I'm delighted to have been asked to give a talk about Devon Witchcraft at this fantastic new film festival in Exeter, which is influenced greatly by the folklore of Dartmoor. My talk is at 12pm on Sunday 10th November at the Exeter Phoenix - details can be found here.
As well as some of Devon's more famous witchcraft cases, such as The Bideford Witches, I'll be sharing details of some fascinating examples from across the county. Cocoa, charms, cards and calves' hearts abound in this exploration of some little known alleged witches. Can these strange events be explained away rationally, or are there some things which defy explanation? Join me on 10th November and find out for yourself....
The Hell-Tor festival boasts a superb line-up of guest speakers, including Mark Gatiss, Stephen Volk and Jonathan Rigby, plus Anna Howarth from Usborne Books, talking about the re-release of All About Ghosts from their Worlds of the Unknown series that many of us loved as kids (if you're that old, which, sadly, I am). There are screenings of Ken Russell's Gothic, Hellraiser (with a talk by Nicholas Vince, who played the Chattering Cenobite) and Borley Rectory, by festival organiser Ashley Thorpe, which has just been released on Blu-Ray with an impressive set of bonus features. Check out the full details on the website here and make sure you pick up your tickets before they sell out!
Once again, this blog has been horribly neglected, so I have rather a glut of news to share.
First up is our 74th performance on Saturday 19th October in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. This is our most northerly performance to date and will involve the three of us, the set, some overnight bags and our small(ish - she's growing!) stage manager all piling into a car and going on a road trip.
As you can see, there are some excellent speakers at this event and a really varied programme. We're absolutely delighted to be performing WITCH at this event, because the attendees are bound to make the Q&A afterwards very enjoyable.
The event has SOLD OUT, but I believe that it will be being live Tweeted by some of the attendees, so if you're interested, please head over to the hashtag #TodmordenWitch19 and follow the action!
I have some extremely exciting news! WITCH has just been confirmed by the fantastic Culture Bite festival. We will be performing in the beautiful Great Barn at the Manor Farm Site in Ruislip on 30th October 2019 at 7.30pm. The Great Barn is a stunning venue and could not be any more perfect for WITCH - have a look at the photo and you will see what I mean.
So not only are we celebrating our London premiere, but the fact that it will be our 75th performance. I am stunned that the show hasn't lost any of its momentum and seems to be going from strength to strength. Every time I think it has reached a pinnacle, something else happens which takes my breath away.
I will be sharing ticketing details as soon as they become available - this will be ticketed via Culture Bite, rather than Circle of Spears, so keep checking back for more news about this exciting milestone in Margery's adventures!
I have been rather neglecting my websites over the summer holidays - many apologies. Recently, my current works-in-progress have also been carefully laid to one side to make way for a new project, which you can buy here
And no, I promise that this wasn't just a procrastination exercise. I was preparing for a brand new book event in nearby Tiverton in Devon. Crime in the Countryside, which took place on 14th September 2019, was a celebration of crime fiction and crime writing and I decided to examine some of Devon's unknown witchcraft cases. It was a chance to think about the concept of "crime" in a different way.
As soon as I started researching, I immediately fell down a rabbit hole of playing cards, calves' hearts and cocoa, amongst other things. The stories were so fascinating that I knew I'd never be able to restrict myself to a half-hour talk. Well, I did, because that was what I had to do! However, to accompany and enhance that talk, I have produced a pamphlet where I share the full details of these cases and offer analysis, suggestions and insights into what may or may not have been going on. CARDS, COCOA AND CHARMS - DEVON'S FORGOTTEN WITCHES was a great project to work on and I have very much enjoyed putting the pamphlet together. I hope that you will find these cases as fascinating as I do!
Many thanks to The Folklore Podcast for featuring Cards, Cocoa and Charms - Devon's Forgotten Witches in the online shop.
One of the many enjoyable and fun things I get to do as part of my work is to chat with some brilliant and inspirational scholars. Today, I had the pleasure of catching up with Professor Marion Gibson in her office at Exeter University, where we were recording a new episode of The Folklore Podcast. Find out about Marion here - and if you're on Twitter, follow her @witchesetc.
My husband Mark Norman, who is the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast, was interviewing Marion about her recent book Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft, which covers many intriguing iterations of witches from Macbeth to Matthew Hopkins to Eastwick to Dennis Wheatley to Sabrina. And if that sounds cool, wait until you hear her job title - she's Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures!
Marion is one of the lecturers who has used WITCH as theatre-in-education for her students, so it was great to catch up and spend some time listening to her talking about her inspirations and sharing her thoughts on various topics. The podcast episode will be released at the beginning of April and it's well worth a listen because we talked about so many different aspects of witchcraft - there's some Charmed in there, The Witch of Edmonton, Amicus and Hammer Horror and a couple of excellent reading recommendations from Marion, so keep an eye on The Folklore Podcast's website (link above) and make sure you give "Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft" a listen!
Professor Marion Gibson and myself in her office at Exeter University - which has an impressive set of bookshelves which immediately inspired bookshelf envy! (They run the length of the room and are ceiling to roughly waist height and they are FULL!) Image copyright is my own.
Mark and Marion in mid-discussion (Look at the shelves. LOOK AT THEM!) Image copyright is my own.
I'm delighted to announce that Margery is back!
Circle of Spears has just confirmed that we will be bringing WITCH to South Devon for the very first time on 6th April 2019. We're doing two performances at Torquay Museum - 2pm and 7pm. These will be our 63rd and 64th performances. Tickets will be available very soon from the Circle of Spears website here or from the museum.
We have also been invited to support the fantastic work of tapestry artist Anne Jackson at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey, Devon, on 2nd May at 7.30pm. This is the second time we have supported Anne's work and we're very much looking forward to performing in the fabulous gallery space at the Guild with Anne's beautiful tapestries as our backdrop - it adds another layer of poignancy to Margery's story. Check out the Guild's website here.
I am delighted to have been invited to be a guest blogger on the brilliant Blue Jinni Media website, chatting about how I use history and folklore in my fiction writing. It was interesting to actually sit back and consider how I write. Most of the time, I either have a written plan or an outline in my head and simply crack on with the writing.
I talk about WITCH and also about my new title, a collection of fictional creation myths for the world I am creating in my High Fantasy series The Fire-Eyes Chronicles, which you can check out here. The creation myths feature some familiar aspects of Norse, Swedish and British folklore, providing an anchor for the reader in an unfamiliar world of elves, dragons, goblins and trolls.
Check out my blog post and, while you're there, have a look at the rest of the site - there are some great posts and podcasts to enjoy from hosts Dedra L Stevenson and Rodney Harper, as well as guest authors.
This morning, I got my walking boots, compass and map of Dartmoor ready and headed over to Belstone for some field research. I was following up an anecdote in one of my books, which mentioned a particular location in Belstone, but after a fruitless online search yesterday, I decided to head over there today to see the area for myself. I was expecting (and looking forward to) a good few hours tramping around taking photos and seeing what I could find. However, the day didn't pan out as I had expected!
No, I didn't end up in the village stocks!
I parked up and got out of the car. Nearby, a man was carrying out a survey so I asked him about my search. Amazingly, I had just encountered the village historian, who knew exactly where I was talking about! So my research took all of five minutes and I found out a lot about the history of the site as well, which was an unexpected bonus. I'm very grateful to him for giving so generously of his time and knowledge and I'm glad I was able to share something about the area that he wasn't already aware of.
Of course, when you find out one thing, it always raises a whole raft of other questions...so the research continues tomorrow!
(both images are my own copyright)
Things are certainly taking a very exciting turn WITCH-wise at the moment.
Having performed recently for students from two history courses at Bristol University, I was stunned and delighted to learn that the play has been made into a formal seminar for both courses, one of which is Witchcraft and the other History Outside the Box. There really are no words to describe how amazing it felt when the two lecturers told me. I am honoured and humbled to think that my play is being used to teach the historians of the future.
For the next couple of weeks, I will be WITCHing in Tiverton, at the fabulous independent bookshop Liznojan in Gold Street. They run a women's circle and I have been invited to speak at their next two meetings because people have been specifically asking for me. I am really looking forward to these evenings, not least because today, I found out some more fascinating facts about earthworms (yes, they're back!) and I can't wait to incorporate the info into my talk. Plus, there is the added bonus of all the fantastic cake Liznojan sell, too. Give their Facebook page a Like and, if you get the chance, pay them a visit. It's one of those shops where you can tell that every item on the shelves has been selected with the utmost care, so make sure that you set aside a decent amount of time for a proper browse.
Finally, in slightly less WITCH-related news, I have just sent off my first folklore column to The Moorlander, the fantastic Dartmoor newspaper. This is part of a new feature they are running and I am very excited to be part of it. If you haven't read the Moorlander before, I can highly recommend it - the articles are engaging, well-written and varied, with topics covering pretty much every interest. Check out their website here - and if you're local to the moor and feeling jaded with the tabloids, try the Moorlander for a refreshing change!
(photo is my own).
A couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to be a guest on North Manchester Radio's Hannah's Bookshelf, chatting to Hannah about all things book-related. WITCH naturally dominated the conversation as it is such a major part of my life, but we also discussed dragons, Dartmoor and human origins, amongst other things. I also fangirled shamelessly over the fabulous Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom and shared my three selections for the Library at the End of Days. If there was an apocalypse and you could only save three books, what would you choose? You can listen to the interview here.
If you haven't caught the show before, give Hannah a follow on Mixcloud here.
And if you'd like to see what Hannah's other guests have contributed to the Library at the End of Days, you can see all the selections on her website here.