Penda’s Fen and Owl Service

On 21 March 1974 Penda’s Fen was Play for Today on the BBC, this strange tale of teenage homosexuality, Elgar and the Dream of Gerontius, the Midlands, ecology, the old and new gods, Britain and the last pagan king, Penda (oddly the image above does NOT appear in the film, only in shadow, although the terrible VHS quality at the end doesn’t help that – this has never appeared on DVD). It’s written by David Rudkin and directed by Alan Clarke.

It’s very much in a similar way to Alan Garner who I’m watching The Owl Service next (playlist below). Ever since reading the books of Alan Garner and Philip Dickinson (The Changes) as a child and seeing Children of the Stones and Quatermass 1979, the 1970’s mix of paganism, ecology and the New World has fascinated me. It has parallels now, from the travellers to anti-fracking, Glastonbury and neo-paganism, but they had the same concerns about climate change back then, and getting ‘back’ to the planet, the human sized village. Shame not many listened…There is something wonderfully restless about this, a change was definitely coming, but it has a dream-like feel, like everything is in the balance and the old gods are just down the road.

“Revolt from the monolith… come back to the village.“

I found this via a comment on Z for Zachariah (the 1984 BBC original, not this sad and wrong idea of a modern ‘love triangle’ apocalypse story – the whole point of the original story is there were only two of them!) – I have to say being a bit too young I’d not heard of David Rudkin…I need to track down the rest of his films and also Alan Garner’s Red Shift.

Relatio Clash

Tim B Written by:

One Comment

  1. David J
    March 7

    I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Penda’s Fen last year in Brighton. Wonderful stuff. Afterwards we received a free book and a flexi-disc which you can find out about here on the facebook page:

    or just go to bandcamp here:

    Oh and there’s this:

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