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Aug 11

PENDA’S FEN + Magic Tuber Stringband

August 11 @ 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM

“Child be strange, dark, true, impure and dissonant. Cherish our flame. Our dawn shall come”… OUR FOLK HORROR FROM THE BRITISH ISLES FILM FESTIVAL BEGINS… with a live musical performance by Appalachian shapeshifters Magic Tuber Stringband followed by the obscure BBC masterpiece, PENDA’S FEN (1974)… 50th Anniversary!

Child be strange, dark, true, impure and dissonant. Cherish our flame. Our dawn shall come…

In one young man’s search for his true sense of self, writer David Rudkin takes us on a magnificently ambiguous metaphysical journey quite unlike any other. The cult status of Penda’s Fen (1974) is no doubt due to its potent mix of mysticism, music and landscape which taps into a mysterious elemental truth about who we are and our pagan past. Directed by Alan Clarke (Scum, The Firm) Penda’s Fen is widely considered to be Rudkin’s finest work. Set in the village of Pinvin, in Worcestershire, England, the television play is an evocation of conflicting forces within England past and present. These include authority, tradition, hypocrisy, nature, art, sexuality, and most of all, its mystical, ancient pagan past. All of this comes together in the growing pains of the adolescent Stephen, a vicar’s son, whose encounters include angels, composer Edward Elgar and King Penda himself.


“Rudkin’s coming-of-age pagan pastoral is also a non-conformist chronicle of secret England, where boundaries – geographical, political, spiritual – are constantly being redrawn but forever leaving their trace. Combining rites of passage with state of the nation, Penda’s Fen is staggering in its richness and ambition, and without precedent in it’s liberatory power…” -Little White Lies

Our Evening Begins With Live Music Performed By Magic Tuber Stringband, Old-Time Music for Postmodern People.

From North Carolina, and are at the forefront of artists inhabiting the rich, living musical traditions of the Appalachian region, not as preservationists, but as fluent speakers shaping the forms with their inventive new ideas. The music, contemporary in nature, shares a through line with its history in both technique and in inspiration. Needlefall, their first on Chicago label Thrill Jockey, answers the question “what does a modern string band sound like?” with powerful new arrangements of traditional songs and transcendent originals. The album is teeming with life, translating abundant ecosystems into arcing melodies and shimmering, mystic drones capturing the sacred dimensions of the natural world. Needlefall exemplifies the diversity of contemporary folk movements, placing Magic Tuber Stringband’s work in the tradition of modern innovators like Moondog, Harry Partch, Pauline Oliveros, and labelmate Sally Anne Morgan. The vast forests and mountains that inspire the duo act as a metaphor for living music traditions – ever-changing and yet still standing, shaped over time by human hands while equally shaping the human experience.


“The duo from North Carolina that records as Magic Tuber Stringband connects Appalachian tradition to Minimalism, meditation and perhaps post-rock, carrying forward the ideas of musicians like John Fahey and Sandy Bull. In “Days of Longing,” Courtney Werner on fiddle and Evan Morgan on 12-string guitar share a waltz that transforms itself from folksy warmth to harrowing dissonance to an unfinished resolution, refusing easy comfort.” – New York Times

“In recent years, North Carolina’s Magic Tuber Stringband have emerged as a force in the realm of traditional Appalachian folk music. Fiddler Courtney Werner and 12-string guitarist Evan Morgan create music that drones back through the centuries but feels current and alive. On new album Needlefall, they’ll do so for the venerable Thrill Jockey label. Lead single “Days Of Longing” is out now, and it exhibits the band’s knack for both aching beauty and noisy detours from the mean.” – Stereogum

“A band alive to the experimental possibilities of American roots music, both in its traditional forms and in where it can be stretched.” – MOJO

“Werner and Morgan have mined the vein of musical ore opened up by Henry Flynt, Pelt and their tributary ensembles and associates, synthesizing the ringing sonorities of Appalachian string-band music and American minimalism.” – Magnet


Screening 50 years after its pioneering first broadcast as part of BBC TV’s hugely influential stand-alone drama series ‘Play for Today’, and directed by the fiercely committed film-maker Alan Clarke, Penda’s Fen fuses a multi-layered interrogation of social, political, familial and religious forces with a queer, pagan and radically subversive understanding of place, culture and history, to chart a singular rite of passage into adulthood for its teenage protagonist Stephen. Recognised at once for its visionary imagination, and an enduring influence on generations of writers and artists who witnessed that original transmission, dramatist David Rudkin’s remarkable work has become one of the most enduring and rewarding touchstones of post-war British culture.

In Rudkin’s own words: ‘In the pastoral landscape of Three Choirs England, a clergyman’s son, in his last days of school, has his idealistic value-system and the precious tokens of his self-image all broken away – his parentage, his nationality, his sexuality, his conventional patriotism and faith… Below the slopes of the Malvern Hills he has encounters with an angel, and with a demon, with the ghost of Elgar, the crucified Jesus, and with Penda, England’s last pagan king. In the final image, he turns away from his idealized landscape, to go into the world and adulthood with a value-system more anarchistic now, and readier to integrate the contradictions of experience.’


August 11
8:00 PM - 11:00 PM


Epsilon Spires
190 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301 United States
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