Folklore: the eerie underbelly of British 1970s folk-horror television?

RODGERS, Diane (2017). Folklore: the eerie underbelly of British 1970s folk-horror television? In: At Home With Horror? Terror on the Small Screen, University of Kent, Canterbury, 27 October 2017-29 October 2017. (Unpublished)

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Current creatives across a variety of British media are taking inspiration for their work from, and with distinct reference to, British 1970s television; folk-horror and hauntology are becoming increasingly discussed and distinct genres in their own right. Musicians like Ghost Box, Twitter accounts and blogs such as Hookland and Scarfolk, film makers like Ben Wheatley and TV writer-directors like Ashley Pharaoh and Mark Gatiss are all frequently citing not only a general 'hauntological' feeling or aesthetic, but very specific 1970s television programmes as their key influences. These programmes include Children of the Stones, The Changes, Penda's Fen, The Stone Tape, Robin Redbreast and the BBC's Ghost Story for Christmas series. Mark Gatiss' own recent offering in the Ghost Story series, The Tractate Middoth (2013), attempts to recapture particular qualities of 1970s television itself: Gatiss states "Something I always loved about the seventies… [Ghost Stories] is that they're … very impressionistic and I wanted to achieve something like that." (BFIEvents, 2014). Folk-horror works are informed by pastoral settings and folkloric legends of the past, which range widely from witches and covens, pagan ritual and hauntings, to stone circles and sinister villages within a peculiarly English landscape, all of which resonate with British national identity and related, apparently ancient, fears. In emerging interviews and writing on the subject, there are recurring references to an indefinable quality of 'eeriness' ; a liminal nature to the unsettled nostalgia conjured up by fragmented memories of such programmes, and yet this abstract notion seems to be the key to what fuels those working in folk-horror or hauntology. This paper proposes therefore to consider to what extent such influential 1970s folk horror actually employed the use of folklore; what folklore may lend to this 'eeriness', and how this is realised in aesthetic terms within key programmes. Using Robin Redbreast and Ghost Story for Christmas as examples, I will also consider what the medium of television itself and use of folklore lend to these works in terms of the longevity of their influence. My wider study considers television itself as ostensive action, applying Mikel Koven's theory of mass-mediated ostension to examine the television medium itself as modern folklore, not only perpetuating such legends but also specific ways of telling those legends within the television medium.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2019 14:58
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 06:24

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