England’s Dreaming: Penda’s Fen


  • pendas-fen

Past Event

This event was on Sat 5 September, 3pm-6pm

A rare 16mm screening of Alan Clarke’s remarkable 1974 BBC Play for Today, one of the masterworks of British television drama. The screening will be introduced by its writer, David Rudkin, who will also be in conversation. The afternoon is opened with live music by multi-instrumentalist Bird Radio. The event also marks the launch of The Edge Is Where the Centre Is, a major new book exploring the making of the film, edited by Sukhdev Sandhu and published in association with Seen Studio.


Written by David Rudkin and directed by Alan Clarke, Penda’s Fen is a remarkable feature length television film commissioned for the BBC’s 1970s ‘Play for Today’ drama series. The film follows Stephen Franklin, the teenage son of a pastor, on a journey of self discovery. Initially a keen supporter of “Aryan national family on its Christian path” a series of mystical experiences causes him to question his beliefs. Through a series of encounters with angels, demons and pagan king King Penda, the film explores themes of resistance, religion and sexuality. Penda’s Fen is a unique and important work of art, one that has profoundly influenced all who have seen it.

Bird Radio is multi-instrumentalist Mikey Kirkpatrick who performs and records original songs using vocals, guitars, flutes, loops, effects and a suitcase bass drum. Described on different occasions as “a mix of old testament preacher and Captain Beefheart…”, “a flute-toting, bass drum-beating sensation…” and “… future medieval, as if J.G. Ballard had writtenThe Wicker Man”, Bird Radio draws from primordial folk, blues and ritualistic sound to create powerful songs that combine the ancient art of storytelling with rousing and hypnotic beats and rhythms.

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