntology, urban, digital and online contemporary legends and ‘creepypastas’, folklore in film, art and photograph, folk horror landscapes, folklore in British television and many more.
As places are limited you must register for the conference via Eventbrite HERE
NB – The page is password protected – use the following password (copying and pasting may not work): Conference0913.
When registering, please state your affiliation (in brackets next to your name) to one of the following: academic institution, folklore society member, work in the education/heritage industry, folklore-related practitioner, interested member of the public, other (please specifiy) – and please also inform us of any dietary or accessibility requirements.
My fondest memory of my teenage years was the afternoon we were chased by hobby horses. It was a Saturday afternoon and me and my four friends were hanging around in our local town centre, as teenagers are wont to do, and the hobby horses – I remember one with a horn, more like a hobby cow than a horse, that moaned as you neared it, and another head to toe in tatters – saw us as fair game. ‘If one of those things comes near me…’ one of us said, and that was it. The hobby horses took flight and we barrelled into a nearby toyshop to hide. We cowered behind a stack of boxed Sylvanian Families. They were still waiting for us when we crept out, leading to another chase and this time, a chippy for safety. The staff were not amused and told us to leave.
As I grew older, I realised that this memory was perhaps not the most common of memories. And Banbury, my Oxfordshire hometown, not the most normal of places. When I reached university in Manchester, no one else in my halls had spent their formative years in a folk club listening to unaccompanied singers murdering ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ or wet April days drinking on the green as the village’s Morris men leapt about the tarmac. I understood that I had been given a glimpse of the England, the Britain, that not everyone has the opportunity to experience.
I became fascinated by calendar customs and living traditions, and the music and lore at their heart. As I was researching my first book, Wayward Daughter, the official biography of folk music legend, Eliza Carthy, I was lucky enough to experience the Goathland Plough Stots’ day in North Yorkshire, and my experience of the Saddleworth Rushcart was one of the reasons why I fell in love with the area and moved there with my husband in 2015. Meeting collector, documentarian and archivist, Doc Rowe, also had a big impact. I was fortunate to visit his collection in Whitby as I worked on the marketing and communications for Lore and the Living Archive an exhibition of original artworks produced in response to Doc’s enormous collection of material relating to all kinds of customs. There, I found evidence and ephemera of the customs I hadn’t yet visited – and seeing garlanded figures on horseback and men wearing ancient antlers, touching the burrs that dig in to the skin of the Burry Man, hearing recordings of the tunes that accompany the customs year in, year out only deepened my fascination.
I wondered how I could
incorporate calendar customs into my fiction. In my first novel, my ‘practice’
YA novel (read: seen by no-one but my computer hard drive) I had my New Age
traveller characters hold a summer solstice ritual. In my second practice
novel, a time-travelling historical MG novel (and you wonder why it wasn’t
picked up?), my protagonist is processed through the streets as May Queen –
treacherous in the harsh light of the puritanical regime. And in my current
novel, currently being red-penned by my agent (thank the lord!), my
protagonists bravely participate in the Whit Walks beneath their dissenting
Customs, I found, were not only
fascinating to write; they helped me as a writer. Calendar customs enabled me
to bring a fictional environment alive (what is this place that does this
thing?); explored a character’s personality (why does this person participate,
and how?); signal to the reader what time of year it is, what type of society
this is… and, of course, it adds a little wyrd to proceedings, making
possible the impossible, the world turned upside down. A boon to the writer of
And, at the Centre for
Contemporary Legend, I have been granted a PhD studentship to develop this
further. I will be working on a practice-led project to write a novel with a
custom at its heart. No, more than that: with a custom as its spine, its
backbone. I will be visiting British calendar customs to see how they can be
(successfully) rendered in fiction, interviewing the real-life custodians of
these customs and other members of the community that might be, let’s say, a
little less enthusiastic about the strange occurrence that happens each year on
their doorstep, and critiquing the customs that appear in other writers’ fiction.
This is a dream opportunity for
me: the chance to devote myself fully to a writing project which have been
previously side-lined to evenings and weekends, but also to join a fantastic
academic community with mouthwatering ambitions of which I cannot wait to play
a small part. I have so much to learn, and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
And if you come across a calendar custom in a novel, a short story or a poem, please let me know! Tweet me @sophparkes. I look forward to hearing from you!
Diane (left) and David (right) with Sophie Parkes-Niel, the newest member of our team and the successful recipient of a C3RI funded PHD studentship in “Folklore, Contemporary Legend and Media” here at Sheffield Hallam University.
Sophie will begin work on her PHD “Writing the ‘Imagined Village’: a practice-led enquiry into folklore and fiction” in October.
“This practice-led creative writing PhD project seeks to place a folkloric practice, a calendar custom, at the centre of a novel to discover its effectiveness as a narrative device and interrogate the themes it brings into play.”
Our friend Simon Heywood has a book of South Yorkshire Folk Tales published by History Press.
“With origins lost in the mists of time, these lively folk tales reflect the wisdom (and eccentricities) of South Yorkshire’s county and people. Amongst the heroes and villains, giants and fairies, knights and highwaymen, are well-known figures, such as Robin Hood and the Dragon of Wantley, as well as lesser-known tales of mysterious goings-on at Firbeck Hall and Roche Abbey. These enchanting tales, many never before recorded in print, will bewitch readers and storytellers, young and old alike.”
One of a number of rare items from the Archive of Faux Horror collected by Andrew Robinson that will adorn our programme for the upcoming ‘Folklore on Screen’ conference, 13th – 14th September 2019 at Sheffield Hallam University – watch out for more!