Diane Rodgers Researcher Blog: Adventures in Folklore with the BBC!

About the Author

Diane A. Rodgers is a Senior Lecturer in Media, Arts and Communications at Sheffield Hallam University and a C3RI PhD candidate conducting doctoral research relating to folklore and folk horror in ‘wyrd’ 1970s British Film and Television.

On either side of the festive period, I was lucky to have a number of direct collaborations with the BBC in relation to both my own academic PhD research and the C3Ri research group which I am part of, The Centre for Contemporary Legend (CCL). Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a flutter of raised interest around folklore at certain points of the year, not least on the run up to Halloween and Christmas which prompted the BBC to call on myself and the CCL for relevant stories and commentary.

Clearly gaining a strong reputation for the promotion of modern folklore study, I was contacted as part of the CCL about writing a piece on spooky television for BBC Bitesize. Part of BBC Learning, the Bitesize website is aimed at students ages six to sixteen to help with coursework and provide interesting, intelligent content for that age group. I wrote an article for them titled ‘Five Times TV Spooked the Nation’, covering programmes ranging from a 2018 episode of Inside Number 9, Ghostwatch (1992) and The Changes (1975), explaining and contextualising the effect and impact of these for a younger audience.

On recommendation from a colleague, BBC Radio Sheffield invited me to the studio to speak live on air (6 January 2020) about vampires with regard to the BBC’s own television adaptation of the horror classic Dracula which was broadcast during Christmas 2019. Paulette Edwards interviewed me about society’s ongoing fascination with vampires, during which we discussed trends in teen vampire film and television, and the influences of Hammer horror which still remain apparent on screen today.

The CCL as a team were invited on air to another BBC Radio Sheffield show during the same week (7 January 2020), to be interviewed by Rony Robinson about our work as a research centre in Sheffield and to discuss folklore, local and otherwise, in more general terms. Andrew Robinson and I were in the studio, joined by Dr. David Clarke on the telephone, discussing such things as the ‘Curse of the Crying Boy’, the legend of the Dragon of Wantley and the Haxey Hood, a traditional event which Andrew had attended the day before.

My last and most recent adventure with the BBC was at Media City in Salford, where I had been invited to a workshop upon successful application to the AHRC and BBC co-funded project New Generation Thinkers.

A popular scheme, the application process selects 60 early-career academics to attend workshops at the BBC in order to pitch programme ideas based on their research and helps to find academic radio and television presenters for the future. I had to complete a fair amount of preparation for the all-day workshop which included a pitch for my own programme idea and prepare arguments for an hour-long live tag-team debate during which participants had to argue on each side of the discussion. The day was intense, competitive and lively, with participants from a broad range of disciplines and areas of the UK and was fascinating to have an opportunity to meet a number of new colleagues with different interests in this unusual context. My own programme pitch (based on my research about spooky 1970s British television) was well received, and it was great to meet a number of BBC radio producers and discuss how programmes evolve, the fast pace at which they work and how collaborations between academics and broadcasters function.

I have yet to hear if I made it through to the next round of the scheme, but it was a great insight into the world of BBC radio programming and who knows what the next BBC adventure may be!