Wednesday 8 November 2017


So, where was I? Oh yes – it's winter, the fires are lit, the moon is new, the air is clean with the cold of the season and the darkness of the year grows thicker. The signs in the passing year are clear -
it is the time when the forces in our subconsciousness become vivid, are imagined more forcefully, and are cast onto the blank canvasses of deeper, darker nights.

One of the key elements of this interplay of creativity that becomes externalised as we retreat into our hibernation is that of sharing our stories. Whether by candlelight on Halloween, round the fire on Bonfire Night, or at a seasonal masquerade, carnival, or pantomime. The ritualised aspect of sharing our stories, or pooling our imaginations, is a key part of this process. By mutually indulging our dreams, our imagined demons, we allow our perceptions of reality to shift. We engineer situations that are eerie, are chilling, are atmospheric, so that we can experience reality through a different filter – or, perhaps, no filter at all.

In many ways, the birth of the 'modern' gothic archetypes can be traced back to such an exchange. It was in the summer of 1816 at Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva that three days of incessant rain made it's summertime inhabitants – Shelley and his wife Mary, Lord Byron, and his physician John Polidori – spend their days inside exchanging tales of the macabre and fantastical. It was this shared experience, done in the spirit of collaboration and not a little competition, that led directly to the conception of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' and indirectly (from Stoker via Byron and Polidori) of 'Dracula' and the romantic conception of the vampire myth.

It is easy to imagine the scene: the log fire, candlelight, incessant rain, thunder, lightning and wine of a night spent in collective creativity. It is equally easy – not to say tempting – to think that any such culturally significant act of genius could be achieved if we had the resources and means to spend a summer at a lakeside mansion in Switzerland.

But such an interpretation misses the point. The core activities of that lakeside meeting were the simple acts of creativity and communication; and as an activity that can be performed more or less anywhere at any time this holds in itself a liberating, democratic act of vocalising our summoned spirits. After all, the emphasis placed on the written rather than the spoken word is not universal; the art of handing down and elaborating tales has fallen out of practice due to the saturation of mass communication, rather than dialogue. Yet although the practice of shared storytelling cannot necessarily translate to any widely understood truths, they can absolutely lead to the uncovering of our innate creativity. As a process, it is a key that unlocks our subconscious – and even more so our shared shadows.

So take some time this winter to spend a night with friends, light a candle, share a glass of wine, and enjoy the process or expressing and imagining our stories. And who knows? Perhaps through that process you can unlock some of the doors in your own mind – and these stories may take on a life all of their own.

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