Alien Nation III: Penda’s Fen + Introduction!

Dir. Alan Clarke, English, 1974

Thu 21 July 2011 // 19:30 / Cinema

A true cult classic about a teenage boy’s fantastical encounters with angels and pagan rulers, Penda’s Fen is an enigmatic meditation on themes of nationality, sexuality, myth, masculinity and religion.


We are very proud to announce that Dave Rolinson, a specialist of British Film and TV who has written a book on the "Play for today" strand (Alan Clarke: Play for Today biography), will be introducing the screening.

+ JAZZFINGER will be DJing some fabulous obscure electronic music in the bar after the screening!

Expect Broadcast, Stereolab, Plone & related groups, Boards Of Canada, Basil Kirchin, the spooky English side of groups like Coil & Nurse With Wound, and early European psych/synth/prog, Jean Jacques Perrey, Pierre Henry and so on....


Seventeen year-old Stephen, a middle-class pastor's son, has a bizarre series of encounters with angels, the composer Edward Elgar, and King Penda, the mythical last pagan ruler of England. These encounters - whether real or imagined - force Stephen to question his religious beliefs, his politics and his sexuality.



Information below has been taken from a text written by Dave Rolinson, which you can read here

- Written by David Rudkin and directed by Alan Clarke (of Scum and The Firm fame), "Penda's Fen" was a visionary, cinematic contribution to the BBC’s “Play for Today” strand.

- Stephen Gilbert described Alan Clarke, in an obituary after Clarke’s untimely death from cancer at the age of 54 – as ‘an unswerving champion of the individual voice and the noncomformist vision’

-Like several other key writers and directors from this period, Clarke came from a working-class background and passed his Eleven Plus to go to grammar school. Taking an unorthodox route into television, Clarke emigrated to Canada in 1957 (after National Service), and had a ‘masterfully improvised’ career: ‘furniture remover, income tax assessor, miner, railway brakesman and chain-ganger, baker’s assistant, dance M.C. and a disc jockey at a skating rink’.

- He later came back to Britain and started working for TV

- According to Stephen Frears, Clarke was attracted to the medium because ‘one of the things that television told was the history of ordinary working-class people in England’

- Alan Clarke has been praised and cited as a major influence by those who have worked with him including Danny Boyle, Tim Roth and Gary Oldman – or those who simply met him – Paul Greengrass – or those who admired his films – Shane Meadows (critics seized on the look of This is England (2007) or Harmony Korine, whose namedropping prompted one critic to call Clarke the ‘father of NYC cool).

-Clarke’s Elephant (1989) was cited by Gus Van Sant as an influence on his own Elephant (2003)

-David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film and Richard Kelly argued that Clarke was ‘the most important British film-maker to have emerged in the last thirty years’ (quote from the 1990s)



£4.50 advance ticket

OR £5/£3.50 (conc) on the night



A celebration of the freaky, spooky and obscure side of UK television drama. Programmed by James Leggott (Lecturer in Film and TV, Northumbria University) from the darker corners of the BBC archives, with special guest introductions, this is a rare chance to catch some of the most haunting telefantasy ever transmitted.



Sunday 17 July, 7.30pm: The Stone Tape (1972)

This futuristic story concerns a group of scientists who discover that their newfangled recording device is picking up disturbing transmissions from the past...






Wednesday 20 July, 8pm: Ghostwatch (1992)

This infamous BBC mockumentary about an evil spirit possessing a suburban household was taken by some audiences as a genuine live broadcast upon its first (and only) broadcast on Halloween in 1992.




Thursday 21 July, 7.30pm: Penda's Fen (1974)

A true cult classic about a teenage boy’s fantastical encounters with angels and pagan rulers, Penda’s Fen is an enigmatic meditation on themes of nationality, sexuality, myth, masculinity and religion.





Sunday 24 July, 7.30pm: Shalcken the Painter (1979) + The Exorcism (1972)

The “Alien Nation” season of weird and haunting UK telefantasy concludes with this double-bill of two gems highly rated by connoisseurs of 1970s TV horror.





This event is being programmed with the support of Northumbria University, as part of the International Conference “Alien Nation: A Conference on British Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Television” (20-21 July 2011)