Researcher Blog by PhD candidate Sophie Parkes-Nield: Folklore on Screen 2019

Centre for Contemporary Legend - The Team

About the author

Sophie Parkes-Nield is a doctoral researcher in C3RI’s Centre for Contemporary Legend where she has recently embarked on a practice-based PhD.  Sophie brings together creative writing and folklore in her doctoral research which will focus on British calendar customs.

Sophie will travel throughout Britain to witness traditional customs and to interview local people about why they take part – and why they don’t.  You can find out more about Sophie’s research on her blog.  If you would like to discuss this research you can contact Sophie on Twitter.

In this post Sophie reflects on attending an academic conference for the first time. She picked a good one. It was the Centre for Contemporary Legend’s inaugural conference, Folklore on Screen 2019 …

My first academic conference. I have to admit to a handful of preconceptions: talks containing lengthy, never-before-encountered words I’d surreptitiously have to Google; jibes or corrections dressed up as questions from the audience; elbow patches; social awkwardness.

I was wrong on every count – even the elbow patches. If academic conferences are always as inspiring, insightful, heart-warming, fun as 2019’s Folklore on Screen, then I have a fantastic three years ahead of me.

Cantor Building Stairs - Folklore on Screen 2019

It’s particularly poignant that I enjoyed the conference as much as I did when I knew so little about the film and television in discussion. I’ve joined the Centre for Contemporary Legend as a new PhD student with a practice-based project focused within the field of creative writing and though, of course, film and literature are not mutually exclusive, I’ve never been much of a film buff. But I have since come away with a fascinating list of films and programmes I simply must see, as the speakers explored such an intriguing variety of different folkloric tropes and ideas: Haitian voodoo in Jordan Peele’s Get Out; the haunted artwork in Velvet Buzzsaw and the similarities with the UK’s ‘crying boy’ phenomenon; the concealed talismans in Beasts; the calendar custom and ‘the world turned upside down’ in The Lord of Misrule; the recent love lock tradition and its origins in Italian film.

And it wasn’t just film and television in discussion: how UFOs are rendered in photography, internet memes and the folkloric symbols present in the work of Sheffield-born Australian ‘outsider’ artist, Peter Booth, were also up for interrogation.

On the Friday evening, delegates were treated to an evening of conference-complementing music, curated by the Heretics’ Folk Club, a welcome alternative to networking-around-the-canapes. Otherworldly, haunting sounds from Hawthonn and headliner Sharron Kraus contrasted with the plaintive folk songs of Phil Tyler, performing beautifully and rather understatedly without the formidable presence of his partner in life and music, Cath Tyler.

Folklore on Screen - conference programme

My new colleagues at the Centre for Contemporary Legend very kindly invited me to get involved in the execution of the conference, culminating in my first chairing of a panel. I needn’t have been nervous; the delegates, a mixture of academics and members of the public, were profoundly friendly, supportive and so interested in the work of each other that breaks were busy with animated chatter and the unmistakable sound of business cards being brandished and swapped. Accompanying my list of must-see programmes and films was a burgeoning directory of email addresses, Twitter handles and promises to keep in touch.

I may have just enrolled at Sheffield Hallam University, but already I feel enriched and excited about the possibilities ahead. Roll on the next conference.


Images: Diane Rodgers, 2019.

Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SHU, C3RI or the C3RI Impact Blog.