• Memory of a Free Festival and Other Arcadian Dreams – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 14/52

    British festival books-Tomorrow's People-The Sun In The East-Memories of a free festival

    I recently mentioned several books which to my knowledge are the main photographic orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People (1974), Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs (1983) and Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene (2017).

    As I have previously mentioned, all three document and capture a time when outdoor festivals weren’t an accepted mainstream and/or commercial orientated activity.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-1

    Memory of a Free Festival is a beautifully produced book which is essentially a photographic collection of found, collected, donated and researched period photography which focuses on British free festivals from the early 1960s to around the mid-1980s.

    (It also sits alongside three other photography orientated books Sam Knee has curated/edited – Untypical Girls which focuses on post-punk through grunge to riot grrrl alternative female style and music, A Scene In Between which documents what could loosely be called UK indie, anorak, shoegaze and bowlhead fashion, music and culture between 1980-1988 and the more all inclusive The Bag I’m In which gathers underground British music and fashion photography from 1960-1990.)

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-2

    Memory of a Free Festival gathers images from the jazz/beatnik festivals of the early 1960s and their morphing into rock orientated events, through the psychedelic/counter cultural festivals of the later 1960s, the more overtly new age inspired and/or post/latter period hippie and at times politically radical festivals of the early to later 1970s, through into the more punk and urban orientated likes of Rock Against Racism in the later 1970s and then into more anarcho-punk/crustie/traveller orientated festivals of the 1980s.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-6

    Something of an aside: Traveller in this instance does not refer to the traditional Romany traveller community, rather a loose grouping that grew in size during the 1980s, which is sometimes referred to as new age travellers. This variously took in often alternative, counter cultural, rural, nomadic and unconventional ways of life, coupled with an at times anti-authoritarian stance.

    Crustie I use to loosely refer to a way of life/culture connected to that of the above form of travellers, although it was often more urban than rural nomadic orientated. There was a reasonable degree of crossover between the two groups in terms of political beliefs/stance, lifestyle and population and crustie also interlinks to a degree with the likes of anarcho-punk and the squatter movement.

    As a phrase, crustie has often been used in a derogatory sense, although here I use it merely to denote a particular section of society. As phrases and notifiers of particular groupings, cultures and lifestyles both travellers and crusties are often, although not exclusively used to refer to such things in 1980s and 1990s.

    Both travellers and crusties often shared an aesthetic which could be described as a punk-y, slightly biker, almost Mad Max post apocalyptic look, with one of its frequent signifiers or marks of identification being the adoption of dreadlocks. More on that and its evolution in a moment…

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-4

    The photographs are presented in Sam Knee’s book chronologically and although to a degree it portrays the progression, intermingling and evolution of culture, there also seems to be a distinctive break between some of the pre-hippie, post-war jazz and beatnik aesthetics of the early 1960s festivals and the then upcoming more rock and hippie/psychedelic orientated festivals.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-3

    In the later 1970s and 1980s when punks start appearing in the festival photographs it also seems to mark a distinct sea change from the previous era’s more “peace and love” utopian aspects, bringing a harder edged aesthetic to the events. Although rather than a distinct schism, this could be seen as part of that just mentioned evolution and intermingling and also leading to the earlier mentioned anarcho-punk/crustie/traveller orientated festivals and their attendees, of which Sam Knee says:

    “At this point, the punks and the hippies had become fused together in a mashup of counterculture featuring long hair, skinny jeans, activist patches, baggy knitted jumpers and army surplus gear. The two cults once considered worlds apart were in fact clearly cut from the same cloth.”

    (Along which lines, this form of travellers being sometimes referred to as new age travellers appears to make more implicit their in part possibly hippie forebears or lineage.)

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-8

    Although expressed in different ways, both the anarcho etc punk and hippy movements were at times involved in conflicts with authority, which often centred around choices, beliefs and freedoms concerning lifestyles, the right to gather and access to public land/monuments which often differed from mainstream norms, beliefs and sometimes legislation.

    This differing and the resulting antangonisms/conflict lead to what has come to be known as the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, which occurred after a High Court injunction which prohibited Stonehenge Free Festival taking place at the ancient standing stones was ignored by a convoy of travellers, with this convoy being stopped and broken up using extreme and heavy handed tactics by the authorities.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-10

    Legislation was then passed in 1986 which enabled the more rigorous policing/prevention of festivals and this is the point at which Sam Knee’s book draws to a close, with him considering it the sounding of the “death knell for the golden era of the great British festival scene”.

    As I have mentioned before, Rob Young also writes extensively about 1960s-1980 British festivals in the Paradise Enclosed chapter in his book Electric Eden – Searching for Britain’s Visionary Music.

    However, both Sam Knee’s book and the Paradise Enclosed chapter in Electric Eden largely draw a line at a similar point of time to mark the ending of outdoor gatherings/festivals as alternative, sometimes subversive, counter cultural, utopian etc forms of expression and experimentation.

    To be continued in Part 2…

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-11

    Elsewhere:
    Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival at Cicada Books

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    3) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52: The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed

     

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  • From “Two Tribes” to War Games – The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture: Chapter 13 Book Images

    Blondie-Atomic-Nena-99 Red Ballons-OMD-Enola Gay-single covers

    The Pirahnas-Tom Hark-Jona Lewi-Stop the Cavalry-Frankie Goes to Hollywood-single covers

    nik_kershaw-i_wont_let_the_sun_go_down_on_me-Strawberry Switchblade-Since Yesterday-Ultravox-Dancing With Tears In My Eyes-single covers-stroke

    “From around 1980 to the mid-1980s there were a fair number of music singles released which explored and/or protested against the threat of nuclear war, and which made it to the higher ends of the official national British music sales chart.

    Because of the high profile nature of the music charts in the UK at the time, this placing meant that such records were a large part of the national conversation and consciousness and also that they may have sold hundreds of thousands, or more, physical singles. The commercial success of some of these records is highlighted by the list below, which shows the UK chart positions of singles that dealt with such apocalyptic themes:

    Blondie – “Atomic” (1980): No. 1
    Nena – “99 Red Balloons” (1983): No. 1
    OMD – “Enola Gay” (1980): No. 8
    The Pirahnas – “Tom Hark” (1980): No. 6
    Jona Lewie – “Stop the Cavalry” (1982): No. 3
    Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Two Tribes” (1984): No. 1
    Nik Kershaw – “I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (1984): No. 2
    Strawberry Switchblade – “Since Yesterday” (1984): No. 5
    Ultravox – “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” (1984): No. 3

    Musically these end of days pop songs took in a variety of styles and aesthetics, including the catchy, bouncy earworm nature of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” and The Piranhas “Tom Hark”, or the equally singalong-able but slightly melancholic pop of Strawberry Switchblade’s “Since Yesterday”.”

    On The Beach-Nevil Shute-three book cover variations-film tie-in

    “The cinematically dramatic “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” was a song based on Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, which told the story of how people planned to live through the end of times brought about via wind carried fallout in a country that has avoided the main devastating nuclear attack.”

    Blondie-Atomic-video still

    “Blondie’s “Atomic” took a lyrically minimal almost abstract approach to the theme, one that invokes dramatic dread and glamour, accompanied by a post-apocalyptic disco video and mushroom cloud single cover…

    The background to the release of the above records in 1980-84 was that this was one of the heightened points of the Cold War and a reaction to an international defence policy that seemed to “subscribe to the point of view that the more dangerous we make the world, the safer we are”.”

    Protect and Surive-A Year In The Country 4 Protect and Surive-A Year In The Country 2 Protect and Survive-A Year In The Country

    “(In an episode of the documentary series Trailblazers) Trevor Horn, who was the producer of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes and the co-owner of their record label ZTT, talks about the Civil Defence voiceover parts of the single.

    Apparently it went something like this:

    Paul Morley (who was loosely and variously the philosophiser, organiser and provocateur behind ZTT) had a bootleg of the UK Government’s Civil Defence Protect and Survive information films.

    These were intended for television broadcast in advance of a nuclear attack on the UK.

    They utilised animation to instruct the public on how to build DIY shelters in your home, deal with fallout, identify what different warning siren patterns indicated and so forth…

    At the time of Two Tribe’s recording these films were classified, although today they are freely available on well known commercial internet video platforms and can be bought on DVD.

    With their classified status in mind, rather than steal or sample the voiceovers from them, they hired Patrick Allen who had recorded them for the actual government broadcasts.

    Around then he was a nationally-known figure as he also did well known television commercials such as for Barratt Homes, so his use in these films was possibly intended by the authorities as a way of providing a reassuring voice.

    It cost ZTT around £1000 to hire him: a figure which seems low now.

    Kate Bush-Breathing single-A Year In The CountryKate Bush-Never For Ever-album cover art

    “…the pop charts could also include the likes of Kate Bush’s single “Breathing” from 1980.

    While this did not quite reach the Top 10 (peaking at No.16, although the album it featured on went to number one) it took as its subject matter the decidedly non-mainstream theme of a mother worried about passing the fallout from a nuclear explosion to her unborn child.

    Alongside which, further breaking from the conventions of what may be expected in a commercially successful pop song, it features an extended unsettling, drifting spoken word passage that describes in a scientific or documentary manner the characteristics of a flash from a nuclear explosion.”

    Wargames-film 1983-posters-A Year In The Country-3

    Ferris Bueller's Day Off-still

    “It was not just within the realms of mainstream pop music that such apocalyptic themes were explored with resounding commercial success around the early to mid-1980s.

    The film War Games, released in 1983, focused on themes connected to worries about Cold War nuclear armament computer based control systems gone awry and was that year’s fifth highest grossing film in the USA.

    It was largely aimed at a young adult or teenage audience and it shares some aspects, tropes and archetypes with classic John Hughes and other similar teen comedies and dramas from around that time. However this is not so much about being a geek and an outsider and maybe getting the girl, this is about being a geek and an outsider and getting the girl but to a background of computer hacking and apocalyptic mutually assured destruction via superpower conflict caused in part by that hacking.

    It does not just share some aspects and tropes with those John Hughes comedies, it also shares a main actor in Matthew Broderick, who played the loveable goof-about seize-the-day-er in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which Hughes wrote.”

    Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country

    “The characters played by Matthew Broderick in both films share the same resourceful computer hacking skills that enable him to outstep and outsmart the systems created by adults.

    In Ferris Bueller he changes his number of absent days on the school computer.

    While in War Games he changes his grades via the school computer but also almost instigates worldwide destruction and conflict when he hacks a defence computer, which is in charge of planning and launching a US attack against its enemies.

    Broderick’s character is looking for the new unreleased games of a home computer game company when he connects via the modem and computer in his bedroom to this defence computer.

    The computer begins playing a simulation of those possible attacks but cannot distinguish between games or reality and thinks that to win it must literally carry out and launch an attack in the real world.”

    Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country-2

    “Alongside worries about nuclear conflict, another period curio aspect of (Wargames) is the seeming omnipotence of the young hacker and his ability to do more or less anything and to break into any system from his normal family home.

    This ties in with a period media obsession with the hacker as part of a lineage of youthful folk devils.

    In previous eras such folk devils included the likes of the much more easily identifiable biker or hippy who generally adopted and dressed in styles which were markedly differently from the mainstream, whereas the hacker was considered threatening in part because of their potential relative visual and stylistic normality and hence anonymity.”

    The Hunger Games-film poster artworkThe Tripods-television series-John Christopher

    “There seems to be an ongoing theme of young adult fiction and films dealing with dystopian and/or apocalyptic scenarios.

    The 2008 onwards The Hunger Games book and film series is a more contemporary example of this and has been notably commercially successful, while John Christopher’s 1960s book trilogy and its accompanying 1980s television series The Tripods trod related ground.

    What is different with Wargames is that it does not imagine a future fantasy despotism or alien invasion which is brought down by resourceful teenagers but rather the apocalyptic threat it reflects on was very real and present in the world and popular consciousness.

    However, in line with those other fictions, Wargames also seems to have at its core a form of wish fulfilment or empowerment of the teenager as the one who will save the day, who will beat the evil power or who has the right-headed way of looking at things rather than the pigheaded (or sometimes more or less absent) adults.”

    WarGames-Sheedy-and-Broderick-with-Professor-film still

    “Wargames has been described as “popcorn friviolity”, which would seem to imply that it is just escapist, throwaway fun that sat alongside other such escapist, throwaway fun of the time.

    Such ways of seeing things are possibly part of cultural reviewing and consideration whereby it can be hard to admit to “worthy” work or that which deals with serious issues as also being the f(un) word.

    Wargames is fun, a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film but it does also fundamentally deal with one of the serious issues of its day. It, along with the earlier mentioned apocalyptic pop protest songs, shows that teen or youth-orientated commercially successful entertainment and explorations of a serious controversial real world subject or debate are not necessarily mutually exclusive states.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 13 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations – Hybrid Spectres of the Spectron Video Synthesizer: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 13/52

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-cover

    Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations is something of a cultural curiosity.

    Released by Buried Treasure, it is a limited edition DVD of audio/visual work by Jeffrey Siedler which was inspired by the rare 1970s EMS Spectron video synthesizer.

    What’s a video synthesizer you may say? Well, in this instance the Spectron was an electronic hardware device which could be utilised to create moving images/abstract patterns in real time, in a not dissimilar manner to the way in which say an electronic synthesizer could be used to create and manipulate audio. It also had an input for a monochrome camera, signals from which could be used in the generation of the video.

    EMS Spectron-1974-video synthesizer-Robert Monkhouse

    The Spectron was engineered/designed by Robert Monkhouse for EMS in 1974 and very few were manufactured, with it being relatively quickly supplanted by more affordable, programmable computers in terms of creating visuals.

    EMS Spectron-1974-video synthesizer-Robert Monkhouse-video image
    (Above: image from the original video output of the Spectron.)

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-1
    (Above and below: images from Logic Formations.)

    Jeffrey Siedler’s work, which is collected on this DVD, attempts to emulate the output visuals of the Spectron, utilising digital recreations of some of the original mathematics/calculations/processes and the manual of the Spectron.

    These visuals are accompanied by electronic music created via modular synthesis – so essentially a form of digital/analogue hybrid of the past and present.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-8b

    The resulting visuals are largely abstract in nature, although here and there the outlines of a face or what seems to be a winged human figure will appear, alongside some accompanying descriptive text which give it the characteristics of say display video at a previous era’s Expo which extolled then cutting edge technology and visions of the future…

    …or possibly a science and education television programme which was intended to inform its viewers of developments in technology.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-4

    In advance of watching the DVD, from the few screenshots I had seen, I thought that the resulting work would put me in mind of early 1990s abstract rave video graphics (the kind you would see displayed in a club and/or which were sometimes available on video cassette for home viewing).

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-9-selection of 4

    However, although there could be seen to be some visual similarity with such things, the audio/visual work on Logic Formations seems to be more haunted/haunting; it has a hypnotic aspect which you can drift off into but also for myself contains or invokes subtly unsettling or even at points ominous atmospheres.

    In the DVD’s accompanying text Jeffrey Siedler talks about how he considers that images such as those found on Logic Formations can “instil a calm, giving the mind a focus, much as would be accomplished by focusing on a mandala”.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-3

    Along which lines, the images on the DVD share some similar visual and atmospheric territory with some of Julian House’s work for Ghost Box Records, particularly his use of Op-art/mandala like abstract graphics and also caused me to think of this quote about his related video work from the text which accompanied a retrospective Ghost Box event at the ICA:

    “Using a combination of new digital and old analogue techniques they conjure a world where TV station indents become occult messages and films for schools are exercises in mind control and collective hallucination.”

    The work on Logic Formations could well be accidentally recorded “We have shut down for the night” broadcasts from some out-on-the-edges-of-consciousness television station, broadcasting from who knows which year or era.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-inside cover Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD and booklet

    Elsewhere:
    Logic Formations at Buried Treasure’s Bandcamp site
    The Logic Formations Trailer
    The EMS Spectron Video Synthesizer: at Encyclotronic / at Audiovisualizers
    Original Spectron video footage from 1997
    LSFF: Retrospective and Q&A: Ghost Box Records

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Ether Signposts #15/52a: The Delaware Road at Kelvedon Hatch
    2) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #27/52a: The Layered Seams And Explorations Of Buried Treasure

     

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  • Image AA/12

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  • A Bear’s Ghosts – Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures: Chapter 12 Book Images

    Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-5 (2) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-5

    Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-7 Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (4)

    “There have been a number of books and photography projects which could be seen to document a form of former Soviet Union hauntology; work that often focuses on monuments and remnants of Cold War era striving, dreams and far reaching projects…

    Jan Kempemaers’ Spomenik from 2010, contains his photographs of structures that were created in Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s as memorials to the Second World War but which now apparently are largely abandoned.

    These take a largely abstract, geometric, concrete modernist form and there is a brutalist beauty and fascination to them, while they also seem to have tumbled from both the future and the past; despite the all too real history which inspired them, they now seem almost like impossible fictions or props from the fantasies of a cinematic story.”

    Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-4Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-2

    “The structures photographed in (Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops) could also be considered in the eyes of some beholders to have gained elements of being utilitarian or pragmatic accidental art.

    As with the Spomenik photographs, in Soviet Bus Stops some of the more architecturally brutalist designs appear to be artifacts from lost futures, of a time when an empire reached for grand horizons and even the stars.”

     Danila tkachenko-Restricted Areas-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The Country-2Danila tkachenko-Restricted Areas-Dewi Lewis Publishing-collage gs-A Year In The Country-4

    “…Danila Tkachenko’s Restricted Areas book from 2016, the photographs in which focus on abandoned hardware, secret cities and installations from the Soviet Union during the Cold War period…

    Danila Tkachenko says of the places, structures, equipment, vehicles and mechanisms he has photographed:

    ‘Those places lost their significance together with the utopian ideology which is now obsolete. The perfect technocratic future that never came.’

    And as with Spomenik and Soviet Bus Stops the spirit of these photographs seem like a different time and place’s hauntology: a differing but also partly parallel strand to that which has come about in the UK and the West and its sense of reflections on, mourning and yearning for a more utopian future which did not occur.”

    abandoned-soviet-space-shuttle-hangar-buran-baikonur-cosmodrome-kazakhstan-ralph-mirebs-7 abandoned-soviet-space-shuttle-hangar-buran-baikonur-cosmodrome-kazakhstan-ralph-mirebs-20

    “Today there is a considerable amount of photography out in the world and particularly online that focuses on derelict buildings, machinery and so on and which is sometimes referred to as urban exploration or urbex photography.

    However, in amongst the masses of such photography, Ralph Mireb’s images of abandoned and incomplete Soviet era space shuttles (which are a curious simulacra of the American space shuttle in terms of design and can be found at the website Bored Panda) stand out.

    This is in part due to the sheer scale of the infrastructure and buildings that surround them which they document – the space shuttle hangar is many storeys high and dwarves the other structures nearby.”

    abandoned-buran-wooden-wind-tunnel-model

    “In photographs that act as an accompaniment to Ralph Mireb’s, Alexander Marksin has documented the discarded wooden wind-tunnel models of these space shuttles.2

    Due to the materials used, these bring to mind thoughts of a folk art project rather than an institutionally and nationally funded attempt at space exploration, which is heightened as they have been left outside to age, weather, crumble and be slowly reclaimed and covered by nature.”

     abandoned-Raketas-or-Rockets-that-once-plied-the-Volga-and-other-great-rivers-of-the-Soviet-Union-during-the-Cold-War-years

    “In terms of vehicle design, in the Soviet Union there is a cul-de-sac that could well be called “The Shape of the Future’s Past” which takes in abandoned Soviet era hydrofoils and which were known as river rockets.

    These were made from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s and viewed now with their sleek, finned, almost space vehicle like designs appear as prototypes for a mid-century modern, atomic age take on how the future was to be.

    There is a bravery, an optimism, a genuine progressive modernism and venturing onwards and outwards to designs like these that seems to have been lost somewhere along the way, surrendered to a more day-to-day practicality in design.”

     Rebecca Litchfield-Soviet Ghosts-book cover

    “Throughout this chapter a number of times (I refer) to a sense of the science fiction-esque or fantastical, often accompanied by a grand sense of an empire and its once ambitions, which many of these photographs imply.

    This is particularly captured by the cover of Rebecca Litchfield’s Soviet Ghosts, a book released in 2014 which focuses on the extent of abandonment in the former Soviet Union and its satellite states in the Eastern Bloc.

    In the book’s cover image an abandoned and derelict circular stadium has been photographed, capturing the enormous scale and futurist grandeur of this structure…

    To the Western eye, as is similar to varying degrees with much of the above photography and structures, it conjures more a vision of a Flash Gordon-esque empire and future than something grounded in 

    the reality of a still relatively recent earthbound political, economic and societal system.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 12 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 12/52

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-8-cover

    In Part 1 of this post (which can be read here) I wrote about three photography orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People (1974), Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs (1983) and Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene (2017).

    Part 2 of this post focuses further on The Sun in the East, a book which via a collection of Richard Barnes’ and other photographs alongside articles, cartoons, fliers and posters, interviews, memories and reflections on the festival etc presents a snapshot of a set of smaller scale fairs or festivals including the Barsham Faires and Albion Fairs, which took place in a particular area of Britain between 1972-1982.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-2

    As referred to in Part 1 of the post, in large part the overall aesthetic and culture presented and captured in the book is what could be loosely called latter period hippie-esque and possibly proto-new age traveller (with a few punks/anarcho-punks sneaking in towards the end).

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-4

    And as also mentioned in Part 1, accompanying those aesthetics some of the fairs in The Sun in the East were medieval themed, with the entertainers and some of the attendees costumed or dressed in that manner. This may have reflected an early 1970s folk related interest in such things, an almost Arcadian wish to return to the land and the old ways that was often interconnected with hippie-esque culture and which has been described as a form of “imaginative time travel” (to quote Rob Young).

    (As an aside, some of the posters/fliers for the festivals show the entrance fee as being 30p or 20p if in costume, which allowing for inflation is approximately £2.50 to £1.50 at contemporary prices – which seems somewhat cheap compared to the modern day festival ticket prices that can run into hundreds of pounds).

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-1

    The festivals the book features are different from most of those in Tomorrow’s People and Memories of a Free Festival in that they weren’t big name band orientated, rather they featured performers nearer to say street performers – mimes, clowns, puppeteers, stilt walkers, small scale theatre shows etc.

    In the photographs these performers seem nearer to being just another part of the festival, with them often performing literally in amongst the other attendees.

    Looked at now, the festivals and in particular their entertainments in part seem not all that dissimilar to say a new age/eco leaning contemporary family friendly festival that was possibly organised or sponsored by for example a local council or a grant funded organisation of some form – which is also possibly in part a reflection of the incorporation and acceptance by wider society, governing bodies and authorities of some elements of what was once more fringe and counter culture.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-7

    Alongside the medieval and hippie-esque aspects and those just mentioned performers, looking through The Sun in the East there are at times old time music hall, cabaret and burlesque aspects to some of the performances, which is an intriguing prefiguring of the more recent revivals in such things.

    Hare and Tabor-Albion Fair tshirt-Barsham Fair poster flier

    The Sun is in The East is now long out of print and at the point of writing not all that cheap to buy second hand but it’s worth seeking out as a document of a semi-forgotten corner of cultural history.

    I was first pointed in the direction of the book by undercurrents-of-folklore explorers and merchandisers Hare and Tabor, who as I have mentioned around these parts before have produced a t-shirt which is inspired by artwork for the Albion Fair, proceeds from which go towards funding the Fairs Archive, which is a travelling exhibition that documents the Fairs.

    Their Albion Fair t-shirt page also contains some interesting background on the fair and related links. Well worth a visit.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-3

    Elsewhere:
    The Albion Fair t-shirt at Hare and Tabor
    The Fairs Archive
    The not-so-pocket-money-friendly out of print The Sun in the East book
    Rob Young’s Electric Eden

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Day #40/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise… from the wild woods to broadcasts from the pylons…
    3) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    4) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #46/52a: Barsham Faire 1974 and a Merry Albion Psychedelia
    5) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 11/52: The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed – Part 1

     

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  • Image AA/11

    Image-AA11-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen, Red Shift and The Owl Service – Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes: Chapter 11 Book Images

    Redshift-Robin Redbreast-The Changes-BBC-BFI-DVD-A Year In The Country

    Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-2John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-5

    “Robin Redbreast is a 1970 television programme, which although it was originally made and broadcast in colour, now only a black and white version is known to exist. It contains a plot and atmosphere that draw you in, grip and unsettle you…

    (It is not) an as-overtly visual representation of folkloric rites as say The Wicker Man is (apart from one brief moment where the locals gather, clad in folkloric attire, which could almost be a photograph by late 19th/early 20th century documenter of folk customs Benjamin Stone or a modern day re-enactment of his photographs); it does not have the broad cinematic sweep or cult musical accompaniment of that film but this is a different creature.

    It is a more intimate, enclosed story, a television play with I expect a relatively small budget, a small cast and a quite limited number of locations but none the worse for it.”

    The Omega Factor-TV series-A Year In The CountryNoahs Castle-1979 TV series-John Rowe Townsend-A Year In The Country-6Quatermass-1979-The Conclusion-Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 2

    “…some of the most intriguing pieces of work leading up to and during the creation of A Year In The Country have been the introduction and end title sequences to some of those television series and plays from the late 1960s to mid 1970s; this probably extends to around 1980 to take in Children of the Stones (1977), Sky (1975), The Tomorrow People (1973-1979), Noah’s Castle (1979), The Omega Factor (1979) and the final series of Quatermass (1979).

    They often seem to represent a very concise, at points quite surreal capturing of the otherly spirit of the various series, related flipside and undercurrents of bucolia, hauntological concerns and a particular era…”

    The Tomorrow People-4 intro credits stills-1970s

    Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The CountryJulian House-Intro design-Ghost Box Records-A Year In The Country

    “The intro sequence for The Tomorrow People is a collage of images that include geometric science fiction-esque shapes, a single eyeball, cosmological swirls, a hand opening and closing, a shadowy figure in a doorway etc.

    It could be a mixture of the stark, darkly pastoral covers of The Modern Poets series of book covers from the 1960s and 1970s and Julian House of Ghost Box Records’ design work tumbling backwards and forwards through time, filtered somehow through an almost Woolworths-esque take on such things but still having a particularly unsettling air.”

    The Owl Service-TV series titles-Alan Garner-A Year In The Country-1200

    The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 2 The Owl Service-TV series titles-Alan Garner-A Year In The CountryThe Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 3 The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country

    “The Owl Service’s intro sequence mixes and layers imagery that includes tinted largely monochromatic images of the forest, pulsating geometric circles, a candle flame flickering against a black background, hands making bird silhouettes and a mirrored illustration where the same elements can be seen as both owls and flowers.”

    Children Of The Stones-TV series-A Year In The Country The Children Of The Stones series-intro 3

    “Children of the Stones’ intro is presented in a more realist, visually conventional manner, though it still more than hints at flipside tales of the land.

    To a soundtrack of a memorable, spectral, eldritch and wordless choir, it features multiple images of ancient standing stones, variously shown as ominous looming structures, with the sun refracting over them or in a layering of the past and present as they are pictured next to local village housing.”

    Sky-1975 TV series-A Year In The Country

    Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 3 in a row

    Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 6 Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 4Sky-1975 British TV-A Year In The Country 7

    Sky is another of those “Hmmm, what was in the water at TV commissioning meetings in the seventies to think that these were quite normal programmes for children’s television?” series, which over time has grown layers of exoticism…

    It is a sort of rurally-set children’s television version of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), with a cockney alien and ecological overtones which the promotional information describes somewhat esoterically as:

    ‘Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, ‘part-angel, part-waif ’, a youth with powers he can neither control or understand… nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition… He speaks of time travellers ‘Gods you call them’ who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth… Sky must find the mysterious juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension.'”

    The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 4 The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 2

    The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The CountryThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 5

    “(In The Changes) black and chain-wearing louche beatnik styled robbers and brigands roam the land and at points the series wanders off into a milder version of Witchfinder General (1968) territory where those who are suspected of using machinery or even saying their names are seen as “wicked sinners” and considered to be witches…

    ..in one of the memorable phrases from the series overhead electricity (and so on) cables become known as “the bad wires” and people are not able to pass underneath them as this brings a return of The Noise and the madness which compelled people to destroy technology…

    The source of The Noise and the machine smashing/rejecting madness is eventually tracked down by Nicky and her companion to a form of sentient lodestone which has been uncovered in quarry workings.

    Although it is not explained what this stone is or how it came to be, we are told that it had given magical powers to Merlin in ancient historical times and it is now trying to take Britain back to what it considers to be a better pre-industrial time by psychically inducing the rejection of machinery…

    How on earth did this come to be made as children’s entertainment? In particular the first episode where the madness has gripped mankind and the machines are being smashed in the streets: the scenes of which have an unnerving intensity…

    …The Changes could be seen as a reflection of some of society’s fears of social breakdown at that time and the threats represented by a reliance on modern technology which needed modern fuel, which was at that time under threat due to a crisis in oil supplies.”

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 2

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 5The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 6 The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country-10

    “(The Ash Tree television play from 1975, based on a story by M.R. James) shares some themes with Witchfinder General in its dealing with folk horror and persecution.

    M.R. James’ short story was adapted for television by David Rudkin, who for a while seemed to be the go-to chap for otherly Albion-ic television and also wrote Penda’s Fen…

    In many ways The Ash Tree could sit quite comfortably amongst the not-so-salubrious fare that littered the faded cinemas of mid 1970s Britain; it has that nasty, unsettling feeling to it that a fair few cinematic releases from that period did, possibly reflecting a wider sense of corruption and malaise in society…

    There is little beauty in this landscape and its rolling fields. Bleak is a word that comes to mind; these are moors and feeding grounds full of judgement, punishment, voyeurism and unexplained carrion.”

    Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 5 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 8 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 7

    Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 3 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 2 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country

    “(Penda’s Fen) is a tale which takes in the revival of ancient pagan kings, hidden underground government facilities (cities?), left-wing truths, ranting and paranoia, substitute Mary Whitehouse-esque self-appointed moral majority figures, awakening sixth form adolescent sexuality, alternative religious histories and theological study, fancying your local milk man, demons, army cadet forces, William Blake’s Jerusalem, the threat and worry of the never stopping industrial conveyor belt, returning dead classical musicians who wish to see the silver river and verdant valleys but who are actually staring at a flaking brick wall, the battle of religion against older gods, a birthday cake, adoption, fertility, almost breaking the fourth wall self-criticism about himself in David Rudkin’s script, angelic riverside visitations and Kenneth Anger-esque phallic firework dreams…

    It could be a head spinning melange and collage of freakish, cult film making but it is not; although in its hour and a half (actually, its first half hour) it manages to have covered more topics than a whole catalogue of other films may do, this is a very cogent and coherent film which at its core deals with conformity, coming of age and mankind’s sacred covenant with the land.’

    Play-For-Today-1200-Red Shift-Alan Garner-BFI-BBC-A-Year-In-The-Country-smaller Red Shift-Alan Garner-1978-BBC-Play For Today-A Year In The Country-2 darker Mow Cop-David Byrne-Red Shift-Alan Garner-A Year In The Country

    “Red Shift from 1978 shares some similarities with Penda’s Fen: it is a visionary take on the landscape and its stories and histories, older forms of worship, tales of coming of age and a priggish not always likeable teenage protagonist…

    In part it could be seen as an exploration of the literary, intellectual and cultural idea that similar, interconnected things continue to happen in the same places over time, almost as though places become nodes or echo chambers for particular occurrences or a kind of temporal layering occurs: something which is also explored in Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape from 1972.”

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The CountryFilming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 3

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 8 Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-Dafydd Rees-A Year In The Country

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 4Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 11Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 5

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 10Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 2Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 9

    “Filming the Owl Service (1970)… is long out of print and rare as hen’s teeth to find second hand, which is a shame as it is a fine companion piece to the series, full of rather lovely photographs, artifacts, anecdotes, background story, prop sheets and designs from the filming and the series itself.

    The book is split into three parts; an “Introduction” by Alan Garner in which he discusses the making of the film, some of what inspired the original book, the coincidences around it and so on, “Our Diaries” by his children who took nine weeks off school while it was being made to be on and around its filming and “Making the Film” by its director Peter Plummer.

    Some of the points of interest from the book are:

    (Please note: there are 12 such points in the A Year In The Country book.)

    5) When Peter Plummer introduced the actors to Alan Garner for the first time and asked if they looked right, Alan Garner’s recollection of it was that it was a “nasty experience”:

    “I wanted to run. They looked too right. It was like a waking dream. Here were the people I’d thought about, who’d lived in my head for so long; but now they were real. I couldn’t accept that they were only actors.”

    6) Alan Garner had based the part of Huw on Dafydd, an actual gardener from one of the locales of filming, but a Dafydd as he had imagined him being at the age of forty. When he saw them together he said that it “was like seeing father and son”. Apparently the two people in question when they saw one another said:

    Dafydd: “I wish I was young and forty again.” Raymond: “Now I know what I’ll look like at eighty.”

    The book leaves a sense that Dafydd was a very particular kind of person, one of those people who seem to have been part of the land forever, an archetype almost.

    11) Alan Garner is one of the villagers in one scene in the series and apparently he was a foot taller than all the actual local people who were in the series and they all found it hard to behave normally when the man-made storm rain hits them.

    Alan Garner: “…as soon as the solid water hit us we all gasped and yelled, and looked like anything but villagers out in a storm.” Dafydd: “We must be dumb and waterproof.”

    Alan Garner: “That scene is still odd, because I was about a foot taller than anybody else, and I look like the village freak – which may be what Peter was after all the time.”

    12) The end of Alan Garner’s section is a quote taken from a letter sent by Dafydd, referring to the time during the filming and The Stone Of Gronw, which the production had commissioned to be carved, prepared and set in place for the series:

    “It was a good time… I have been to the stone. It is lonely now.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 11 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 11/52

    British festival books-Tomorrow's People-The Sun In The East-Memories of a free festival

    To my knowledge there are three main photography orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People (1974), Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs (1983) and Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene (2017).

    These books document and capture a time when festivals weren’t an accepted mainstream and/or commercial orientated activity.

    Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid-Tomorrows People-British festival photography book-1974

    Tomorrow’s People, which I have written about previously at A Year In The Country, focuses on the 1960s and 1970s, a time when in part festivals were an experiment in alternative ways of living and thinking, often inspired by hippie, new age, utopian and later anti-authoritarian ideals and sometimes took place without charging an entrance fee – they could be seen as part of an attempt to create short-lived temporary autonomous zones where such experiments and ideals could take place and flourish.

    (In terms of further reading Rob Young covers such festivals extensively in his Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music book in the chapter Paradise Enclosed.)

    Although the above ideals and beliefs were part of festivals around this time and may well have been believed fervently and/or wholeheartedly by some of the organisers and participants, to a degree such aspects could be seen as ancillary or possibly more in part a reflection of the interest in and adoption of then fashionable beliefs and associated aesthetics and mindsets.

    Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid-Tomorrows People-British festival photography book-1974-2 copy

    Such beliefs may have been part of the impetus that lead to such festivals creations but looking through these books, what really strikes me is that these were gathering spaces for younger folk to let their hair down, party, indulge in a brewed/distilled or otherwise manufactured intoxicant, watch a band or two and so on – places outdoors for people to have fun basically.

    For myself these books are strongest when they are documenting the festival attendees rather than the “known” bands on stage. When they turn their gaze away from the main stages and onto the general public they seem to capture more of a sense of time and place, of a world and events that although a part of relatively recent history now seem quite far away from our own times.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-8-cover

    Along which lines Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East book focuses quite specifically on a set of smaller scale fairs or festivals including the Barsham Faires and Albion Fairs, which took place in a particular area of Britain between 1972-1982.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-9-fliers and posters

    The book brings together his and other’s photographs alongside articles, fliers and posters, cartoons, interviews, reflections and memories on the festivals etc.

    Although professionally bound and produced this book has an intimate, almost small press or fanzine layout and atmosphere – something which may in part reflect both the smaller scale, home grown nature of the festivals alongside Richard Barnes’ own connection to and enthusiasm for the festivals, of which he was variously involved as an attendee, photographer, vendor and helped prepare the festival sites by literally digging a trench or two.

    It captures a very particular time in British culture, when latter period hippie culture intermingled with medieval aesthetics (some of the fairs were medieval themed) and although not overtly expressed within the book it documents such culture’s move towards a form of proto-new age traveller/crustie culture and even here and there an interrelated anarcho-punk scene.

    To be continued in Part II…

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-2

    Elsewhere:
    The Fairs Archive
    The not-so-pocket-money-friendly out of print The Sun in the East book
    Rob Young’s Electric Eden

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Day #40/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise… from the wild woods to broadcasts from the pylons…
    3) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    4) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #46/52a: Barsham Faire 1974 and a Merry Albion Psychedelia
    5) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New

     

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  • Image AA/10

    Image-AA10-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • The Wicker Man – Notes on a Cultural Behemoth: Chapter 10 Book Images

     The Wickerman-rating

    “The Wicker Man… has become something of a towering cult celluloid behemoth. This is particularly the case amongst all things on the flipside of folkloric, as well as within areas of culture that have come to be known as folk horror…

    At its heart, The Wicker Man could be viewed as a mystery thriller, although in actuality it is a film which defies categorisation, mixing elements of fantasy, horror and musical.

    Within its enclosed rural setting it intertwines folkloric practices, pagan rituals, reimagined and reinterpreted traditional and folk music, unfettered sexuality and an older religious faith in conflict with a more contemporary Christian belief system.

    These elements, along with a background of its at-times troubled production and distribution, have come to create a heady mixture, which includes imagery and a soundtrack that have gained iconic status and the creation of an almost myth-like set of stories and reference points which surround it and that have reverberated throughout wider culture.” 

    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster-A Year In The Country 

    “In 2013 a ’40th Anniversary’ – possibly misleadingly named – Final Cut of the film, running at 91 minutes, was released cinematically as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.

    This was not a complete, cinematic quality version of the film but rather an intermediate director-approved version which, as with earlier restored versions, featured segments which had varying levels of reproduction due to original source materials not being available.

    In one sense, the sections where the quality varies are appealing; the shift in quality can give these scenes a slightly surreal, almost parallel plains of 3D or cutout look, similar to the effect that viewing a faded set of images through a Viewmaster children’s toy might do.

    It would be interesting to see the entire film represented in this manner, to step away from the ongoing quest for a picture perfect representation of the tales of The Wicker Man and to embrace its otherworldliness more overtly with regards to its visual presentation.”

     The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080 

    Day 16-Willows Songs b-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country Day 16-Willows Songs back-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-Trading cards-A Year In The Country-9The Wickerman-Unstoppable Trading Cards-Binder-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-trading card collection 1-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-RBeckettWickerman-A Year In The Countrynuada-wicker-man-journal-issues

    The Wicker Man book collection

    “While waiting for an actual final complete version there have been an ever-proliferating number of re-releases of the film and its soundtrack that have been released on video tape, DVD, Blu-ray, CD and vinyl, alongside period and modern associated posters, trading cards, books, zines, magazine articles and so forth.

    The resulting releases have become part of a whole not-so-mini industry that could keep industrious collectors busy but there are a few related items of particular interest.

    One is Willow’s Songs: an album released in 2009 by unearthers of rare and sometimes previously lost recordings Finders Keepers Records and which aims to showcase the British folk songs that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man…

    Its lyrics tell a tale of agricultural dispossession and intriguingly it is not credited to a performer on the album, which in these times of instant knowledge about almost everything via online searches adds a certain appealing mystique that this author is loath to puncture.”

     The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The CountryThe Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country 2

    “One of the curious things with The Wicker Man soundtrack (and indeed the film itself ) is that this is a case of where something authentic has been created from an inauthentic or commercially-orientated premise.

    The soundtrack has come to feel as though it features songs which have belonged to these isles for centuries: ones which are deeply rooted in the land, its folklore and history, when in fact a number of them were written and all were recorded especially for the film.”

     Ritual-David Pinner-First Edition-Finders Keepers Edition

    “Finders Keepers Records also reissued Ritual in 2011, which is the 1967 book by David Pinner, the basic idea and structure of which was in part the inspiration for what became The Wicker Man after David Pinner sold the film rights of the book to future Wicker Man cast member Christopher Lee in 1971.

    In both, a police officer attempts to investigate reports of a missing child in an enclosed rural area and has to deal with psychological trickery, seduction, ancient religious and ritualistic practices.

    The Finders Keepers reissue contains an introduction by writer and musician Bob Stanley called “A Note On Ritual”, which serves as an overview of and background to this very particular slice of literature which deals with pastoral otherlyness, the flipside and undercurrents of bucolia and folklore:

    ‘…be warned, like The Wicker Man, it is quite likely to test your dreams of leaving the city for a shady nook by a babbling brook.’ (Bob Stanley on Ritual from the introduction.)” 

    Inside The Wicker Man-Allan Brown-1st edition and revised edition The Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The Country 2Your Face Here-Ali Catterall-Simon Wells-The Wicker Man

    The Wicker Man has been extensively written about over the years, both online and in print, including Allan Brown’s entertaining and extensive unearthing and researching of the background and myths that surround the film in his book Inside The Wicker Man: How Not to Make a Cult Classic…

    A concise and revealing look at the film is also included in the 2002 book Your Face Here by Ali Catterall and Simon Wells…

    There is a rigour to the research in the book without it stepping into the sometimes drier grounds of academia and the text reflects a genuine love for and appreciation of these films…

    …the chapter now reflects a sense of the ongoing and growing story of this now quite well harvested in one form or another film, albeit one which through its ongoing appreciation and cultural inspirations/reverberations still occupies apparently quite fertile and not yet completely unearthed or unburied ground.” 

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain-2

    “Of the reams of writing on The Wicker Man, Vic Pratt’s article “Long Arm of the Lore” from the October 2013 issue of the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine is well worth seeking out…

    The article intertwines the cultural and historical context of the film, the romance of analogue recording techniques and the inner and wider myth and folkloric aspects of it…

    In it Vic Pratt places The Wicker Man in its period cultural context of changing times and mores, considering how the children of the 1960s had grown up and taken their place in respectable society and sometimes the media, bringing or infiltrating their countercultural interests with them, possibly having lost some of their political fervour while also looking for the more authentic or spiritually fulfilling but not via traditional avenues.

    The article describes how accompanying this was a sense of folk custom, witchcraft and the occult no longer being quite such marginalised or extreme interests; they had become the stuff of relatively mainstream film, television, music and publishing and a reflection of this can be seen in the themes of The Wicker Man…

    In many ways, both this and the issue of the magazine could be seen as a companion to the August 2010 Sight & Sound issue, which has as its cover strapline “The Films of Old, Weird Britain”, accompanied by a Wicker Man-like, landscape myths and folk horror-esque illustration and features “The Pattern Under the Plough” article by Rob Young as its main feature.

    That article delves beneath the topsoil of British cinema to find a rich seam of films and television which take the landscape, rural ways, folklore (of the traditional and reimagined varieties) or ‘the matter of Britain’ as their starting point…”

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 10Akenfield film 1974sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country

    Derek Jarman-Journey to Avebury-still Patrick Keiller-Robinson in Space-film still Chris Petit-London Orbital-film still

    Quatermass and the Pit-Nigel Kneale-bluray cover artPendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 3

    “(Rob Young’s The Pattern Under the Plough article) further contextualises The Wicker Man, placing it alongside other such folk horror films as Witchfinder General. It then goes on to consider an interrelated loose grouping of films and television which in part explore those flipside Albionic cracks in the landscape.

    These include Winstanley (1975) and its dramatising of historical English Civil War era searching for an earthly paradise, the journey through a rural year of Akenfield (1974), the almost straight documentary that also seems to quietly explore the undercurrents of the land Sleep Furiously (2008)…

    It also includes considerations of and connects the above with the art film experiments and psychogeography (a form of explorative wandering) of Derek Jarman’s Journey to Avesbury (1971), Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Space (1997) and Chris Petit’s London Orbital (2002), the atavistic memories of Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and the layered spectral rural history tales of Penda’s Fen (1974).

     The Sneaker Pimps-How Do-Willows Song-Becoming X-Spin Spin Sugar-Kelli Ali-The Wicker Man 

    “The Wicker Man has also acted as a wider source of musical inspiration and influence, branching out into more mainstream and even chart music. The band Sneaker Pimps recorded a song called “How Do”, which is a version of “Willow’s Song” from The Wicker Man soundtrack and includes samples from the film…

    It was a curious thing for a quite pop orientated band, even if a more left-of-centre one, back then to include a song from The Wicker Man soundtrack. At the time of How Do’s release The Wicker Man was a known film but its extended and ever growing cultdom had not really started to gather pace yet and Trunk Records’ release of the soundtrack was still a couple of years away, so information about the film was probably still relatively thin on the ground.”

     Kelli Ali-Rocking Horse and Butterfly

    “In a possible further example of the ongoing influence of the film, in 2008 Kelli Ali, who was the singer with Sneaker Pimps at the time of Becoming X, released a pastoral folk inflected album called Rocking Horse on record label One Little Indian, which was produced by Max Richter…

    (On her album) Butterfly there is also another version of Willow’s Song, which takes it back nearer to its purely imagined folkloric roots and although being her own interpretation it is closer to how the song was performed for The Wicker Man’s soundtrack than the Sneaker Pimps version and indeed would not seem all that out of place if heard amongst the other music in the film.”

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    “In a further Wicker Man connection with one time chartbound bands, Pulp included a song called “Wickerman” on their 2001 album, We Love Life.

    The song is a multi-layered piece of culture, one that interweaves samples from the original The Wicker Man film soundtrack recording and hence otherly folkloric concerns, alongside a sense of urban exploration, the true life history of the band, spoken word, a certain grandiosity in its production (possibly courtesy of producer Scott Walker), the social history of Sheffield and surrounding areas and a yearning, wistful love story…

    …members of Pulp went on an expedition through tunnels beneath Sheffield that were used for sluicing industrial run off… that journey became increasingly dangerous feeling and… it inspired the Pulp song Wickerman…

    …what the real life story of the band wandering through those tunnels also brings to mind is the underground tunnel sequence in Ben Wheatley’s 2011 film Kill List, and its related occult vision of folkloric machinations; lines from which could be connected backwards to The Wicker Man and its flipside views, expressions and interpretations of folklore and an unsettled take on pastoralism.”

     The Wicker Man-construction-production photograph The Wicker Man-1973-Production notes The Wickerman-lost scene in hairdressersWillow Umbrella-Christopher Lee-The Wicker Man-1973

    “Along with the above books, articles and records which explore and/or draw inspiration from The Wicker Man there are an extensive number of websites and documentaries which focus on the film.

    One of the most in depth of such websites is The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia site which on a recent visit had 138 different pages related to the film…

    Of particular note are the images of the construction of The Wicker Man structure used in the film and also the numbered on-set and press photographs taken from contact sheets.

    Even though they are on a public site these seem to offer a semi-hidden view or a glance behind the curtain of the film.

    However, despite this they do not diminish the mystique or myths of the film, which can sometimes be the case with such photographs or “How We Made the Film” documentaries and DVD extras.

    This is possibly because The Wicker Man has such a multi-layered set of myths around it, some of which are intrinsically connected and interwoven with the production of the film itself and related backstories, all of which have become part and parcel of its intriguing nature.”

     The Wicker Man BBC Scotland On Screen 2009 

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-b2

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-2

    “Further behind the scenes views and discussion can be found in a now quite considerable number of The Wicker Man documentaries, including those on the various DVD/Blu-ray releases of the film and also in documentaries which were originally broadcast on television.

    These include:

    1) The Wicker Man/BBC Scotland on Screen (2009), in which actor Alan Cumming wanders around the film’s locations, with how they are today segueing into scenes from the film…

    This features… the woman who runs the gallery where the sweet shop scene was filmed (who says something along the lines of some visiting tourists thinking that those who live in the area actually are pagans).

    2) The Wicker Man episode of the BBC 4 series Cast and Crew (2005), which hosts a round table discussion of the film.

    (Which includes) cast members Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt being her delightfully eccentric and expressive self (slightly embarrassing/ awkward for more reserved British sensibilities to know how to cope with this)…

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Jonny Trunk

    (Another Wicker Man related documentary is) Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Sound track… 

    (Which features) the musicians Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band and Mike Lindsay of Tuung (who have both created and released The Wicker Man-related work) and Jonny Trunk who is variously an archival record researcher, collector, writer and was responsible for the release of the first commercial edition of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack via his label Trunk Records…

    There is something very evocative and moving about this particular documentary and it has a certain classiness to it, a sense of a deep respect for the film both by those shown in it and from behind the camera.

    Part of that is the way it is divided into titled chapters that connect with the themes of the film and its influence; Creation, Isolation, Resurrection, Inspiration and Resolution…”

     Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Stephen Cracknell-Mike Lindsay 

    “In terms of some of the reasons for the ongoing and expanding appeal of the film and its soundtrack, Stephen Cracknell makes an incisive point about how the songs have become like folk standards for young indie-folk musicians and says:

    “I think it will go on influencing people by giving them this idea of ‘Wow, you can be playful and sexy and daring and scary, not just reverential with old music and make it new and vibrant’. It stands like a beacon for that really.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 10 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 10/52

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-1

    In Part 1 of this post (which can be read here) I wrote about the film The Creeping Garden, a documentary on slime moulds – a form of life which seems to be neither animal nor vegetable and which appears to possibly possess a form of intelligent and collective problem solving.

    As mentioned in Part 1, the film is presented in a way that harks back to previous decades’ science fiction films such as Phase IV, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob and The Andromeda Strain and takes a multi-layered approach to those who study and work with slime moulds – from institutional collections to amateur observers, via artists, musicians, scientists etc, with those different branches, strands and definitions being show as often overlapping.

    The Creeping Garden-2014 film documentary-piano

    Eduardo Reck Miranda-The Creeping Garden-film documentary-2014

    According to the film slime moulds have not been overly studied or of interest to mainstream science but are shown in The Creeping Garden to have been of considerable interest to what could be considered amateur and/or fringe science and/or where such things meet artistic expression and exploration; the film features a number of people who produce creative work which incorporates slime moulds, including composer Eduardo Reck Miranda who “jams” at the piano with musical sounds that are triggered by electrodes which register the emotional responses of slime moulds to stimuli.

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-Angela Mele illustration-2

    While the work of the Unconventional Computing Centre, a university research department in the UK, is shown as creating synthesized music/sounds using data produced by recording/analysing slime moulds responses to various scenarios and stimuli: the resulting audio appears to represents emotions – when food is plentiful they produce impulses which effectively generate “happy” state sounds, when humidity and food are gone they enter a panic mode and the impulses they then create while deciding whether to try and escape or become dormant produce a more manic soundscape, while if they then decide to sleep/become dormant then their responses seem to wind down and produce a calming set of sounds.

    Klaus-Peter Zauner-The Creeping Garden-film documentary 2014-1 Klaus-Peter Zauner-The Creeping Garden-film documentary 2014-2

    Wandering further into areas where science meets creative expression in connection to slime moulds, in The Creeping Garden Klaus-Peter Zauner, a physical sciences and engineering researcher, uses/enables slime molds to operate a circuit board on wheels and researcher Ella Gale uses data generated by slime molds to assign facial expressions to a disembodied robotic head.

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-2014-5

    And also further blurring the “are they living creatures or plants, do they act through intelligence or not?” aspects to the film, the slime moulds are also shown in work by artist/researcher Heather Barnett as being able to for example work out the best way through a maze to reach a food supply, while elsewhere in the film similarities are shown between their growth patterns and the development of highways that connect cities together.

    “P polycephalum is a plasmodial, single-celled organism which grows outward from a single point, searching for food sources. Once these have been located, the many branches it has sent out die back, leaving only the most efficient route between food source nodes.” David Parr in The Guardian, writing on the use of slime moulds to explore and replicate transport networks.

    As mentioned in the film, because of the above problem solving aspect of their behaviour the study of slime moulds has been used as way to plan crowd control and the most efficient way of enabling people to move from one area to another.

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-2

    The film returns a number of times to Mark Pragnell, who studies slime moulds in their natural forest setting. Described as an “amateur” he seems to have a genuine passion for his subject, one which reflects the origin of the word amateur from the Latin amo which means to love.

    Magic Myxies-1931-Percy Smith-nature documentary pioneer

    It also features the work of cinematic nature documentary pioneer Percy Smith, who in the 1930s made the film Magic Myxies about slime moulds, utilising his innovative and pioneering use of  micro and time lapse photography, which he rather pleasingly and in an almost pre-hauntological manner called time magnification.

    As with The Creeping Garden, Smith’s film on slime moulds seems to exist in an almost slipstream hinterland somewhere between scientific study and an imaginative fantasia, with it attributing emotional responses to them:

    “Notice how it quivers with delight over a good meal.”

    As I mentioned at the start of this post The Creeping Garden is an intriguing and curious film, one which lingers in the mind after viewing and seems to open up as many avenues of questioning as it answers about these curious organisms, not least why they have not been the subject of more extensive mainstream scientific investigation than appears to have so far been the case.

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-Angela Mele illustration-3 copy

    Elsewhere:
    The Creeping Garden’s website.
    The Creeping Garden trailer.
    The Creeping Garden book.
    The Creeping Garden DVD/Blu-ray.
    Spore Angela – Angela Mele’s website.
    Percy Smith’s Magic Myxies.

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #20/52a: Microscopic, Archival & Exploratory Nature Films: Minute Bodies, Secrets Of Nature & The Creeping Garden
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52: The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part 1

     

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  • The A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields Book – Print Book Preorder – Ebook Available Now

    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover

    Journeys in Otherly Pastoralism, the Further Reaches of Folk and the Parallel Worlds of Hauntology

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    Print book preorder today 1st March 2018. Released 10th April 2018. Price: £15.95.
    Preorder available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.

    Ebook released today 1st March 2018. Price: £6.95.
    Available now at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia etc.

    The print book will also be available via Amazon’s worldwide sites from 10th April 2018.

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    338 pages. Author: Stephen Prince575px by 1px line

    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover and back cover

    Download two sample chapters at this web page: Contents list and sample chapters

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    A Year In The Country is a set of year-long journeys through spectral fields; cyclical explorations of an otherly pastoralism, the outer reaches of folk culture and the spectres of hauntology. It is a wandering amongst subculture that draws from the undergrowth of the land.

    As a project, it has included a website featuring writing, artwork and music which stems from that otherly pastoral/spectral hauntological intertwining, alongside a growing catalogue of album releases.

    In keeping with the number of weeks in a year, the book is split into 52 chapters which draw together revised writings from the project alongside new journeyings. Connecting layered and, at times, semi-hidden cultural pathways and signposts, it journeys from acid folk to edgelands via electronic music innovators, folkloric film and photography, dreams of lost futures and misremembered televisual tales and transmissions.

    It includes considerations of the work of writers including Rob Young, John Wyndham, Richard Mabey and Mark Fisher, musicians and groups The Owl Service, Jane Weaver, Shirley Collins, Broadcast, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Virginia Astley and Kate Bush, the artists Edward Chell, Jeremy Deller and Barbara Jones and the record labels Trunk, Folk Police, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers.

    The book also explores television and film including Quatermass, The Moon and the Sledgehammer, Phase IV, Beyond the Black Rainbow, The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, Bagpuss, Travelling for a Living, The Duke of Burgundy, Sapphire & Steel, General Orders No. 9, Gone to Earth, The Changes, Children of the Stones, Sleep Furiously and The Wicker Man.

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields-book-Stephen Prince-front coverA-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-back-cover-published version

    The book has been designed/typeset by Ian Lowey of Bopcap Book Services and edited by Suzy Prince, who are the co-authors of The Graphic Art of The Underground – A Counter-Cultural History.

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    An online “cut out and keep” set of visual accompaniments to the chapters of the book can be visited here and text extracts from the book can be visited here, both of which will build throughout 2018 to include all 52 chapters.

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 1 to 10 contents list copy

    Book Chapter List:

    1. Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music: Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of 
Enclosure, Old and New

    2. Gather in the Mushrooms: Early Signposts and Underground Acid Folk Explorations

    3. Hauntology: Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre

    4. Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings

    5. Ghost Box Records: Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the
 Panda Pops Disco

    6. Folk Horror Roots: From But a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

    7. 1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

    8. Broadcast: Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop

    9. Tales From The Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex: The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks

    10. The Wicker Man: Notes on a Cultural Behemoth

    11. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen Red Shift and The Owl Service: Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes

    12. A Bear’s Ghosts: Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures

    13. From “Two Tribes” to War Games: The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture

    14. Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex: Twentieth Century Slipstream Echoes

    15. Sapphire & Steel and Ghosts in the Machine: Nowhere, Forever and Lost Spaces within Cultural Circuitry

    16. Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch: Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink

    17. The Quietened Bunker, Waiting For The End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, Bunker Archaeology and The Delaware Road: Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath Our Feet

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 11 to 37 contents list

    18. From The Unofficial Countryside to Soft Estate: Edgeland Documents, Memories and Explorations

    19. The Ballad of Shirley Collins and Pastoral Noir: Tales and Intertwinings from Hidden Furrows

    20. “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased): Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth

    21. Uncommonly British Days Out and the Following of Ghosts: File under Psychogeographic/Hauntological Stocking Fillers

    22. Gone to Earth: Earlier Traces of an Otherly Albion

    23. Queens of Evil, Tam Lin and The Touchables: High Fashion Transitional Psych Folk Horror, Pastoral Fantasy and Dreamlike Isolation

    24. Luke Haines: Our Most Non-Hauntological Hauntologist

    25. Tim Hart, Maddy Prior and “The Dalesman’s Litany”: A Yearning for Imaginative Idylls and a Counterpart to Tales of Hellish Mills

    26. Katalina Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy : Arthouse Evolution and Crossing the Thresholds of the Hinterland Worlds of Peter Strickland

    27. General Orders No. 9 and By Our Selves: Cinematic Pastoral Experimentalism

    28. No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G.: A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre

    29. The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything But Idyll

    30. Folk Archive and Unsophisticated Arts: Documenting the Overlooked and Unregulated

    31. Folkloric Photography: A Lineage of Wanderings, Documentings and Imaginings

    32. Poles and Pylons and The Telegraph Appreciation Society: A Continuum of Accidental Art

    33. Symptoms and Images: Hauntological Begetters, the Uneasy Landscape and Gothic Bucolia

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 37 to 52 contents list

    34. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water: Public Information Films and Lost Municipal Paternalisms

    35. Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council: Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic

    36. Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before: Whispering Fairy Stories until They are Real

    37. The Owl Service, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, Lutine and Audrey Copard: Folk Revisiters, Revivalists and Reinterpreters

    38. The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround: A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes

    39. An Old Soul Returns: The Worlds and Interweavings of Kate Bush

    40. The Stone Tape, Quatermass, The Road and The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale: Unearthing Tales from Buried Ancient Pasts

    41 Folklore Tapes and the Wyrd Britannia Festival: Journeying to Hidden Corners of the Land/the Ferrous Reels and Explorations of an Arcane Research Project

    42. Skeletons: Pastoral Preternatural Fiction and a World, Time and Place of its Own Imagining

    43. Field Trip-England: Jean Ritchie, George Pickow and Recordings from the End of an Era

    44. Noah’s Castle: A Slightly Overlooked Artifact and Teatime Dystopias

    45. Jane Weaver Septième Soeur and The Fallen by Watch Bird: Non-Populist Pop and Cosmic Aquatic Folklore

    46. Detectorists, Bagpuss, The Wombles and The Good Life: Views from a Gentler Landscape

    47. Weirdlore, Folk Police Recordings, Sproatly Smith and Seasons They Change: Notes From the Folk Underground, Legendary Lost Focal Points and Privately Pressed Folk

    48. The Moon and The Sledgehammer and Sleep Furiously: Visions of Parallel and Fading Lives

    49. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails: Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents

    50. Strawberry Fields and Wreckers: The Countryside and Coastal Hinterland as Emotional Edgeland

    51. Zardoz, Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow: Seeking the Future in Secret Rooms from the Past and Psychedelic Cinematic Corners

    52. Winstanley, A Field in England and The English Civil War Part II: Reflections on Turning Points and Moments When Anything Could Happen

     

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  • Tales from the Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex – The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks: Chapter 9 Book Images

    Tales From The Black Meadow-A Year In The CountryTales From The Black Meadow-Professor R Mullins-Chris Lambert-A Year In The Country

    “Over the years, the notion of soundtracks for imaginary films, or even visual work which creates imagery from imaginary films has often appealed. An example of such is the album Tales from the Black Meadow (2013).

    This is part of a multi-faceted project which has taken the form of, amongst other things, books, album and video work, taking as its core story the imagined story of Professor R. Mullins who went missing in 1972 in an area known as the Black Meadow atop the North Yorkshire Moors.

    The accompanying story tells of how he left behind an extensive body of work regarding his investigations of the folklore and oral history of the Black Meadow, in particular with regard to the phenomena of a local disappearing village…

    Even though it is widely known that it is a created history, revisiting the project leaves some lingering doubt.

    It plays with a hauntological sense of misremembered and faded cultural memories through the documentary backstory and the use of created archival material.”

    The Book of the Lost-Emily Jones-The Rowand Amber Mill-CD albumThe Book Of The Lost-A Year In The CountryThe Book Of The Lost-1-A Year In The Country

    “A further example of such imagined soundtracks is The Book of the Lost (2014): a collaboration between Emily Jones and The Rowan Amber Mill. As a project it draws from the folk horror likes of The Wicker Man (1973), Witch Finder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Psychomania (1973) and creates a world and backstory for the resulting music.

    Instead of an imagined documentary as is the case with Tales from the Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost creates the soundtrack to episodes from an imagined period television series, which are called to life via the project and accompanied by details of their casts, synopsis, crew, production companies etc…

    The setting is reminiscent of early 1970s British portmanteau horror: the type that often featured Joan Collins. In particular, Tales from the Crypt (1972) or Tales That Witness Madness (1973), films which have a certain period charm, entertainment value and cultural interest but which also reflected a time when British cinema was tumbling and hurtling towards its own demise via its focus on cheap exploitation fare, sex comedies or schlock and horror.”

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    “Along loosely similar lines is The Equestrian Vortex: a film-within-a-film that appears in Peter Strickland’s cinematically released 2012 film Berberian Sound Studio; this is set in and around 1970s Italian giallo film culture, creating the phantasmagorical closed world of a recording studio which is being used to produce the sound effects for that film.

    As with The Book of the Lost, it draws from many of the classic tropes of folk horror and lists credits for an imagined cast, director, soundtrack and so forth.

    Created by Julian House of Ghost Box Records/Intro design agency and soundtracked by Broadcast, The Equestrian Vortex appears purely as an introductory sequence created using found imagery and via sound effects in Berberian Sound Studio but without ever showing the actual film. It offers a brief window into the complete film; when watching it, there is a wish to see the full-length version, to seek out something that logically does not exist.

    This is a reflection of the strength of such work as the above-imagined soundtracks and films; they present only glimpses and fragments of the imagined worlds, tales and histories that they are said to come from, drawing on shared and sometimes faded cultural memories, leaving the viewer/listener space to weave, create and imagine the fully finished programmes and films.”

    Online images to accompany Chapter 9 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Image AA/9

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-1

    The 2014 documentary The Creeping Garden, directed by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp, is an intriguing and curious film.

    It takes as its subject slime moulds which are found in nature, organisms which were once classified as fungi but  actually seem to exist in some kind of hinterland between plant and animal and can exhibit a form of intelligence and problem solving. They may live freely as single cells, particularly when food is abundant but when it is in short supply then can congregate together and start moving and operating as effectively a single body in order to achieve their goals and to gain sustenance.

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    Although there are many different types of slime moulds, often in some ways to the naked eye they resemble fungi, although they differ when viewed under a microscope but because of the way they behave they actually seem to exist as some indefinable living organism; text which accompanies the film states they are “Not animal, not vegetable, not fungi – slime mould”.

    Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country

    Although a documentary, the presentation of the film seems nearer in a way to science fiction, with it’s cinematography, electronic music soundtrack, retro-futuristic typeface and the nature of the slime moulds bringing to mind older science fiction films that featured organic based invaders which possessed a degree of intelligence such as Phase IV, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob, possibly also the microscopic invader from outer space and scientific investigations of The Andromeda Strain.

    The Creeping Garden-2014-1

    Along which lines, the DVD/Blu-ray was released by Arrow Films, who often specialise in cult film rather than documentaries but because of the fact meets science-fiction-esque nature of The Creeping Garden, the film seems to fit in amongst their other titles.

    While the book which accompanies the film is published by Alchimia Press, which is an offshoot of FAB Press, a publisher which generally produces and sells books that focus on the more transgressive, cult and midnight movie side of cinema and culture.

    “Imagine if Stanley Kubrick and Douglas Trumbull were tasked with making a 1970’s educational science fiction film about the pods from Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and you’re some way to understanding The Creeping Garden.” James Marsh, Twitchfilm

    Providing a further connection to this science fiction-esque aspect, there is speculation in the film that slime moulds may have arrived from outer space, which is not out of the realms of possibility as when away from food they lie dormant for extended periods – one germinated in a lab after 60 years of being dormant – meaning that they could travel through space in a manner which reflects the arrival of the extra terrestrial species in both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Andromeda Strain.

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    While biological illustrator Angela Mele’s work which accompanies the closing credits have an otherworldly beauty but also a certain subtle unsettling character to them and bring to mind some of the cover illustrations for 1970s science fiction book covers, which at the time often seemed to explore and express some kind of fringe and quite out there atmospheres and themes.

    To be continued in Part 2…

    The Creeping Garden-film-documentary-Angela Mele illustration-3 copy

    Elsewhere:
    The Creeping Garden’s website.
    The Creeping Garden trailer.
    The Creeping Garden book.
    The Creeping Garden DVD/Blu-ray.
    Spore Angela – Angela Mele’s website.

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #20/52a: Microscopic, Archival & Exploratory Nature Films: Minute Bodies, Secrets Of Nature & The Creeping Garden
    2) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #9/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow and Phase IV
    3) Week #15/52: Phase IV / a revisiting / the arrival of artifacts lost and found and curious contrasts
    4) Day #149/365: Phase IV – lost celluloid flickering (return to), through to Beyond The Black Rainbow and journeys Under The Skin

     

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  • Image AA/8

    Image-AA8-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Broadcast – Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop: Chapter 8 Book Images

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    “Broadcast… are an odd, intriguing cuckoo in pop’s nest; they have been described as avant-pop, which is probably heading along the right lines. Their recordings feature a mixture of electronic and acoustic elements, melodic pop and more experimental audio techniques.

    While their work as a whole connects with, signposts, layers, explores and takes inspiration from a wide variety of cultural reference points, including psychedelia and Czech New Wave film, although this is more in a reinterpreted rather than recreated manner.

    The Children Of The Stones series-intro 2Sky-1975 British television-a year in the countryThe Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 3

    (James) Cargill also discusses how British children’s television of the late 1960s and 1970s such as Children of the Stones (1976), Sky (1975) and The Owl Service (1969) and their odd, sometimes unsettling, “why were they like that when they were intended to be viewed by children?” atmospheres were also a reference point for the album…

    He comments that he only half remembers the programmes, that they are just fragments of memory and that is part of the attraction of them, he does not want to know everything about them and how having watched them on breaking up television receptions or an old faded video recording added something to the aspects which made the memory of them interesting.

    (He also) says that in order to watch these shows you need to recalibrate yourself, as these previous era’s broadcasts had a different, slower pace; the modern mind and viewer is not necessarily always geared towards their rhythms.”

    Broadcast and the Focus Group investigate witchcults of the radio age-album cover-warp records-Ghost Box recordsbroadcast-mother-is-the-milky-way-a-year-in-the-country-1

    “Trish Keenan of Broadcast has been quoted as saying that the avant-garde without the popular can be rubbish, the popular without the avant-garde can be rubbish, which could almost be seen as a manifesto for the group and their work: their exploration and blurring of the boundaries between the two.

    (Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age) more overtly steps towards the avant-garde than pop or popular music but if you should want to hear a melding of those two sides then a visit to their Mother is the Milky Way release from 2009 may well be the thing to do…

    Mother is the Milky Way could be seen as the summation of a particular set of peaks and aims of Broadcasts work: a collection that gathers both their more pop and avant-garde influences, mixing, matching and balancing both sides of such things in a way that somehow makes its mixture of quite off centre jump cuts, lo-fidelity nuances, a certain dreamy surreality, dissonance, scattering and gathering of pop melodies and the use of reversed and found sounds all seem very accessible.”

    Broadcast-Haha Sound-album art cover-Julian House-Warp RecordsValerie And Her Week Of Wonders soundtrack-BMusic-Finders Keepers-Trish Keenan-Broadcast-A Year In The Country

    “Czech New Wave film has been referenced and mentioned as a point of inspiration by Broadcast a number of times over the years, in particular the unsettling fairytale-like Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970). On their 2003 album Haha Sound the song “Valerie” was inspired by the film and its soundtrack album which was released in 2006 by Finders Keepers Records featured sleeve notes by Trish Keenan, in which she wrote:

    “Not since The Wicker Man has a soundtrack occupied my mind like Valerie and her Week of Wonders. It was like a door had been opened in my subconscious and fragments of memories and dreams rejoiced right there in my living room.”

     Broadcast and The Focus Group-2-I See, So I See So-2

    Broadcast and The Focus Group-Witchcults video-Julian House

    “The visual elements of Broadcast’s work, including the packaging of their albums, videos and live projections have been an inherent part of their exploratory avant-pop nature.

    Generally this aspect has been instigated and/or created by Julian House, at points to varying degrees in collaboration with the band and for Witch Cults they produced the #1: Witch Cults and #2: I See, So I See So videos, which feature two of the more conventional songs on the album.

    …(the videos are) layered, occult (in the sense of hidden) collages of the land, bucolia as imagined through a lysergic glass darkly and pop filtered through the avant-garde…

    Of the two #1: Witch Cults is the more overtly surreal, with the normal world and its colours very rarely making an appearance and the video containing imagery which seems to invoke a sense of an otherworldly rural summoning.

    The video features (presumably) Trish Keenan’s silhouette flickering and strobing in the landscape in ritualistic stances, as the natural world melds and dissolves into an unsettling almost psychedelic set of images before the more conventional melody of the song also dissolves to become a gently unsettling set of tinkling noises accompanied by what may be roaring wind.

    The final section of the video promises a return to the ease and calm of an almost natural world and sunset with the reappearance of the lone silhouetted figure in a windswept landscape but it is only the promise as once again the imagery melds and layers to become some kind of ritualistic summoning.”

    Broadcast and The Focus Group-2-I See, So I See So-5Broadcast and The Focus Group-2-I See So I See So-1

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    “#2: I See, So I See So is more obviously set in a recognisable real, realist or natural world, but it is still very much a view through the looking glass. Connecting back again to James Cargill’s comments about children’s television broadcasts from earlier eras and their unsettled atmospheres, the video and its layering of geometric shapes, objects and the natural world brings to mind the introduction sequences of the likes of The Tomorrow People (1973-1979) and possibly The Owl Service or maybe some flipside Camberwick Green-esque (1966) animation series and seems to shadow, layer and reflect such things but without being a replication…

    Elsewhere in the video a box is filled with objects, shapes and a staring disembodied eye, which also seem to connect back to a previous era’s children’s television, although it is a view of such things through an avant-garde, experimental film co-op filter.”

    broadcast-wire-magazine-a-year-in-the-country-4Shindig Magazine-Broadcast-James Cargill-Thomas Patterson-A Year In The CountryBroadcast-Trish Keenan-photograph

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    “It is difficult to fully describe or categorise Broadcast’s work on the likes of Witch Cults and Mother is the Milky Way but in (an article in Wire magazine) Joseph Stannard describes it as “occult pop laden with pagan psychedelia”, which along with the earlier mentioned avant-pop description, is again probably heading in the right direction.

    Psychedelia and 1960s influences are often mentioned in reference to Broadcast, in particular the influence of the group The United States of America, whose solo eponymous album released in 1968 melded elements of melodic pop music, psychedelia, the avant-garde and art rock in a manner not dissimilar at points to Broadcast…

    The music (Broadcast) have released is both contemporary and also seems to belong to some separate time and place all of its own, with psychedelia incorporated in a manner nearer to an explorative portal then rosy-eyed nostalgia:

    “I’m not interested in the bubble poster trip, ‘remember Woodstock’ idea of the sixties. What carries over for me is the idea of psychedelia as a door through to another way of thinking about sound and song. Not a world only reachable by hallucinogens but obtainable by questioning what we think is real and right, by challenging the conventions of form and temper.”

    Mark Fisher-Ghosts Of My Life-Zero Books-hauntology-A Year In The Countrybroadcast-logo-a-year-in-the-country-2Broadcast-The Wire Magazine-A Year In The Country

    “Mark Fisher in his 2014 book Ghost of my Life talks about how it is the culture that surrounds and constellates around music that has been as important as the music itself in conjuring seductively unfamiliar worlds, that during the 20th century these gatherings of culture acted as a probe for such explorations and alternatives to existing ways of living and thinking.

    Broadcast are a fine, brightly shining example of such constellations and constellators and to this day continue to act as a guide to such explorations and alternative pathways of culture.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 8 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 8/52

    Adrian McKinty-In The Morning-Orkney Twilight-Clare Carson-GB84-David Peace-Edge of Darkness

    In Part 1 of this post (which can be read here) I wrote about three novels – Adrian McKinty’s In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Clare Carson’s Orkney Twilight and David Peace’s GB84 – all of which to varying degrees explore sometimes semi-hidden or semi-forgotten history from around 1983-1985, the time of the Miner’s Strike in Britain, the Cold War and the Troubles in Ireland, with a large portion of their stories taking part in rural and/or remote isolated rural areas.

    Edge Of Darkness-1985-BBC A Year In The Country-4

    At the end of Part 1 I said that they put me in mind of television drama Edge of Darkness (1985)…

    This series was a mixture of crime drama and political thriller that revolved around the efforts of policeman Ronald Craven to unravel the truth behind the murder of his daughter Emma. Craven’s investigations soon lead him into a shadowed ambiguous world of trade union, government, and corporate cover-ups, fringe political activism, collusion and nuclear espionage, setting him against dark forces that threaten the future of life on Earth.

    Edge Of Darkness-1985-BBC A Year In The Country-2

    The series was a success both critically, winning a number of awards, with it gaining 4 million viewers when it was first broadcast on BBC 2, which traditionally gains fewer viewers than BBC 1 and 8 million viewers when it was rebroadcast on BBC 1 just a month and a half or so later – repeat showings so quickly were rare at the time, with this taking place in this instance because of the buzz and positive response that the show had received.

    One of the (many) standout aspects of the series is that it is both very entertaining drama, while also being inherently a form of both investigative and exploratory culture (something which could be also said of GB84 and in a more investigative than exploratory manner also Orkney Twilight and In The Morning I’ll Be Gone).

    It also shares further similarities with GB84 in that it could be seen as a form of occult or hidden history northern noir,  with both being set in considerable part in the Northern county of Yorkshire (the Miner’s Strike which GB84 focuses on began there) and to a degree utilise some of the tropes and aesthetics of crime/thriller fiction, albeit in a non-conventional manner.

    (David Peace has used the phrase “occult history” to describe GB84, saying that he uses “the word ‘occult’ to mean hidden – but also as a play on the more grotesque aspects of the word”).

    As Edge of Darkness was produced and broadcast during or just after those turbulent times it was not so much an exploration of hidden history but rather could be seen as an attempt to explore, reveal or counterbalance hidden events, the hidden state and the actions of those in power whose actions appeared to express that they felt outside the laws, regulations and norms of the nation.

    Edge of Darkness-tv drama-1985-still

    As with In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight and GB84, much of the series is set rurally, at times in subterranean systems and complexes literally hidden beneath the land.

    And as in those novels, in this series those areas seem to be at a remove from accepted civilisation and democratic/accountable practices; unobserved or unobservable hinterlands that allow for the unhindered carrying out of the protagonists’ aims and schemes.

    Writer Troy Kennedy Martin was influenced by the political climate of the time, which was dominated by the right/neo-liberal leaning Thatcher government, the aura of secrecy surrounding the nuclear industry and by the implications of the Gaia hypothesis of environmentalist James Lovelock – which proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

    These elements were combined within a drama that mingled real world concerns with mythic and mystical elements and as with GB84 there is a sense of dark forces at play which if not supernatural may be preternatural and beyond the realms of the day-to-day world.

    Edge of Darkness-1985-still

    Intriguingly originally these elements were to be expressed in the series’ ending in an overtly fantastical manner, with Ronald Craven turning into a tree, although apparently this was vetoed by the cast and crew.

    Although that ending was not filmed, when I rewatched the series, towards the end it still does seem to descend into some kind of madness and maelstrom. Partly that could be seen as a reflection of Detective Craven’s own personal mental fraying and obsession in his quest and the subterfuge, chaos and corruption of the activities he has been investigating but it may also be a slight reflection or glimmer of the more surreal unreality of the original ending and possibly a sense of the disintegration of the “normal” world as those just mentioned dark, preternatural forces take hold.

    Adrian McKinty-In The Morning-Orkney Twilight-Clare Carson-GB84-David Peace-Edge of Darkness-2

    Elsewhere:
    Adrian McKinty/In The Morning I’ll Be Gone
    David Peace/GB84
    Clare Carson/Orkney Twilight
    Edge of Darkness
    Edge of Darkness hidden away online

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Week #37/52: Edge Of Darkness, stepping into the vortex, reshuffling and sweeping the board…
    Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 7/52: In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories – Part 1

     

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