Exploring Penda's Fen, a 1974 BBC film that achieved mythic status.
In 1974, the BBC broadcast the film Penda's Fen, leaving audiences mystified and spellbound. “Make no mistake. We had a major work of television last night,” The Times declared the next morning. Written by the playwright and classicist David Rudkin, the film follows Stephen, an 18-year-old boy, whose identity, sexuality, and suffocating nationalism unravels through a series of strange visions. After its original broadcast, Penda's Fen vanished into unseen mythic status, with only a single rebroadcast in 1990 sustaining its cult following. With a DVD release by the BFI in 2016, Penda's Fen has now become totemic for those interested in Britain's deep history, folklore, and landscape. Of Mud and Flame brings together writers, artists, and historians to excavate and explore this unique cornerstone of Britain's uncanny archive.
Contributors include David Rudkin, Sukhdev Sandhu, Roger Luckhurst, Gareth Evan, Adam Scovell, Bethany Whalley, Carl Phelpstead, David Ian Rabey, David Rolinson, Craig Wallace, Daniel O'Donnell Smith, William Fowler, Yvonne Salmon, Andy W. Smith, Carolyne Larrington, John Harle, Timothy J. Jarvis, Tom White, Daniel Eltringham, Joseph Brooker, Gary Budden
Matthew Harle is a writer and archivist from London. His most recent books include Can I Come In and Talk About These and Other Ideas and a sourcebook on Penda's Fen, entitled Of Mud & Flame. He works as an Archive Curator at the Barbican Centre, regularly programmes archive film and video exhibitions across London, and is currently writing a polybiographical study of a 1931 public directory of Berlin Jews.
James Machin is a writer and researcher and coeditor of Faunus, the journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen. He has published work in journals including Textual Practice, and taught at Birkbeck, University of London, and the Royal College of Art.