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DarkFest Uncovers Portsmouth’s Dark History

Published: 24th October 2017 16:59

This Halloween sees the return of Portsmouth DarkFest, a creative and cultural festival exploring all things dark, supernatural, and sinister. 

Inspired by the Supernatural Cities project ( at the University of Portsmouth, and working in close collaboration with the city’s creative communities and cultural organisations, the festival will bring together a diverse range of artists, writers, performers, academics, storytellers and paranormal investigators to explore ghost stories, urban legends, crime, horror and history. 

Celebrating creativity in Southsea and Portsmouth, events include storytelling, live music and performances, public talks, ghost walks, film screenings, plays, immersive experiences, art exhibitions, and crime writing workshops. 

Some of the highlights are:

  • Two special paranormal investigations that explore the Royal Marines Museum and the fascinating tunnels that burrow deep beneath Portsdown Hill. 
  • ‘Cure or be Cured’, an evening of spoken word, film projections and immersive theatre all inspired by the iconic plague doctors who tried to cure sufferers of the Black Death in the 14th Century.
  • A Zombie Encounter at Fort Widley.
  • Explore the literary afterlives of two of the most popular creations of Victorian literature - Sherlock Holmes and Dracula.
  • A ‘Dark Portsmouth’ talk will introduce an app designed by University of Portsmouth historians for exploring the history and folklore of Old Portsmouth.

Dr Karl Bell, director of the Supernatural Cities research project and co-organiser of DarkFest, said: “Halloween is the one time of year when we really allow ourselves to talk about things dark and supernatural. DarkFest continues that imaginative engagement throughout November. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase the fantastic wealth of creative talent that we have in Portsmouth.

“This year’s festival is bigger and richer than last year and I’m delighted to see organisations like The New Theatre Royal and Aspex Gallery getting involved. The public talks and ghost walks will help change how people think about their local environment. When you find out that the creator of Sherlock Holmes first became interested in Spiritualism while practising as a doctor in Southsea, or that High Street and Broad Street in Old Portsmouth were perhaps the most haunted streets in the city, you’ll never quite look at places in the same way again.”    

The festival runs in venues across the city from Thursday 26 October to 30 November and all events are open to the public. Please visit the DarkFest Facebook for full listings and event details -

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