Folk Music Gig Horror

Sheffield Live Update Megapost #1 2024

The New Year is here, and so is this very delayed type up of a couple of shows we saw in 2023. It is delayed but important to talk about them before going forward. Let us get into this spicy combination of live music and theatre without further delay.

Ben McElroy plus Antique Doll – 10 November ’23

We return to Bishops House (Sheffield) for more electronic wonderment in association with micro label, Sonido Polifornico. This old home for modern performances, electronics and sampling is perfect for a late, dreamy and dark night.

First we see Antique Doll, a Sheffield duo of Fiona Jervis and Richard Gibson, whose image is probably recognisable to locals, as throughout town and in publications we have oft seen the slightly kitchy, retro image, the old telephone and washes of pastels seems to be all over. Described as having the sound of “eerie ’70s kids TV Shows” by Shindig magazine they cut a space of sound that is either sat right on, or at least a little adjacent to, a folk horror nightmare of a soundtrack.

The experience of the set is accentuated with a careful pick of visual accompaniment. There are cluttered visuals of leaves, sticks, piles with a girl whose very mind seems to be exploding on to the moving canvas. It is alchemical, there are jars in rows with suspect ingredients having pickled away for who knows how long. This makes a lot of sense as later on we find out if is a Russian Alice in Wonderland with a liberal use of stop motion. It is a hypnotic loop that affirms the experience of the early act.

There is a selection of tracks to be had, there is a performance of “The Grip and the Twine”, the quiet interludes of pre-lockdown “You Got This” (from a time the band admits was not largely productive), and of course, Rocking Horse, “you should have spoken, if it was broken”. The band’s sound is a channel of quiet tragedy, though their scattering of little numbers has the bright colourisation of that badge jacket your best friend has. Their songs are a contrast between those shiny reminders of places you have spread your wings to and the jarring finality of an old telephone call with a bad line that writhes with the hisses and crackles of the clipped voice and scratchy line. A quiet, bullfinch of a set to start the evening.

Ben McElroy participates in “folk based experiments” and specialises in creating (mostly) instrumental soundscapes that wash over the mind and drip into your pool of thoughts. With a large inclusion of one of his later albums “Beacons of Wilderness” to the set (his ninth); McElroy’s confidence grows as he adds more vocal layers in fore and background to evoke what is happening within. His set starts with a looping fiddle, a calm and slow drone. The guitar is then added and the room becomes a quiet vortex of a green wilderness. A plane splutters off in the distance; the wind rushes around but at first doesn’t make a sound. The track builds to a soothing, idyllic day before a reflection washes over like the quiet drops of water on forest leaves. McElroy The soundscape gently rises and falls into the trees, nature is impishness as it reveals it’s thoughts through the tune in this title track of “Beacons of the Wilderness”. His later inclusion of “Stinkhorn”, a mushroomy aside, echos this but instead that it is characterised more by a kind of fumbling, a rumble of sound and the hint of a bark scent underneath the track. The soil of the song is a compacted hum with a bright promise of strings over the top.

We are also treated to “We wandered through memory”, a more human-centred work drawing on McElroy’s work in residential homes. It comes and goes, bright like the sun in a care home garden on a lazy afternoon, it’s flute and harmonies raising the spirit up high. The memories and history dance and are honoured in the way you would hope a nearest family member would be in such a place. McElroy’s set also takes us out of the local and into the wider world with “The Sailor and the Albatross”, a long drone-heavy example of an environmental song about the climate crisis that seemingly calls out from the earthly core itself.

Intimate and evocative as ever, the Sonido Polifonico events at Bishops House ( continue to excite and intrigue with more events on the way.

Scarred For Life 12 November ’23

Television and film is not what is used to be.

Well that’s what a lot of people who look back into their past with a sense of warm nostalgia might say to you when you try to be evangelical about the newest-hotness. For every Marvel film, there is something by Cary Grant but, obviously it is all a subjective game of taste, art and personal preference lest we all be boring robots. In other instances nostalgia can be anything but comforting and it will take a distintly dark turn with us remembering the trauma of something terrifying we saw on our screens from our childhood (whether intentional or not).

As part of a tour of “Scarred For Life: Folk Horror”, a duo of fine purveyors of such a memory (Stephen Brotherstone, co-author of “Scarred for Life” and Bob Fischer, broadcaster of folklore/writer of the uncanny and unsettling) came to the University of Sheffield Drama Studio as part of the “Performance Venues”, “Three iconic venues, one university, endless opportunities” ( Here the performers dig up scary old content to purposely poke and tickle our childhood traumas somewhat and evoke that sense of dread all over again.

Currently situated within what is regarded as a “boom” of “folk horror” in television and film, the show does a good job of introducing the idea of this genre with examples such as the exceedingly well known (The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General) to the more obscure (Bagpuss, Worzel Gummidge), aspects of culture that “scarred us for life”, and the historical and sociological events that shaped this genre. We loved the presentations around ’70s and ’80s television, especially the observations about the bleak, cruel and intentionally scary atmosphere of public service commercials. It also satisfied by shining a light on the witchcraft boom in the 70’s by reference to the ’71 docuementary “Power of the Witch” and some of the media offshoots from this. We look forward to when they tackle the 90’s which was when I was indeed in WH Smith buying “Prediction” magazine.

It is worth seeing just for their observation of when they believe the UK achieved “Peak Folk Horror” and a trip down nostalgia lane (even for those of us not around in the 70’s) as a means of getting even more ideas of things to watch from a much more unregulated time where the occult and horror was awash in society. They point out all the tropes here and that aspect of the first half culminates in a helpful and entertaining summary in the guise of a skit they call, “The Sex Witches of the Fens”.

There is social media for Scarred for Life ( as well as an excellent podcast where they speak to celebrities about what has left more than a mark on their childhoods (

For reference (if the presenters are reading), here are my top three scarring bits of programming from by youth:

Princess Mombi from 1985’s dark and downbeat sequel to the Wizard of Oz, “Return to Oz”
SV7, a character from “Robots of Death” (Dr. Who).
Chucky from “Child’s Play” (1988)

The “Scarred For Life” team have some excellent books covering evverthing you can imagine from the 70’s and 80’s, please look here:

Horror Theatre

Gravest Fears – Theatre Review- University of Sheffield (29 Oct 23)

We are off to see Nunkie Productions ( touring show of “Gravest Fears” as part of their M R James Project, spreading ghost stories through the land; those wonderous things that thankfully don’t ever die. The show is in association with the Enable Us Project at the University of Sheffield ( which has been showing some excellent shows as part of it’s programme.

Our return to the University of Sheffield Drama Studio is a suitable one for this show as the venue isn’t too much of a behemoth, open space that could (without modification) leave you feeling on the outside. This is a contained show that is helped by you feeling you are in the room with the narrator as if in modest urban townhouse.

Gravest Fears is a show structured around two stories from M R James which are narrated by Robert Lloyd Parry. Parry looks the part and has considerable pedigree in this department having playing him for Mark Gatiss’ BBC2 documentary and having performer and reported on across teh United States. As he sits in the chair he has the feeling of a storyteller comfortable in his own domain, yet portrayals the slight unease at the subjects of the stories well. He pour his spirits next to his table festooned with picture frames and other paraphenalia of a man of antiquary and delivers the stories true to that of a seasoned storyteller, not just someone reading from a page. There is a light the actor and the table, and little else needed here; the listener has to imagine the goings on much like they were reading the book themselves.

The first story is “The Stalls of Barchester”. Parry here is performing as the scholar Dr Black who is looking through an old diary and other assorted pieces from Dr Haynes, an Archdeacon who died at the Barchester Cathedral approximately 50 years ago (to the early 1800s). Once the evidence starts getting read, the reconstruction of events begins and what initially seems like the unlucky death of a previous Archdeacon, becomes something with a much creepier undertone.

Firstly, Parry certainly suits the part. “The Stalls of Barchester” is a story that in particular that highlights M R James’ scholarly interests and his family involvement in the church setting. Parry brings this element to the fore in his characterisation with his quiet enthusiasm for finding the 1814 records and a kind of driving mix of agnosticism of circumstance and the academic air of someone who wants to study the phenomena in front of their eyes and apply reason. The actor also carries the slightly dry love of the details, facts and biblical references you would expect to be close to M R James. The strength of this story for us is the little elements that hint at a pervading folk horror, the memories in our environment (here the Hanging Tree and intentions of the wood carver). The notion that one’s own moral failings causes Dr Haynes to be at the mercy of these strange circumstances is interesting and reminds a lot of the morality at the centre of fairy tales and the Old Testament.

Next there is “An Episode of Cathedral History”. This story looks at a mysterious tomb that is discovered in the church in the background to a plot where the Archdeacon Burscrough is forcing through renovation to Southminster Cathedral in line with a Gothic Revival style. This one shows the range of Parry as he inhabits the characters of the everyday verger (Mr Worby) both as his adult self and as a child getting up to mischief (and seeing more than he should) as well as a rather bullheaded, pompous Archdeadon Burscrough and a historian husband-wife team that go to write up the progress of the renovation. Parry gets into the spirit of things and lingers quite well in the right places such as where we peer into a coffin, look in the darkness or feel the pure disbelief of Worby’s father at what is seen. This story is the more pacy and immediate of the two.

It is a good idea to arrange the stories in this fashion. The “Stalls of Barchester” is like a details-heavy reflection of M R James mind and life with it already happening and the main character investigating like M R James himself looking into old literary sources. The second story is you discovering things as they enfold, a larger set of characters, and plenty to energise the audience as the tension grows; it is effective being after the intermission.

In summary, this performance brings to mind exactly the atmosphere and method of delivery that M R James would have intended and desired. It does not have the flash of elaborate set-pieces or technology, multiple actors or extensive attempts to rework the content in new ways; but it doesn’t need to. To say it is simply telling a story isn’t really doing it justice. It’s focus on the narrator allows the audience to imagine with their inner eye the horror, and Parry’s role as the gatekeeper to this old time horror on this wet and cold night is the perfect one.

Festival Horror Short Films

Celluloid Screams: Film Shorts (20 Oct)

For a change of pace from folk music reviews we decided to attend the Celluloid Screams horror festival in Sheffield. We needed to get some horror on while the spirit of Halloween was just around the corner, albeit sadly just for a day.

There were many films, it was delightful blur of memorable pictures.

We wanted to share our thoughts, so in our first post we wanted to talk about the short films we saw:




Director / Writer: Craig Williams

Release: December 2023

Our first short of the day is a Welsh one drawing on a constructed folklore which will hit the right notes with many people, including those fans of historical tales which might have influenced the story such as the the River Taff Worm or even the Lambton Worm. The main difference here though, is that nobody has a hankering for milk.

There are some delightful rural shots, the terror here is not really from the dark but the wind. Among the confused, slightly reticent sun you get the sense of an early chill; the forcing of unwilling bones to go and do “what has to be done”, and the core of this horror that “to go forward we must look back”.

Like many a good film with Folk Horror at the core, much of the fear is in the mind and the landscape. This is complimented well by the characters on their journey. All the actors represent a different face to what is happening be it the person who has seen too much (Morgan Hopkins), the muscle who has a kind of complicated approval of things (Seán Carlsen), the stalwart yet saddening person in charge (Bryn Fôn), and the resigned pariah (Morgan Llewelyn-Jones). Victoria Pugh sets up the dread and fear early on too as someone else in the know.

This is a slick short that captures the mood. You do believe this hidden community shame; there are little nuances that spark and add quite a bit, i.e. when a character is berated for standing in the road waiting; the secrecy and urgency is there in the character’s eyes.

The terror of the landscape and the old ways is strong in this short. We hope it is a success, it is the kind of thing we hesitantly get out of bed for.



Writer: David Scullion

Director: Emily Greenwood

Release: 12 October 2023

Next up is “Stop Dead”, a bloody crisis that takes part on a country road. Two police officers have pulled over and a dishevelled woman approaches. Then things take a turn for the worst.

For us, “Stop Dead” is a pretty good proof of concept for something bigger. It has the ingredients of a recipe for something really intriguing. There are two main characters at odds with each other, the terrifying visage of a broken, terrified person in the middle of nowhere, and an antagonist with some room for lore to be built around.

As the promotional picture shows, the lighting is especially good and deathly in this film. The makeup effects are top notch (Priya Blackburn’s Jennifer is a pale, scary visage) and the fate of one of characters reminds very much (in the best way) of that in a 1997 Canadian horror.

Prior to seeing the short, we saw no promotional material. If we had seen the tag line, we would have understood the particular rules of this scenario (“not to stop”) but for some inexplicable reason (it is probably mentioned in the film), it did not occur to us that this was the cause of everyone’s problems. As a result the final scenes were initially confusing to us. It might have been glaringly obvious, but we did not notice.

Even this misunderstanding did not take away the potential for an interesting villain take or stop us appreciating the set piece that was there in all it’s moodiness.



Director / Writer: Noomi Yates

Release : 14 October 2023

Self-described as a feminist body horror, “Only Yourself to Blame” evokes a strong sense of panic, fear, and signals traumatic memories of assault in an almost ballet-like dance whose central choreographed scene is startling.

Artistic in presentation and strikingly conceptual in setting, the vehicle for this short is undoubtedly the emotions of the main characters (Simone and Pervis), and the menace that is all around. This foundation of acting makes the piece flourish but there are other good choices too.

The makeup and presentation in a particular scene are well selected. With this theme in the wrong hands there is a danger it could be over-the-top and a risk that the real horror could be played for cheap thrills, especially when the film is going for a serious tone. There is never a danger of that here though, and like all good media with an underlying social message, the spirit of hope is also strong and clear.

The film does a lot with the time has and it’s setting is particularly isolating and creepy, a great achievement.



Director / Writer: Jennifer Handorf

Release: August 2022

One of the shortest of the films we see, “Wolf Whistle” is nevertheless an interesting and necessary watch.

There is a runner going to run out at night. Not much can be given away, but this is a blunt instrument of a film, and a necessary one at that. The frustrations and anger of the director/writer are very much felt here, and the tension feels very real.

The manifestations within the film are incredibly well-received at the festival. Along with the other short in their segment, this one seems to elicit the most outward expressions of positivity from the crowd. There is air punching to be sure.



Director: Rodrigue Huart

Writers: Rodrigue Huart / David A. Cassan / Axel Wursten

Release: 22 August 2023

Transylvanie is a French short that captures the soul in a distinctly sweet way. The main character Ewe (Katell Varvat) believes that she is a vampire and is looking to turn someone to stand by her and rule this province of apartment blocks. She calls on her powers to face her lonliness and looks on at her neighbours from on high.

Delightfully cute and quirky, this central premise takes place within a space of play as several of the teenage characters hanging out in the urban space together with Ewe being considered he outsider from every conceivable angle.

Probably the most popular short of the day, Transylvanie’s heart is comedic as Ewe’s seious proclamations, Hugo’s wonder (Lucien Le Ho) and Gwen’s (Emma Gautier) exasperation combine into a quietly charming mystery that with Ewe’s conviction makes hard to know for certain what the truth of the matter is.

Characterful and sharp in filming and dialogue, this is a short that probably resonates with that young wonder of horror that latter blossoms to full on fandom.


Director / Writer: Ellie Stewart

Release: 2023?

The last short we see for Friday at Celluloid Screams is Canadian short film, “Pool Party”.

We start by seeing a slumber party through the eyes of Freya (Glen Dela-Cruz) and feel her pain as from the beginning she wants to escape the pain that is talking awkwardly about intimate personal grooming and being made to participate in the coming-of-age ritual of getting leathered on cheap spirits.

This short feature surprises though as the awkwardness of growing pains turns into something else together. As the short progresses it becomes like a hazy dream, the bright colours glare and the pastels swirl and blend. Most of all, the piece describes the fears of this transformative time, but also the wonder of it and the self discovery of sexuality.

Warm and rewarding with some excellent prosthetics, this short brings the heat, excitement as well as pain, of young adulthood to the fore.

Acoustic British Chill Duo Festival Folk Music Folk Pop Gig Singer-Songwriter Traditional

Derby Folk Weekend – 29 September 2023

This year we managed to get to the Derby Folk Weekend.

Not quite as large as it has been previous, it still continues to get a good selection of artists from across the folk genre and it all takes place in the Old Bell Hotel (one of our favourite venues).

There are some other exhibitions going on around the Market Square, we hope to get to these in due course.

On the first night after setting our weary feet and joyful heart down for a whisky, we were able to see three(ish) acts from the first night: The Herron Brothers, Blair Dunlop, and Leveret.

Herron Brothers


It all started for us in the front bar with The Herron Brothers; we were running a little late and did not settle for too long. What we heard was encouraging, bright and a cheerful pop act that had character. From what we have seen they are like Mirror Universe Gallagher brothers bringing the cheer to Derby in their own rather than projecting an image of fighting you for your bag of chips, like a seagull. Independent music is great and this band is carving a place with some cool music.

Before moving on we have to plug their clip of “Babu”, what a great, joyous listen.

Blair Dunlop


Then, from nearer our neck in the woods, Blair Dunlop arrives from sunny Chesterfield. Dunlop is a good entry to ticketed part of the festival with a mix of mellow, insightful in his acoustic performance. He credits Jim Moray as being a big influence (which seems to be a theme emerging in this festival so far) and, like Moray, he has found a plethora of interesting topics to tackle be it recent historicals or more obscure interests, (The expenses scandal, a Porsche, and condiments).

Dunlop is like a rag and bone man, he has a bit of something for everybody. For us we were particular enamoured by “Sweet on you” (a bad relationship, but a good melody) which has a hook as good as Arturo Gatti, “In the day I think you are trouble, in the night I’m sweet on you”. We also enjoyed the time travelling nature of “Spices From the East” which brought back a historical talk we had on a guide tour of the Salt Mines near Krakow. Fascinating, beautiful place and also a metaphor-filled spice rack of good lyrics once again. Check out the link below for the previous release for “Sweet On You”.



Leveret don’t really need much introduction for those swimming in the pool of traditional music. For many, they are probably “all about the playing”; as they said themselves on stage, “We don’t talk much”. They actually talked more than you might expect with this sentiment, but there were definitely some interesting stories from the road alongside the continuing excellent musicianship.

We’ve seen them a couple of times and hadn’t been aware of the changing roles they take during their sets depending on how they feel. Such fluidity must come from a place of prior technical excellence and practice. We loved the abundance of hornpipes, including the 3/2 ones such as “The Good Old Way” which is the tune that always instantly springs to mind when we hear their name. A beautiful change of pace was the set of airs, “The Height of Cader Idris” with “Jack a Lent”. The first tune certain conveys a kind of majesty within it’s performance, “Jack a Lent” has serious Spring overtones and probably less of the implied dark contradiction in this rite than you would imagine. If you want a listen, take a listen below:

An impressive entry to the Folk Weekend covering a few different bases in the musical tradition. There is a lot to like here and much more coming up for the Derby Folk Weekend

Classic Horror Theatre

Haunted – “Influential horror stories dug up and made fresh” – The University of Sheffield Drama Studio (1st April 2023)

When it comes to yarn spinning the best type (in our opinion) is, quite explicitely, the one involving reading from a book or telling a grand tale. Knitting a jumper seems rather complicated and in folklore so many bad things seem to happen when you start spinning that wheel. That being said there is that familiarity in a favourite jumper, especially the one that appears after seemingly doing commando-ops in the bottom of your clothes drawer. In a strange way this comfort is rather like that of classic ghost stories, especially when their form and idea is respun in stories of the modern day.

Made in conjunction with The Book of Darkness and Light/LittleMighty/Harrogate Theatre, penned and performed by Adam Z. Robinson, and showcased as part of Enable US (which joyfully brings “New professional performances” to the old Baptist setting) “Haunted” is a play directed by Dick Bonham which we recently saw that showcased a performance of classic stories “The Upper Berth” (F. Marion Crawford, 1894) and “The Monkey’s Paw” (W.W Jacobs, 1902).

The Monkey’s Paw itself is close to the consciousness with such recent adaptations as The Simpsons, and (our personal favourite) Inside Number Nine, so watching a seed of these ideas being played back is a treat meaning that “Haunted” occupies a space which hits the sweet spot in the mind where your favourite spooky feelings dwell.

It all starts with hard liquor from the decanter, as our narrator gets a case of the shaky hands and tells us that “nothing will get him back on thatship”. “The Upper Berth” is a great story about a passenger on a cruise ship who ends up staying in a room which all the staff speak ill of due to the fate of several of those who were boarded there on previous voyages. The adaptation really keeps some of the best descriptions that set the scene, e.g. “sad coloured curtains”, his sensory description of the “wet” floor, and the individual running like “the shadow of a galloping horse”, and the performance around the spookiness of the “port hole” is memorable. In “The Monkey’s Paw”, we get a different story about a family who acquire a magical artifact from a Sergeant-Major returning from service India that grants wishes; but when has that ever been unproblematic? Robinson’s range is good as he moves from the part of an educated, supernatural sceptic to the Northern, working class father of the story in “The Monkey’s Paw”, who seems more than willing to accept and get his hands dirty in that superstitious, dark unknown. Other side characters such as the doctor on the boat are effectively performed allowing us reminisce of how an exasperated, worried and educated man of science of the time might be like too.

The constrasting themes of the perils of the curiosity of the scientific method (The Upper Berth) vs the curiosity of the chance to cheat life and fate itself are gruesomely desperate and fun themes. “The Monkey’s Paw” is great for what it doesn’t show too as well are left to imagine the grisly “machinery” death of one of the characters. It’s fascinating to see here how the promise of wealth even corrupts those with modest ideas about improving their station in life but also the pain and strength of avoiding temptation and trying to right a terrible wrong. Robinson switches between roles well, they all have distinct voices and idioms that make them recognisable. The only confusion for us is when Mr White (in the Monkey’s Paw) seems to refer to his wife as “Mother”. This could be narratively simpler for the audience to follow or it is possible we are losing our own internal plot at this point.

Credit must be given to the BSL interpreter (whose name I did not get unfortunately) whose forlorn and haunted expressions accompanied the signings and kept the grim atmosphere and tension high. The set is recognisable and effective in it’s choice of furnishings (Steve Watling/Charlotte Woods, technical manager) with the ghostly, greyed pictures in frames and domesticity of “The Monkey’s Paw” compared with the rolling netting, old case and dusty bottles of the marine nightmare. The lighting was moody and communicated the bleakness of the dark well (particularly as part of The Upper Berth). At times there were loud sound spikes for the jump scares. These were quite successful, we did jump at least once during the show after a scary build up.

These two stories are a great showcase of presentation, performance and writing. “Haunted” is the unfolding dread of the unknown and the dangers of human choice and inquisitiveness when perhaps things, “should just be left alone”. Old in subject yet lovingly adapted (and inclusive), it was a night to remind of the joys of storytelling and bone-chilling horror.

Photos by Charlotte Woods,

Check out the rest of Enable Us’s programme here, theres some great stuff.

For more details of projects and artists LittleMighty support, click here.

For enquiries around covering horror, folk horror theatre or folk music, please email us on