Child be Strange: a symposium on Penda’s Fen

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
British Film Institute & Birkbeck

‘Child be Strange’ is a one-day symposium on Penda’s Fen, organized in partnership with the British Film Institute, the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, and Strange Attractor Press.


Date: Saturday 10th June 2017, 10am–5pm, with a public screening at 6:20pm Venue: NFT3, BFI Southbank, London


Featuring a Q&A with screenwriter David Rudkin


Including contributions from: Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck), Yvonne Salmon (Cambridge University), Will Fowler (BFI), Gareth Evans (Whitechapel Gallery), and more tbc.


When Alan Clarke’s Penda’s Fen was first broadcast in 1974 as a BBC ‘Play for Today’, The Times commented that it was a “major work of television” and praised David Rudkin’s writing for its “beauty, imagination and depth.” Including the film in its 2011 selection of the best 100 British films, Time Out magazine described Penda's Fen as a “multi-layered reading of contemporary society and its personal, social, sexual, psychic and metaphysical fault lines.” It has since been recognized as an extraordinary contribution to 1970s counter-cultural investigations of alternative ‘pagan’ histories of landscape, myth, theology and psyche at a crucial transitional moment in post-war Britain.


The film vanished into unseen cult status, but after decades of unavailability the BFI has released Penda’s Fen on Blu-ray and DVD. This one-day symposium seeks to bring together academics, writers, and artists from across different fields to excavate this weird and wonderful cultural artefact.


Strange Attractor Press will be producing a critical anthology of writing on Penda’s Fen, which will include outcomes from the conference, and be edited by the conference organizers.


Suggested topics might include but are not limited to Penda’s Fen and:


History / Folklore & Folk Horror / Politics, Nationalism & Romanticism / Music / Genre / Gender / David Rudkin / Television studies / Theology, Paganism & Occulture / Queer studies / Ecocriticism / Landscape and Place


Conference organizers Matthew Harle (BFI/Barbican) and James Machin (Birkbeck) invite abstracts of 350 words for 20-minute papers; please submit along with a short biographical note by 1st March 2017 to