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Best horror film, books and writing clubs in the UK

hellen_b

hellen_b

13 minute read

Are you a big fan of horror stories? This month we interviewed people that love Halloween and Horror. Small’s A Community is a series of stories created by giffgaff and is also on our page on Instagram. Go check it out.

1. World Zombie Day: London

megan ailleen
Megan Aileen Williams - Organizer of World Zombie Day: London

“World Zombie Day: London is an annual charity walk where fans of zombie culture can join together in an international effort to alleviate world hunger and homeless.

Our charity of choice this year is Shelter from the Storm, London’s only free homeless shelter. Located in North London, they provide shelter and support for the homeless and dispossessed from anywhere - and they don’t get a penny from the government. They have guests come from various walks of lives but their volunteers care for each guest as an individual.

For me community is a group of people who look out for each other and support each other – we tend to have something that binds us. In our case it’s zombies. I work alongside a great team, (we are all volunteers) and we keep each other going in the build-up to this event.

Everyone who participates shows a huge amount of creativity on the day and tends to stay in character – but we are a polite bunch and really value our community and looking out for each other. We even had a zombie marriage proposal last year! Passersby and tourists get a kick out of seeing this strange occurrence and it is a great opportunity for us to raise awareness about the charity we are supporting.” - Megan Aileen Williams - organizer of World Zombie Day: London

2. The Horror Book Club

Andy Russell
Andy Russell - Co-organiser The Horror Book Club

“I founded the Horror Book Club 4 years ago now - I was going to other book clubs and really enjoyed the fact you could meet like-minded people. You’d have fun reading books you love or don’t love - but it’s always fun to discuss them. At the time there were no horror books clubs around and I love horror so I founded one - it wasn’t more complicated than that. Luckily there’s about 1000 people who have since joined online.

The horror crowd in London is very diverse - we are getting people doing their A-levels to people who are retired. Some people do not only read horror - it’s good to have a diet of not horror only.

There’s a mix of people who enjoy the thrill and people who want to explore the deeper meanings of the books. We have some people who have come to almost every single meeting for the past 4 years, and that’s not just the books, that’s catching up. There’s lots of in jokes now but we try to keep them to the minimum. We’ve built a nice little community.

In a time where so many interactions can just be online, it’s great to use internet as a vehicle to meet like-minded people. There’s nothing that captures the magic of a face-to-face conversation or sitting around in a room with 20 people where you have a diversity of ideas being thrown around. You can find online communities, they are great, allow you to ask a lot of questions but there’s something about meeting with people on regular basis, for months or years, exchanging ideas and really building a community.

At the beginning of the meeting people give their ideas on the book and they’re asked to do it again at the end of the meeting, everyone says - I have learnt something new, even the people who I gave the book 3 out of 10. Yes, I force people to rate books. I will force everyone to rate it out of 10 even though some of them are not very keen on it.” - Andy Russell - co-organiser The Horror Book Club

Check out this video and meet The Horror Book Club, a group that comes together to bond over their shared interest of being spooked by books.

3. Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

Emily Murdock
Emily Murdock - Trade Manager of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

“This year marks Monster Supplies’ 200th anniversary. We were opened by Igor in 1818 who got in trouble with some monsters living in Bavaria. He had to flee to London and discovered there’s no shop with supplies for monsters there and he saw a chance to earn some money and ingratiate himself to the local monster community so the same trouble doesn’t happen again. Since 1818, we serve the needs of monster, we supply everyday normal needs to fill up their coffins and caves. We’ve been managed by generations of Igors and we are on Igor the 5th now. She came in on 2010 and brought a lot of changes to the shop - we started to allow humans to shop at Hoxton Street Monster supplies, there’s been some worrying in the monster community about this. This resulted in Monster Supplies getting cursed which means we have to turnover all the proceeds from the shop to the Ministry of Stories which is Creative Writing and Mentoring Charity for children.

The Ministry of Stories runs creative writing clubs for the local children. It’s all about imagination and creativity - often there is not enough time for these in the school curriculum. We work with volunteering writing mentors who help children develop their imagination in the writing clubs. It’s about the children’s creativity and helping them to get their wild ideas out onto paper. Our four pillars are - Creativity courage, people and power and we are trying to empower children to have a voice through imagination and creating stories. A lot of the stories tend to include fried chicken. It seems to be a reappearing theme over the years.

Our bestsellers? A Vague Sense of Unease - for the monsters who have lost their mojo and need to regain their special powers. Thickest Human Snot also has its fans, the reports say, to humans, it tastes like lemon curd.

We are doing something really special for Halloween this year - it’s still a secret so you have to wait until the end of October to see what it is.This new project we are launching for Halloween is going to be brilliant and it’s going to get the community even more excited about the space and what goes on behind the secret door in the shop.” - Emily Murdock - Trade Manager of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

4. Post-Apocalyptic Book Club

Leila Abu El Hawa
Leila Abu El Hawa - Post-Apocalyptic Book Club

“I run Post-Apocalyptic Book Club as well as a series of author event called Dark Societies. I have judged a few literary awards including The Kitschies awards for progressive, intelligent and entertaining fiction with a speculative element. I run the Kitschies, we run events and speak at conventions and as a result we built a community around the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genre.

It’s a group of people who are like-minded coming from very diverse backgrounds - the books aren’t just your typical horror books, they create discussions about things that people care about and the reason so many people come back is because we focus on these issues. We talk about what they mean to us and how we function as people day-to-day. Dystopian and apocalyptic literature feels especially relevant now. People are socialising and having fun while discussing things that mean something to them and just getting together with people you wouldn’t normally meet - it’s a meeting of minds done in a an unusual way.

I don’t mean it to be self-aggrandizing but I don’t think my group would’ve been this popular had I been a guy. I think me being a woman made it more accessible and more open so you did not think of the usual stereotype, it’s a horrible stereotype but when people think ‘horror, fantasy’ they imagine a socially inept person who never leaves their room. It’s not like that, it’s about people who are interested in compelling storytelling. Obviously being scared makes it more fun.I have been doing this group for 10 years and wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t fun.

Horror is a great medium for change. The events that I am doing are opening up diversity - there are women, people of colour, LGBTQ because horror is universal, everyone is into that. Community is pushing back and wants to see more of themselves in the books.” - Leila Abu El Hawa - Post-Apocalyptic Book Club

5. Last Tuesday Society

Allison Crawbuck
Allison Crawbuck - Director of The Last Tuesday Society and Victor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities

“The Last Tuesday Society has been running for 10 years, it’s started out with parties and today it is a place to come to embrace the weird and the wonderful. We have events every week that range from lectures, tastings, taxidermy classes - we get the community together to learn something new about what we are interested in. Our customers vary so the community of the Society really ranges - we have locals, the goths rockers next to the city boys. One of our popular events called Hallouminati is a gathering hosted by ‘The Dark Knight of Cholesterol’ who brings his most pungent cheeses from France. Everybody has 6 courses of cheese and we manage to get through it altogether.

The Museum of Curiosities is located in the lower part of the venue - it is a headquarters of Victor Vynd’s collection of curious objects.

“The Last Tuesday Society is all about being inclusive. From the outside we might look bizarre and unapproachable but the biggest goal for us is to open it up to people to come in, feel welcomed and come back again. That’s how the community for our events has built up.

We organise big Halloween parties you have to be dressed up for. I love Halloween and the idea of hiding behind the mask. Everybody gets to embrace a side of themselves that they might not be comfortable showing on the day-to-day basis. Shared curiosity for the world around us is what brings us together.”- Allison Crawbuck - director of The Last Tuesday Society and Victor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities

6. Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in London and Cigarette Burn Cinema

Josh Saco
Josh Saco - Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies

“I’m the co-director of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in London. Miskatonic has three other bases in London and NY as well. It’s been running for several years, about four years here in London.

We have an academic focus on the horror genre on the whole, whether it’s films or books. It’s mostly film-focussed, but we get authors and screenwriters in to talk about horror and how it’s matured and give it space to be respected and properly analysed and looked at.

I also do Cigarette Burn Cinema which is broader than horror but quite horrr- focused genre cinema. We’ve been screening films all over London, Barbican, Price Charles, various pop-up events for ten years or something. Doing lots of horror-focussed stuff and focussing on 35 mm and 16 mm prints, and from that

Both of those things together have quite strong communities built up around them, with Miskatonic we have regular people who come and I’ve met a lot of great people through it and the same with Cigarette Burns. We get people fairly regularly, it’s the same core groups of people coming along to both of these things, because they’re passionate about the genre, about horror. There’s a lot of overlap between the two audience wise but you get some people who are primarily focussed format wise with 35mm, with CB, and then with Miskatonic, recurring students, as we call them, come every year.

You can book a semester ticket, it’s two semesters a year, and I would say 75% of the people who have booked previously will book for the next one. If people are kind of like, I don’t think I can make it, we certainly have lots of regular punters who are always returning. It’s a tough thing to commit to, guaranteed one night a month. Lots of returns.

We’ve had literally everyone. Miskatonic recently did drag in horror and we had a strong LGBT audience for that. I think there’s quite a lot of crossover between that community and horror community anyway. Age wise we get absolutely anyone from 18 to 70 or older. We had a 94-year-old woman.

One of the reasons I started Cigarette Burn, which made for a really comfortable drift into Miskatonic, was that I wanted to set up — it wasn’t about just screening the films — it was about screening the films and have people discuss the films afterwards. We used to have DJs come along and play. You’d watch the film at midnight and then come out at 1.30, listen to the DJ and have some drinks, so you could connect with people and talk about the films. I think it’s important to make those connections. With Miskatonic, as much as I do and I do love the actual sessions, it’s loads of fun when people just congregate afterwards or during a break, or afterwards everyone heads to the pub, and it’s nice nice knowing you had a part in bringing everyone together, these people that would never have necessarily met.

I started Cigarette Burn not to just screen the films but to do that and have people discuss the films afterwards. We used to have DJs come along and play, so you’d watch the film at midnight and then come out at 1.30, listen to the DJ and have some drinks, connect with people and talk about the films. I think it’s important to make those connections. With Miskatonic, I love the actual sessions, but it’s loads of fun when people congregate during a break or head to the pub after. It’s nice to see you’ve had a part in bringing together these people that never would’ve necessarily met.

I think horror is, I suppose like any niche thing — there are a million different sub-niches within it. To someone, horror might mean goosebumps. To someone else, it might be Category III Hong Kong films. Within this, you can start making these connections. If you’ve got those niche interests, sometimes you can think that you know better than the other person so you make the assumption they don’t know what you’re on about but when you make common ground, that’s set for that.” Josh Saco - Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies Cigarette Burn Cinema

7. London Cult Film and TV Research Community

Lindsay Hallam
Lindsay Hallam - London Cult Film and TV Research Community

“When you move to London, it’s so big and so overwhelming, especially compared to Perth where I’m from. As you get a bit older, it can become difficult to meet people, and horror events have definitely been one of the ways to go out there and meet a few people.

The Cult Film and Television Reseach Community was started by Ian Robert Smith from Kings College. He got in touch and asked if I wanted to be involved. I said, yes, totally! Every summer, we have a picnic at Ian’s summer house. During term time, we meet once a month. There is a pretty even split of genders, a variety of ages…we have academics who are senior lectures or readers, but also students that come along. It’s really wide variety of people at different stages of their careers.” - Lindsay Hallam - London Cult Film and TV Research Community

We hope you enjoyed reading it. Are you going to join one of these clubs? To read more of our spooky Horror Book Club pop over to our Instagram page.

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Written by hellen_b

hellen_b
Hellen is a content expert at giffgaff.