Talking Ghostwatch at 30 with Spooky Isles
This autumn (*opening 27 October 2022*) Somerset House presents a major exhibition celebrating our greatest cultural provocateurs and visionaries, examining how ideas rooted in horror have informed the last 50 years of creative rebellion in Britain.
The Horror Show! is a landmark exhibition that invites visitors to journey to the underbelly of Britain’s cultural psyche and look beyond horror as a genre, instead taking it as a reaction to our most troubling times. Featuring over 200 artworks and culturally significant artefacts from some of our country’s most provocative artists, the exhibition presents an alternative perspective on the last five decades of modern British history in three acts – Monster, Ghost and Witch. Recast as a story of cultural shapeshifting, each section interprets a specific era through the lens of a classic horror archetype with thematically linked contemporaneous and new works.
The exhibition offers a heady ride through the disruption of 1970s punk to the revolutionary potential of modern witchcraft, showing how the anarchic alchemy of horror – its subversion, transgression and the supernatural – can help make sense of the world around us. Horror not only allows us to express our deepest fears; it gives a powerful voice to the marginalised and society’s outliers, providing us with tools to overcome our anxieties and imagine a radically different future.
The Horror Show! is co-curated by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard and Claire Catterall, who also conceived the idea. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard are BAFTA nominated filmmakers and resident artists at Somerset House Studios. Claire Catterall is Somerset House’s Senior Curator.
Opening The Horror Show! Monster begins by delving into the economic and political turbulence of the 1970s and the high octane spectacle and social division of the 1980s. Against a backdrop of unrest and uprising, it charts the origin story and ascent of the individuals who will go on to disrupt, define and destroy British culture, while exploring the monsters which plague society today.
Contributing artists include Marc Almond, Bauhaus, Judy Blame, Leigh Bowery, Philip Castle, Chila Burman, Helen Chadwick, Monster Chetwynd, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Tim Etchells, Noel Fielding, Martin Green & Mark Moore, Pam Hogg, Dick Jewell, Harminder Judge, Daniel Landin, Jeannette Lee, Andrew Liles, Linder, London Leatherman, Don Letts, Luciana Martinez de la Rosa, Lindsey Mendick, Peter Mitchell, Dennis Morris, Matilda Moors, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Keith Piper, Guy Peellaert, Gareth Pugh, Jamie Reid, Derek Ridgers, Nick Ryan, Steven Stapleton, Ralph Steadman, Ray Stevenson, Poly Styrene, Francis Upritchard and Jenkin van Zyl.
The show’s second act, Ghost, marks the collapse of hyperinflated 1980’s culture into an uncanny temperature change that presided over the 1990s and early 2000s. It traces an unsettling path through to the global financial crisis of 2008, a turning point in time between a century of old and new, at the dawn of a digital age of faceless audiences and invisible cyber wars. Newly commissioned, immersive sound installations from Laura Grace Ford and Nick Ryan highlight the strange frequencies of an age that saw the emergence of trance music and readily accessible sampling machines. Ford’s installation explores the sonic textures of the city to uncover those hiding in the black spots that neoliberalism has failed to assimilate, while Ryan’s voices form a call-and-response, as visitors become spectator, spectacle and a ghost in the machine.
Contributing artists include A Guy Called Gerald, Barry Adamson, Hamad Butt, Adam Chodzko, Kevin Cummins, Graham Dolphin, Tim Etchells, Angus Fairhurst, Paul Finnegan, Ghostwatch, Laura Grace Ford, Lucy Gunning, Paul Heartfield, Susan Hiller, Matthew Holness & Richard Ayoade, Stewart Home, Derek Jarman, Michael Landy, Richard Littler (Scarfolk), Jeremy Millar, Haroon Mirza, Drew Mulholland, Pat Naldi & Wendy Kirkup, Cornelia Parker, Steve Pemberton, Nic Roeg, Richard Russell, Nick Ryan, Scanner (Robin Rimbaud), Adam Scovell, Sensory Leakage, David Shrigley, Iain Sinclair, Kerry Stewart, Tricky, Gavin Turk, Richard Wells, Rachel Whiteread, Words & Pictures.
The exhibition’s final act, Witch, focuses on 2008’s financial crash until the present day, and celebrates the emergence of a younger generation and their hyper-connected community – a global coven readily embracing a dynamic grounded in integration and equality. Penny Slinger and Zadie Xa forgo the patriarchal occult and old world druidism with a new sorcery, rooted in ecology and bodily autonomy.
Among the works on display are newly commissioned works from Somerset House Studios artists Tyreis Holder and Col Self , as well as a new commission from Linda Stupart and Carl Gent. The act’s final scene features a striking presentation from Turner Prize winning-artist Tai Shani, seen for the first time in the UK, accompanied by an audio installation created by Gazelle Twin and specially commissioned for The Horror Show!
Contributing artists include Ackroyd & Harvey, Josh Appignanesi, Ruth Bayer, Anne Bean, Anna Bunting-Branch, Juno Calypso, Leonora Carrington, Coil, Charlotte Colbert, Marisa Carnesky, Cyclobe, Damselfrau, Jesse Darling, Eccentronic Research Council, Jake Elwes, Tim Etchells, Gazelle Twin, Bert Gilbert, Rose Glass, Miles Glyn, Tyreis Holder, Matthew Holness, Sophy Hollington, Bones Tan Jones, Isaac Julien, Tina Keane, Serena Korda, Linder, Hollie Miller & Kate Street, Grace Ndiritu, Col Self, Tai Shani, Oliver Sim, Penny Slinger, Matthew Stone, Linda Stupert & Carl Gent, Suzanne Treister, Cathy Ward, Ben Wheatley, Zoe Williams and Zadie Xa.
The distinct signature design of the exhibition is courtesy of architects Sam Jacob Studio and Grammy-winning creative studio Barnbrook.
The exhibition will have an accompanying programme of talks and events, with full details announced soon.
The special exhibition shop, edited by Faye Dowling’s alternative art store GothShop.co, will feature an exclusive range of limited edition items, including a collectible exhibition book priced at £15, alongside a selection of original and inspired gifts, from clothing and accessories, to limited edition prints, books and zines. You can purchase a book along with your exhibition ticket and save 10%, or choose a book, ticket and poster combo to save 20%.
The exhibition catalogue contains original texts by John Doran, Nathalie Olah and Patricia MacCormack, introductions from co-curators Claire Catterall, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard plus a foreword from Somerset House Artistic Director, Jonathan Reekie. The catalogue is edited by Faye Dowling and designed by Barnbrook.
Content guidance: This exhibition contains some graphic and disturbing artworks and therefore may not be suitable for children under 12. Parental guidance advised.
On Halloween night, 1992, 11 million viewers tuned into the BBC to watch what they believed to be a live broadcast from a haunted house in Northolt, London. The rest, as they say, is history. Audiences were terrified, switchboards were inundated with complaints, and the BBC disowned the show. But underneath the mania and controversy lies a fascinating and often deeply disturbing exploration of how trauma and abuse can haunt both the mind and the body.
Ghostwatch superfans Celluloid Screams and immersive cinema pioneers Live Cinema UK present a special "one night only" 30th anniversary live cinema experience, resurrecting the original spirit of the broadcast for a hauntingly-good immersive celebration of the paranormal, Parky and Pipes. Followed by a Q&A with director Lesley Manning and writer Stephen Volk, peek behind the curtains, and re-enter the glory hole…
Content warning: This is a live immersive event. Please be prepared for loud and sudden sounds, lighting, smoke, and jump scares throughout.
Produced by Live Cinema UK and Celluloid Screams - Sheffield Horror Film Festival.
Screening as part of In Dreams Are Monsters: A Season of Horror Films, a UK-wide film season supported by the National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network.
GHOSTWATCH 2022 SCREENINGS
Note: Only Sheffield and London are "immersive" screenings
Fri 21 October 2022 - SOLD OUT
Sat 22 October 2022 at 7.00pm
Extra screening due to phenomenal demand (also followed by Q&A with Lesley Manning and Stephen Volk)
Note: This special event takes place at Peddler Warehouse, 92 Burton Rd, Neepsend, Sheffield S3 8BX on Saturday 22 October. All other Celluloid Screams festival screenings take place at Showroom Cinema.
Buy tickets here
Sat 22 October 2022 Special 30th Anniversary screening at the Star and Shadow 7.30pm (followed by Q&A session with acadmics from Northumbria university)
Buy tickets here
Fri 28 October 2022 at NFT1, BFI South Bank 8.20pm (followed by Q&A with Stephen Volk and director Lesley Manning)
The bfi-org page says: "Television’s most infamous hoax remains as terrifying, and challenging, 30 years on."
Buy tickets here
Sat 29 October 2022 at the Science and Media Museum 7.00pm (presented by director Lesley Manning, followed by Post-film panel discussion with horror experts Adam Z Robinson (writer, The Book of Darkness & Light, Shivers, Upon the Stair and host of The Ghost Story Book Club podcast), Mike Muncer (host and creator of the Evolution of Horror podcast), Bronte Schiltz (Gothic studies researcher) and Becky Darke (writer, co-host of the Don’t Point That Horror at Me podcast, and regular contributor to The Evolution of Horror and The Final Girls).
"On the 30th anniversary of its airing, join us for an in-depth explorative screening of a highly controversial and seriously scary television phenomenon."
Buy tickets here
Sun 30 October 2022 at Chapter Arts Centre 3.00pm (followed by Q&A with Stephen Volk)
Followed by a screening of Nigel Kneale's seminal BBC TV ghost story The Stone Tape at 5.30pm (introduced by Stephen Volk)
In 1992 and on Halloween the BBC gives over a whole evening to an 'investigation into the supernatural'. Four respected presenters and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind 'The most haunted house in Britain', expecting a light-hearted scare or two and probably the uncovering of a hoax. They think they are in control of the situation. They think they are safe. The viewers settle down and decide to watch 'for a laugh'. Ninety minutes later the BBC, and the country, was changed, and the consequences are still felt today. With over a million complaints and a generation of children terrified of what might live in their plumbing, this is a rare chance to see that broadcast again and hear from the writer from Pontypridd who changed how we view television.
Buy tickets here
Check out the article about Ghostwatch by Stu Neville in the current issue of Fortean Times (#424)
A feature by Paul Davis on Stephen Volk and Ghostwatch appears in the new issue Fangoria magazine
BBC Radio 3 "Free Thinking" will run a live discussion on Ghostwatch on October 27th 2022 at 10pm, featuring director Lesley Manning and writer Stephen Volk. Presented by Matthew Sweet.
George Bass is writing a piece on Ghostwatch for New Scientist online.
Stephen Volk has been interviewed about Ghostwatch and his other supernatural writing for an upcoming edition of the "Knock Once for Yes" podcast.
Adam Robinson will be interviewing Lesley Manning and Stephen Volk for the Ghost Story Book Club podcast
Keep tuned to the Ghostwatch page for more news!
10 Quick Tips About Writing Horror
This article first appeared on the Bang2Write website in 2019, before my new website design. Here it is again, for the record, and for Halloween 2022. Enjoy!
1) Get Your Brain Out of the Way
Thinking doesn’t create monsters. Your unconscious does. Don’t think about recent movie hits. Don’t think of old movie legends. In fact, don’t think of anything. Cultivate a dream-time, a coffee-scape. Think of the worst that can happen. Don’t self-censor before you even dream. Go there and return with ideas. And trust them.
2) It’s All About Point of View
As I say in my book Coffinmaker’s Blues it’s not about the creature, ghost or alien … It’s about who is seeing it, and why? That’s the key to their inner life and why the hell we should care. POV in the story . . . In a sequence . . . Or in a scene.
3) Junk the Jump Scares
The stab of music, the shock reaction, the zombie make-up in the mirror – fuck that shit! It’s dead easy – and dead boring! It gives no depth to your story and doesn’t even make it more frightening a lot of the time. Think of what is going to give your audience nightmares for the rest of their lives, not just spill their popcorn.
4) If You Can’t Explain It – GOOD!
The worst thing for horror is a producer who’s a Logic Nazi. No legendary horror ever got where it is from being bombarded by logic notes. Stand up for what you know makes you shiver and shit your pants. If the producer disagrees, or points to the latest James Wan hit, you’ve got the wrong producer.
5) Push It Till It Squeals Like A Piggie
David Bowie said the best creative work is done when you’re juuuuuust out of your depth. On tippy-toes in the swimming pool, scared of going under. Always aim for this, especially in horror. It’s on the very edge or risking failure that the magic happens, not by playing safe. MORE: What Is the Difference Between Horror And Thriller?
6) Make it Real
Any idiot can write a ghost train ride about a possessed armchair or a demon in a cellar, lit in blue light and licked to death in the grading. And every idiot is.The more plausible and naturalistic you can make your situation and characters, the more your script will stand out from the crud.
7) Ditch the CAPITALS!!!!
Take the throttle off your writing – calm down and stop SHOUTING at me! No CAPS. No screamers!!! Write horror prose that creep up and taps my shoulder, and even kisses the back of my neck.
8) Seen it, Done it . . . NEXT!
Ditto special effects. You know . . . The crawling across the ceiling, the scabby-face demon make up first seen in The Evil Dead– yawnsville!! If you want to be the best of the best in this genre ditch anything you’ve seen before in another movie. Tough, I know. But you’ll be surprised what you come up with if you mine and trawl your own personal terrors. It’s the one thing that’s utterly unique to you – use it!
9) Don’t Play With Your Food
If you’re not a born horror writer, and don’t love the genre with every fibre of your being, don’t worry. But fuck off. How dare you screw around trying to write this shit, because we’ll find you out in a heartbeat!! If your passion is romantic comedy, write romantic comedy. Don’t rain on our parade because . . . what? You think it’s fashionable? You think it’s lucrative, right now? And easy? There’s the fucking door. Don’t slam it on your way out.
10) Remember: You Are Horror
It’s there in your own life, your own experiences and those of the people you know. If you don’t see it, and can’t find it, you’re not a horror writer. Alfred Hitchcock was once asked what scared him. He said “Everything.” I don’t know a horror writer that wouldn’t answer the same way. Join our clan. We’ll welcome you with open arms. Like clowns in a dark, dark forest . . .
As it turns 100, this utterly chilling silent film deserves more celebration – given it set the template for The Blair Witch Project and many more horrors besides, writes Adam Scovell.
"In the lineage of horror cinema, 1922 surely counts as one of its most important years. It was the year when FW Murnau made his unofficial Dracula adaptation Nosferatu, providing an early scare for audiences even as he fell afoul to copyright breaches. However, around the same time as Murnau's film, another seminal, but today less celebrated, horror was released: the Swedish-produced Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages by Danish director Benjamin Christensen. Whereas Murnau defined narrative horror through powerful German Expressionist visuals, the Danish director of this Svensk Filmindustri production innovated with horror's form, creating one of the strangest films of the period – whose eerie atmosphere, stark visuals and experimentation still stand up today."
Read the rest of this terrific article on www.bbc.com/culture - Adam send me a few questions on the subject of fake documentary making (I wonder why?), and a few quotes from yours truly are happily included.
Screenwriter and author