This weekend sees the latest in the Folklore Society's Legend and Tradition weekends. These are highly successful themed weekends, taking place outside of academic venues and (mostly) outside London. Having participated at last year's event on The Sea I can confirm that they are great fun.
This year's, unusually, is in London, but this was decided by the possibility of a magnificent venue. For where better than Brompton Cemetery to hold a weekend on Death in Legend and Tradition? The papers are the usual engagingly eclectic mix of entertainment and information. Some will be academic, and some won't be, which is one of the triumphs of the legend weekend format.
I'm looking forward to catching up with some old and new friends. The speakers include Scott Wood of the always-interesting South East London Folklore Society, Alan Murdie of the Ghost Club, Andrew Bennett of the Folklore Society etc etc. I'm looking forward to catching up with Helen Frisby, who is talking about English Folk Funerals: she and I have been corresponding through the FLS News on the subject of corpse-touching.
It'll be nice, too, to meet up once more with that very fine storyteller Pete Castle. I've expressed ambivalence about storytelling before, but I really enjoyed the week I spent listening to Pete at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2007. (The photo opposite is of Pete singing 'Hopping Down in Kent' at the opening ceremony of the Festival). It was also a great pleasure to hear the appreciation of punters and technicians alike for his storytelling. One sound engineer said his perfect afternoon would be sitting with a cool beer listening to Pete tell stories.
Of course my trip to the cemetery is also about my ongoing doctoral research, but I'm delighted to find that I still just enjoy the subject for its own sake. In part, too, I'm using this weekend to ease me back into a social world of folkloric research after the traumatic disruption of the last few months. In the cheesiest of Victorian anthropological manners, Death may ease my passage back into life.