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The Witching Hour: six hours of talent with six revolutionary performers. In the oubliette of The Harrison, an historic pub a short walk from King’s Cross, an eclectic audience were entertained by writers and musicians each demonstrating their own spirited adaptions from the realm of the witch as both a symbolic figure and one of iconic personal presence.
The event was organised by oil54 and Arcane Publishing and offered varying levels of talent and genre including excerpts from latest novels, research shown in slide form, and exalted musical performances in bijou, yet cosy surroundings. Patchouli oil filled the air of the low-ceilinged sub-terrain that reminded me of The Banshee Labyrinth at the Edinburgh Fringe and one perfectly selected as venue for The Witching Hour. Eager on-lookers with drinks in hand, observed the diverse acts from the small curtained stage that was captured on camera.
First up was Sarah Channing-Wright, a gifted author and Egyptologist wearing amazing gothic attire. Channing-Wright revealed her 17th century witch characters in her to-be-finished supernatural novel Gallows Cross.
Next up was popular Essex novelist and activist, Syd Moore. In bold and vivid leopard print, Moore could have filled the entire evening discussing her unique and under-documented work of Essex witches. She discussed the injustice of women accused of witchcraft over the centuries, namely Sarah Moore from Leigh-on-Sea, who was depicted in Moore’s novel The Drowning Pool. Here she brings to light this misunderstood 19th century character who has formed the basis of her work, inducing five more novels, also written with a passion fervently displayed in tonight’s stage demeanour. Her latest novel, Strange Sight, sold quickly during the evening, although I managed to grab a copy, along with a little time to chat with Syd about her inspirational research into the women wrongly accused, and the depictions of witch marks on buildings.
Cathi Unsworth, former music journalist who has featured in The Guardian, The Financial Times, and Melody Maker was next on stage. This undoubted style icon and outstanding novelist read her work in shifting Brummie dialect from her sixth and latest book, That Old Black Magic during which her research uncovered a witch by accident.
After interval refreshments, the second half of the evening consisted of impressive operatic arias from Kirsten Morrison, a classically trained singer and composer performing to selected recordings. Percussion and song came from the fronting band member of Fear of the Forest, Kate Arnold, who demonstrated her expertise in the techniques of the Appalachian dulcimer and violin. She later doubled-up with Morrison to produce a striking and combined mix of dark and haunting melodics.
Simon Satori, aka Hi-Reciprosity is a one-man show and talented literary steampunk ring-master. On stage equipped with gramophone and other oddities, he revealed his musical eccentricities and spoken-word magic.
The esoteric, and delightful evening was hosted by Carya Gish and Alan Pride, both from Arcane Publishing. I spoke to Alan who told me their intention was to, “cross pollinate and break down barriers between stage and audience.” The enthusiastic on-stage characters, and the faces of a captivated audience, most certainly achieved the desired combination of human connection, and alchemical enchantment.