Heading to the Barbican, the beloved London arts venue with a striking 1970’s aesthetic on a balmy Midsummer evening, could not feel more appropriate for an event celebrating 50 years of The Wickerman. A touchstone of British horror cinema and without a doubt one of the most important folk horror films ever made. Robin Hardy’s small island horror following a Christian policeman investigating the alleged disappearance of a child on a remote Scottish island is renowned for not getting the box office response it arguably deserved. It was in fact around the 1980s when the film truly found its audience, with a surge of interest in its unique soundtrack. This eclectic selection of tracks composed by composer Paul Giovanni featured a wide variety of folk music and unsettling melodies. The soundtrack became so popular in fact, that when music collector Johnny Trunk was able to source the original score from Pinewood Studios and arranged a reissue back in 1998, the record consistently sold out.

Image – Paul Heartfield

Now with The Wickerman celebrating it’s 50th year, the Barbican is honouring this momentous occasion with a special ‘Musics from Summerisle’ event which promises a live performance and celebration of the 50th anniversary of the legendary British cult horror film. The score is performed by a phenomenal variety of talents, including (excitingly), the Summerisle Stramash Ensemble, assembled for this event featuring  David Colohon (United Bible Studies), Jon and Bobbie Seagroatt (Comus), Alison O’Donnell (United Bible Studies/Mellow Candle), Jem Finer (Local Psycho/The Pogues/Longplayer), Joolie Woods (Current 93/The Mekons) and Alasdair Roberts. But most exciting of all for fans of The Wickerman, vocals from Lesley Mackie, who played ‘Daisy Pringle’ in the original film.

Following the ensemble we also have Gazelle Twin & NYX presenting further works based around Gazelle Twin’s 2018 Pastoral album with including arrangements by NYX Music Director Sian O’Gorman. A truly exciting prospect.

As we take our seats in front of a stage backdropped by a stunning projection of the titular wicker giant itself, we’re treated to Alasdair Roberts and Jem Finer’s specially commissioned folk song suite entitled G-AXZN: a dark, ambient journey over Summerisle. This evocative track, opening with the familiar sounds of a sea plane, perfectly introduces the nights proceedings. Jem Finer’s droning hurdy gurdy provides the perfect backdrop to Alasdair Robert’s haunting voice, it’s familiar and truly evokes the atmosphere of Summerisle. Paying homage to one of the greatest folk horrors ever created. 

Image – Paul Heartfield

Following Finer and Roberts’s, the tone is lifted with the Summerisle Stramash Ensemble, an incredible collective of musicians who do justice to Giovanni’s original film score. Tracks such as ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ and ‘How Do’ are particularly celebrated by the audience. We’re also treated to Lesley Mackie herself reciting her classic ‘old beetle’ line from the film, much to the delight of the audience.

Image - Paul Heartfield

Image – Paul Heartfield

For the second half of the night, the tone shifts dramatically with the stage bathed in darkness and lit only by red lights for the performance of Gazelle Twin & NYX. First on their set is an interpretation of William Blake’s Jerusalem, a sombre and dark reimagining, echoed with church bells and distortion. Bleakly tolling against a spectacular symphony of vocals. Before tearing into their frantic, percussive, electronic-chaos of ‘Better in my days.’ A true contrast against the opening acts but still just as powerful. 

For those who may have hoped for some more visual clips from the film may have been disappointed, however for the quality of the audio alone, it’s truly a spectacle to behold and when other best to do so when on Midsummer’s day itself!

A fantastic evening and a demonstration of just how the Barbican truly knows how to put on an event. Visit the Barbican website to be kept up to speed with future events: https://www.barbican.org.uk/

All images Paul Heartfield