Monday, 19 June 2017

Glamour and Mystery: 100 Years of the Cottingley Fairies

£8 This event has sold out. We are sorry, please contact Conway Hall to join the waiting list.
Tuesday 18 July 2017 7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
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London Fortean Society, in partnership with Conway Hall, present a night marking the centenary of the Cottingley Fairies case.

In July 1917 Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, 16 and 9 years old, took a photograph. It showed Frances in their garden with four fairies dancing in front of her. In 1920 Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about them in the Strand Magazine:

The recognition of their existence will jolt the material twentieth century mind out of its heavy ruts in the mud, and will make it admit that there is a glamour and mystery to life.

The Cottingley Fairy photographs were not revealed as a hoax until Elsie and Frances confessed in 1983. But they still claimed that they did find fairies at the bottom of the garden. Terwey of the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford discusses how the photographs were taken and how they fitted in to the Spiritualist culture of the time. 

Professor Diane Purkis asks why Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, along with many others, so wanted to believe in fairies? Further panelists to be confirmed.

Tessa Farmer will be discussing her own contemporary fairy art and we shall be showing some of her wonderful yet terrifying fairy films on the night.

Tessa was born in 1978 in Birmingham and  lives and works in London. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is in many collections including those of The Saatchi Gallery, London, The David Roberts Collection, London and The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania.

She is the great granddaughter of the influential writer of supernatural horror Arthur Machen.

Michael Terwey - The Cottingley Fairies: a photographic hoax
In July 1917, in a small village on the fringes of the industrial city of Bradford, two young women perpetrated one of the most successful photographic hoaxes in history. Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths convinced first their families, then many of the general public, that they had successfully photographed the fairies and gnomes that that claimed inhabited the woods at the back of their garden. It was only in the 1980s, nearly seventy years later, that they admitted their deception, and to this day there are many that believe that at least one of the photographs is “real”.

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford holds important collections relating to the hoax, including copies of the photographs and the cameras used. In this talk Michael will explore the photographic technologies and techniques that are at the heart of the story and describe how they were used to such convincing effect, as well as looking more widely at the context of spirit and supernatural photography in the early twentieth century.

Michael Terwey is Head of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Science and Media Museum.

Professor Diane Purkis - Why did Conan Doyle want to believe?
Professor Purkis will be demonstrating that, odd though it may seem to us, for
the Victorians as for early modern Britain's of Shakespeare's generation, the existence of fairies with comforting and satisfying proof of the existence of a world of spirits.

Fairies could also represent the angry, restless, and hungry dead, and Diane will be suggesting that Conan Doyle's interest in spiritualism meant that he was especially anxious and guilty about the dead of the First World War, an anxiety that he shared with most of the literate society of his era.

Diane will be comparing the Cottingley pictures to Abel Gance’s 1919 film J’Accuse; she will also be referring to TS Eliot's poem The Waste Land which came out the year the Cottingley pictures were printed in the Strand magazine.

Diane Purkiss is Fellow and Tutor of English at Keble College, Oxford. She specialises in Renaissance and women's literature, witchcraft and the English Civil War.

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