Halloween come early: Gothic Manchester Festival to explore the city’s dark history

It might yet be a good week away, but the spirit of Halloween is already looming over the darkening skies of Manchester. 

This weekend sees the return of the city’s annual gothic festival, organised by the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, which will showcase a range of art, literature and film events to celebrate the notoriously ghoulish movement.

This year the festival, which will run until Sunday, October 23, will be exploring the theme of ‘the Gothic North’ and will focus on the region’s contribution made to the movement. 

With events ranging from a ghostly pub quiz to spooky walking tours, the festival promises to be enlightening, interactive and most of all, exciting.

The bash kicked off on Friday with the annual Twisted Tales event.

This session welcomed award-winning author and Manchester Metropolitan alumni Andrew Michael Hurley to speak about his debut novel The Loney

“I was approached earlier in the year to be involved in the Gothic Festival and straight away, it was something that I was keen to do,” said the author.

“As a festival which will include not just literature but art and film, it’s a great mix in a fascinating area.

“There’s a lot of preconception surrounding gothic; people think it’s all horror films and melancholy. People will say ‘I don’t usually read books like that’ – and they’re surprised by how much they’ve enjoyed it.”

On Saturday, festival organiser Dr. Linnie Blake, Director of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, will chair the festival’s annual conference, entitled ‘Gothic North Symposium’.

This will see various academics, creative writers and PhD students descend on 70 Oxford Street, where they will explore the manifestation of gothic art and subculture throughout the north.

Lecturers will be sharing their thoughts on the dark literature that has long overshadowed the northern landscape and which has eclipsed novels, films, television programmes, poetry and music.

In light of chairing the event, Dr Linnie said, “Whilst early gothic novels looked frequently to the lascivious Catholic south for its characters, settings and thematics, the ancient, hostile and frequently grim spectre of ‘the north’ has haunted the gothic mode since Frankenstein’s monster fled across the ice floes of the northern polar regions and Emily Bronte’s lovers walked the moors after death.

“The Gothic North is a place and a state of mind, a source of horror and the locale of untrammelled passions, a place beyond, a site of contestation, a dream.”

No specialist knowledge is needed but an interest in the grimness of the gothic north is appreciated.  

Sunday will see tour guide Jonathan Schofield share his knowledge and passion for the haunted history of the city.

He will lead two different walking tours, including one named ‘Ghosts in the City’ at Manchester Cathedral, which will feature a surprise visit into a dark area under a very special Manchester building. 

This will be followed by the ‘Horrible and Ghostly Manchester Histories Pub Quiz’ at The Gas Lamp in the city centre.

Serving up a selection of real ales in its dim, subterranean setting, this quirky Victorian drinking den provides the perfect eerie atmosphere for testing the knowledge of those interested in ghostly narratives on Manchester and the north west.

To top everything off, the Gothic North Art Exhibition runs until November 30 and features work from Manchester Gothic Arts Group. 

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