Thursday, 11 November 2010

Halifax ghost story festival

I was really pleased to be invited to the first ever Halifax Ghost Story Festival and hope I will be invited back for what I'm sure will become a regular fixture in the events calendar here in the UK.

Dee Grijak did a superb job of organising the event, though she seemed very reluctant to take any credit for it. I had was originally told about the event by the illustrator and writer, Chris Mould and it was great to meet up with him and fellow author/illustrator David Melling. Chris has a studio in Dean Clough - the colossal ex-carpet factory that is now, among other things, an arts centre and was hosting the Ghost Story Festival. Chris and Dave had a joint event ( as well as some great work up on the walls) but I couldn't see it as it was right before mine and I need a bit of thinking time before I perform.

I saw Gi60 when I first arrived on the Friday night. This was an amazing idea - sixty ghost stories, each only sixty seconds long. It rattled along at a fair old pace, but it is very hard to get a decent chill when you only have sixty seconds and may follow a funny piece. Many of the plays seemed to opt for humour. I sat there wondering what I would have done.

I also saw Jeremy Dyson in conversation with Ray Russell of Tarturus Press talking about Robert Aickman. I am ashamed to say that I was not really aware of Aickman though I intend to put that right. I have stories of his in various compilations but I hadn't registered the name. Jeremy Dyson read one of Aickman's long short stories - The Inner Room - and he made a very good job of it. It is a wonderfully creepy story.

My event was pretty well attended and I chatted about who I was and how I came to be an author of children's books. I read The Glasshouse from Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth.

A big reason for my becoming a writer of chillers and ghost stories was sitting at the back of the room while I gave my talk and reading. It was slightly surreal to have Lawrence Gordon Clark, the director of the wonderful BBC Ghost Story for Christmas films from the 1970s, asking me to sign his copy of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror. It is hard to explain how wonderful it felt to be able to tell him how huge an influence those films had been on me (and I'm sure, many others of my generation).

Lawrence turned out to be an extremely charming man - very modest and thoughtful. And very funny too. We watched The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, Lost Hearts and A Warning to the Curious. They all stood up remarkably well given the time that has elapsed since they were originally shown. It is a testament to Lawrence's skill as a director and adapter, but also to the performances he managed to get from his cast. They have a strange feel about them, unlike anything I can think of now. Lawrence managed to find a visual equivalent for the prose style of M R James, without ever feeling that he had to stay pedantically faithful to the original.

The conversation with Tony Earnshaw was fascinating - particularly as Tony was feeling under the weather. It was a wonderful insight into a lost world of relative creative freedom in television. I felt very privileged to have been there and even more privileged to have seen the films at such an impressionable age when they originally aired.

I was lucky enough to go for a meal on the Sunday night with Lawrence and Vic Allen, the arts coordinator at Dean Clough. It was a really great way to end the weekend.

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