On Saturday 1 July 2017, the School of Arts and Humanities at St Mary’s University, Twickenham hosted a one-day research symposium with a woodland theme, entitled Beasts of the Forest: Denizens of the Dark Woods.
The symposium considered representations of the forest and its inhabitants from interdisciplinary perspectives across numerous disciplines and various media and practices.
The conference included presentations from lecturers and researchers from numerous UK universities but also as far afield as Hungary, Spain and the US. Staff members from the Film and Screen Media, Media Arts, Sociology and Criminology, and Foundation Year programmes; as well as students on MA Gothic and undertaking doctoral studies at the School; were also present.
The symposium opened with a keynote lecture from Prof Peter Hutchings of Northumbria University on horror cinema’s rural imaginary. The talk was a perfect introduction to the varied presentations that were to follow. Conference panels followed on ‘Tolkien’, ‘Animating the Forest’, ‘Ecologies and Fantasies of the Forest’, ‘Folklore and Tales’ and ‘The Forest in Film and Television’, which presented a remarkable diversity of research approaches.
The conference closed with the second keynote presentation from Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson of London Fieldworks, screening their animated film, ‘Hibernator – Prince of the Petrified Forest’. Present throughout the day were a woodland fairy and a walking tree – on stilts, no less. St Mary’s Catering excelled themselves with a creative buffet lunch, including sculpted watermelon and crudités that reflected the forest theme of the conference.
Dr Jon Hackett, Senior Lecturer in Film and Screen Media, said, ‘Dr Seán Harrington and I, who organised the symposium, were delighted with the response to the conference call, which resulted in an eclectic schedule of intriguing presentations. Following an expression of interest from an academic publisher, it is hoped that the papers presented will form the basis of an edited collection on the topic in 2018.’ The presentations covered phenomena as disparate as film and television, mainstream and experimental animation, popular music, cultural geography, media technologies, science fiction and folk horror.