Portsmouth DarkFest 2017

If I’ve never exactly been prolific on this site up to now, that’s been particularly true of the last six to nine months – a period in which I’ve written up and submitted my PhD thesis, and begun my first academic job. One of my main reasons for setting up a blog in the first place was to help stimulate the thesis-writing process, so I suppose I could argue that it has done its job in that respect, at least.

Since September I’ve been working part-time at the University of Portsmouth as Research Assistant on the Supernatural Cities project – a multi-disciplinary network of humanities and social science scholars concerned with the urban supernatural, spectral and fantastical. I’m very much aware of how fortunate I’ve been to secure a paid role almost immediately after submitting my thesis (I submitted on the Thursday and had my interview the next day, absurdly). Already, I’ve felt very settled and happy in Portsmouth – the project itself is fascinating, and is encouraging me to think about my past and future research from a different perspective, whilst I’ve found the atmosphere within the university to be very supportive and collegial.

One of the most interesting aspects of Supernatural Cities is Portsmouth DarkFest, an annual month-long festival of public events inspired by the themes of the project that began last week, and runs until the end of November.

Events range from talks by academics to evenings of spoken word, music and immersive theatre. There are also film screenings, workshops, ghost walks and interactive ‘paranormal investigations’ in historical settings across the city. One of the most exciting aspects for me is the way the event engages with the city’s creative community. The festival organising committee includes many members of the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, and the amount of energy and creativity they’ve put into developing the programme of events has been amazing.

This year my own small role in the festival has involved supporting the promotion of DarkFest 17 online, writing posts for the DarkFest Facebook page and the Supernatural Cities Twitter (as well as attending as many events as I can). I also drew on my experiments with mapping software during my PhD research to create an interactive map of the DarkFest programme.

Next year it’ll be exciting to be involved in the planning of the festival from the earliest stages. You can read more about DarkFest in this article from the Portsmouth News; the full programme of events is here.


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