Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mark Valentine: Book Collector

We have posted a short film on Youtube that should be of interest to those familiar with Tartarus Press, Mark Valentine, and some of the authors we have published over the years:



In the video, Mark discusses the following writers: Arthur Machen, Walter de la Mare, Lord Dunsany, M.P. Shiel, William Gerhardie, R. Austin Freeman, William Hope Hodgson, Algernon Blackwood, Hubert Crackanthorpe, H.A. Manhood, Claude Houghton, E.E. Dorling, David Lindsay, Ronald Fraser, Park Barnitz, Norman Boothroyd, Francis Brett Young, Sarban, W.F. Morris, Denton Welch, Oliver Onions, Eric Lyall, Peter Vansittart, J.C. Snaith, Mary Butts, Frank Baker and Phyllis Paul. He ends with a discussion of the classic "British Rainfall, 1910".

Monday, 14 November 2011

Halifax alt.Ghost Story Festival, Dean Clough, Halifax 12th November 2011

Last year the Halifax Ghost Story Festival at Dean Clough Gallery was spread, in a leisurely fashion, over three days, and we were pleased to be able to organise a thread on the Saturday afternoon with speakers and readings. The whole event was a great success but, sadly, could not be repeated in such an extravagant way this year. (Not only was it all a ridiculous amount of work for visionary organiser, Dee Grijak, but, in the current economic climate, external funding for such an enterprise is no longer available.) There was a re-think, and it was decided that Dean Clough would hold a day-long festival this year, and we at Tartarus were again delighted to be asked to have a hand in the event. 

The festival started off with a reading of Arthur Machen's short story “Ritual” by actor and writer Reggie Oliver. Reggie brought the story to life very effectively, as you will see if you follow the link to our film. Many thanks to him for allowing us to make the video available.



“Ritual” was followed by a panel chaired by Mark Valentine, on which Gwilym Games, Reggie Oliver and myself discussed Machen’s life and work. The excuse, if one were needed, for the Machen theme was the publication of his stories in the Penguin Classic series, The White People and Other Weird Stories. It also allowed us to showcase a new short film of Machen’s story, “The Happy Children”, directed by Mark Goodall. A wonderfully atmospheric piece, beautifully narrated by Jon Preece, this black and white gem deserves to be better known. We were delighted that Mark was able to make it to Halifax to introduce his film, and answer questions from the audience afterwards.

The Happy Children, a film by Mark Goodall

After a break, the second panel of the afternoon, “Pushing the Boundaries of the Ghost Story”, was chaired by John Probert. This time the panellists were Mark Valentine, writer Nicholas Royle and psychiatrist Chris Maloney. They each chose authors to illustrate how writers have gone beyond the traditional conventions of the ghost story. Mark Valentine discussed the work of Walter de la Mare, Nick Royle the writing of Joel Lane, and Chris Maloney chose M. John Harrison. John Probert wrapped up the panel by mentioning films that push the boundaries, including “The Others” and “The Baby’s Room”. A number of attendees commented on the fact that the panel would have benefitted from a longer time-slot, but there was a schedule to follow.

Douglas Henshall as Billy and Dan Mullane as John in Three Miles Up

We all then went down to the Viaduct Theatre, in the bowels of the Dean Clough complex. Dark, chilly, and with water running across the cobbles it was a wonderfully atmospheric venue to see a 1995 TV adaptation of Elizabeth Jane Howard's “Three Miles Up”. With a sympathetic back-story not in Howard’s original tale, it is a powerful and creepy film, with a great performance from Douglas Henshall.

(Incidentally, we launched We Are For the Dark by Elizabeth Jane Howard and Robert Aickman at the Festival. The collection serves not only as a manifesto for the Aickmanesque short story, but contains "Three Miles Up".)

Following on was an HTV adaptation of Robert Aickman's “The Hospice” (directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard). Filmed in the 1980s, it is already a period-piece, and has the relentless quality of nightmare, in spite (or because?) of the absurdity of the situation that poor stranded motorist Jack Shepherd finds himself in. The overheated lounge, after the impossibly large meal, and then sharing a bedroom with the delightfully pathetic Jonathan Cecil, all seems somehow very plausible. Dee Grijak hopes to be able to unearth further Aickman TV adaptations, and details will follow shortly of her petition which she hopes will help get them released (under the campaign name “The Attempted Rescue”).


 The above trailer for Dark Entries contains foggy footage from an old vhs copy of "The Hospice.

Two contemporary films, “The Hairy Hands” (directed by Ashley Thorpe), and “An Urban Ghost Story” (directed by Geneviève Jolliffe), rounded off the festival, the latter of which appears to have been enjoyed by the brave souls who stayed until the end. Sadly, we had to miss it; like several others, we had a distance to travel home that evening…

We’d like to thank Dee Grijak for her vision and all of her work, not least in securing permissions and quality copies of “Three Miles Up” and “The Hospice”, and Vic Allen, Artistic Director at Dean Clough. Many thanks also to the various panellists, and to Mark Goodall for sharing his film “The Happy Children”. There were approximately seventy people attending the festival this year. If only we hadn’t packed so much into the day we might have had a chance to talk to many friends who came along! Hopefully we can repeat this year’s success in 2012.