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Festival programme (provisional)

Once again we've had to spread our performance and talks over three days!
We're just beginning to add details of this year's programme, so keep checking back regularly.
Some events are expected to be very popular, so we recommend buying your tickets early to avoid disappointment.


Please note these times are finalised and we try our best to stick to our busy programme, but we can be subject to technical or other issues beyond our control.

Friday October 18

Saturday October 19

Sunday October 20


Friday Oct 26
Friday October 18, Opening event 
Poetry Reading and Open Mic night
Doors Open At 7.00pm for 7.30pm start
The Space Upstairs (above the Downham Market Library) 

A spell-binding evening of witches, gothic horror and the supernatural as celebrated in poetry and prose. Christine Pike will be giving performed readings of an eclectic choice of authors from Isobel Gowdie to Terry Pratchett, and from Edgar Allen Poe to Coleridge, and more.

The evening will also feature an  open mic session for those writing and performing poetry in the horror genre, and especially for those taking part in this year's poetry writing workshops!

Also as part of this event, Ed Parnell will be giving one of his his first public readings from ‘Ghostland’ which will be published the day before. 

Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He was the recipient of an Escalator Award from Writers’ Centre Norwich, and in 2009 received a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship.

Edward has had a lifelong interest in ghost stories and horror films. His first book, the gothic, WWII-set The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. His new narrative non-fiction book, Ghostland, will be published by William Collins in October 2019. In it he examines the haunted landscapes that inspired writers including M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood and William Hope Hodgson – as well as trying to lay to rest his own haunted past.

Edward is also the Director of the now-biennial Wymondham Words literature festival.

Ghostland’ is  a narrative non-fiction book about how the British landscape has influenced various writers, filmmakers and artists whose work deals with the weird and the eerie.  Ed says: "I grew up in the Fens, so quite sizeable amounts of the book are concerned with the area. M. R. James features strongly through the core of the book, but other Fenland writers and works include John Gordon and the brilliant ‘House on the Brink’, R. H. Malden and  Lucy Boston, as well as diversions into Graham Swift’s ‘Waterland’, which has a particular connection to my own life as my grandfather was a Fenland lock-keeper."

Saturday October 27
Saturday October 19, Downham Market Town Hall
Doors open at 10.00am for a 10.30 am start - Timings still to be confirmed

Event 1: 10.30pm - 1.00pm
Poster art by Chris Oaten, O-Ten Photography -
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Film: Night of the Eagle (Burn Witch, Burn) [1962]
Talk: Take Them to the Trees: A Screen History of the Witch

Darren Charles brings a new talk to us at Fear in the Fens about the history of the witch on screen.
Taking us on a magical ride from the earliest days of silent cinema, through Hollywood’s golden age in the 1930s and 40s, into the 1960s and 70s with the rise of the counter-culture and the Occult Revival, and finally arriving in the modern day in what is being hinted at as the second Occult Revival.

Darren promises to leave no stone unturned in developing an understanding of our constantly evolving relationship with the witch and how it ties to our constantly shifting cultural norms.

Night of the Eagle is a rarely screened British movie with a brilliant cast, including Peter Wyngarde(!), Margaret Johnston, Kathleen Byron (who stared in CULTure Babylon favourite Black Narcissus) and Reginald Beckwith.

Against the claustrophobic backdrop of politics in a small college, an atheistic  lecturer, discovers his wife has been practising witchcraft to protect his interests.

Lunch Break
Event 2: 2 pm - 3.30 pm

Nasty, brutish and short

One of the key features of Fear in the Fens is that it offers local filmmakers the opportunity to show their films on the big screen to a festival audience - and  a chance to win the Golden Shuck trophy in the public vote. 

We're already receiving entries for this year's festival, but there's still time to enter your film.

See which films have already been accepted

Event 3: 3.45 - 6.30 pm
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Witchcraft in the 70s

Film: Witchcraft 70
Talk: British Witchcraft Documentaries of the 70s

We are very pleased to be welcoming Gary Parsons to give his sellout talk on British Witchcraft Documentaries of the 70s.
These films and the sometimes lurid paperbacks documenting the lives of 'real witches' were the public face of the occult resurgence of the 1960s and 70s.

They formed part of the transition between an emotionally and spiritually repressed England which had remained on 'war footing' well into to the 60s - and the more open and  permissive 70s.

Although often exploitative, these films helped frame the public perception of 'modern' witchcraft and the occult that still can be felt in some aspects of society today.

We are therefore delighted that Maxine Sanders has agreed to give a rare public speaking appearance for us.

Dubbed the 'Queen of the Witches' - and featuring in a number of the witchcraft documentaries, Maxine can give a unique perspective on what it meant to be an openly practising witch at this time of transition.

Maxine will be taking questions  from the public on all aspects of her five decades of experience as a practitioner,  priestess and spokesperson for witchcraft as a living tradition.

Dinner Break
Sunday October 28
Event 4: 7.30pm - 10pm

Film: Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)
Talk: Sympathy for the Witchfinder

We're very pleased to welcome Gavin Baddeley back once more provide the closing talk of the day. While recent history has seen the figure of the witch rehabilitated from an unholy social cancer, to innocent victim or even feminist hero, those that hunted and prosecuted them have experienced an equivalent decline in reputation. Taking his customary stance of devil's advocate, Gavin asks whether the image of the Inquisitor and Witchfinder as sadist and immoral opportunist - promoted so often in film - is warranted, or whether these controversial characters may also be due a reevaluation... 

Blood on Satan's Claw, is another true classic of the British horror genre, with a great cast inlcuding Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden and Michele Dotrice.
During the 18th century a ploughman turns up a mysterious skull.
Before long a creeping insidious evil consumes the village, taking the children first.

As well as being a near-perfect example of early 70s British horror, (and arguably Tigon's finest moment), Blood on Satan's Claw's themes of lost innocence and evil lurking within the land itself, the film has come to virtually define the Folk Horror film genre.

It's also worth paying attention to Marc Wilkinson's soundtrack, which adds significantly to the sense of the uncanny.

Sunday October 20 - Closing event 
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Lovecraft After Dark
Live theatre from Don't got into the Cellar!

Doors Open At 7.00pm for 7.30pm start
The Space Upstairs (above the Downham Market Library) 

Don't go into the Cellar!
The Don't Go into the Cellar! theatre company bring new adaptations of literature's greatest ghost and horror stories to modern-day audiences, and we're very pleased that they'll be closing this year's festival with Lovecraft After Dark.

Allow the cosmic horror of Howard Philip Lovecraft to envelop your senses and blast your imagination!

At any moment, the terrors of the Ancient Ones may be unleashed upon the world. The Elder Gods scrutinise our every deed, awaiting their opportunity to reclaim what was once theirs.


Madness will be a blessing to those mere mortals who witness the crawling chaos soon to be released upon mankind!

Jonathan Goodwin plays Cornelius Pike in Lovecraft After Dark.

The show is scripted by Goodwin, and co-directed by Goodwin and Gary Archer.

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