Delving into the weird and wonderful world of ‘80s nostalgia, TV horror, werewolves, vampires and plenty more – it’s all set to be part of the 8th June Symposium ‘The Gothic 1980s: The Decade That Scared Us’, taking part at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Number 70 Oxford Street. Now the full programme for this highly anticipated whole-day event has been announced, with tickets available online (£10, £5 concessions).  

The Gothic 1980s

Organised by Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn (author of Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture who spoke more to HAUNT about it here) from The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, this is set to be a symposium like no other: opening up the weird world of 1980s culture. Following the Call For Papers opening earlier this year and closing in March, a range of fascinating topics have been chosen and will feature during the day - in the form of presentations delivered by academics from across the country. Here they will talk about their research and papers they have developed, with a range of disciplines covered including Literature, Film Studies, History and Games Studies.

From horror films and video games, to The Gothic on the airwaves and international stage, ‘The Gothic 1980s’ Symposium shines a light on an era infamous for cultural contributions iconic and uncanny in equal measure. Consider the likes of films such as The Shining, The Terminator, Ghostbusters. Music many people many associate with Gothic themes grew in popularity, including the likes of The Sisters of Mercy and The Cure, whilst writers such as Stephen King and Thomas Ligotti were active.  A number of social and political factors also shaped the public mood at the time; an almost nervous energy as consumerism boomed and items such as televisions, consoles and Walkmans began to change how culture was consumed. Yet this was also a decade weighted with tension and angst – with the UK as just one example – seeing The Falklands War and the Miners’ Strike, ‘Stranger Danger’ campaigns, media speculation and increasing concerns about Thatcherism, The Cold War and Climate Change.

The Symposium therefore is taking on a decade filled with diversity, difficulty and deep interest. It is also an opportunity to hear academic talks on a range of themes combining The Gothic and the ‘80s, as well as an evening book launch and optional film screening of cult favourite The Lost Boys, in partnership with Pilot Light TV Festival.

Registration will be from 9-9.30am at the Number 70 Oxford Street Building – where all the events of the day will take place, across rooms. The morning will then begin with a keynote from the University of Huddersfield’s Matt Hills on the intriguing topic of ‘Unpicking the Threads of a ‘Market in Anxiety’: 1980s Nuclear Gothic… Beyond Reflectionist Readings?’.  The 1980s after all was a decade shadowed by nuclear threat and speculation – a time of Cold War anxieties in which tension ran high.

A range of panel discussions will then take place throughout the day, arranged according to topic with three speakers presenting within one panel, in front of an audience of attendees; with interest country-wide. The morning will feature two Concurrent Panels, with the first being on the topic of ‘1980s Nostalgia/ The 1980s Today’. This involves a range of academics discussing subjects including My Best Friend's Exorcism, the much-loved Stranger Things and childhood horrors. It is also an opportunity to explore questions such as – why does so much ‘80s culture continue to be popular? Meanwhile, the other panel will consider 1980s Hosts and TV Horrors, delving into 1980s US Television, Horror film features and plenty more. ‘The Gothic 1980s’ is after all a symposium exploring the eerie side of the era on an international scale.

After a break for lunch, which will be provided at 12.30-1.30pm, the format of Concurrent Panels continues – allowing attendees to listen to more fascinating academic paper presentations. Whilst one panel will focus on the notorious Gothic characters of ‘Werewolves and Vampires’, the other will explore ‘1980s Creations and Adaptions’, the latter considering how the culture of the decade drew on works from the past to provide new manifestations of its own. These panels will run from 1.30-3pm, followed by coffee and pastries. A further Concurrent Panel will then run from 3.30-5pm, with one on the topic of ‘Theorising the 1980s:  Satan, VHS, and Scholarship’, and ‘Inter/National Gothic Cultures’ being the subject of the other.

The Gothic 1980s

The number and variety of panels highlights the significant level of interest in exploring The Gothic side of the 1980s – and these panel discussions will be followed by a Wine Reception and Book Launch at 5.30-6.30pm. Another Gothic ‘80s inspired event is taking place downstairs in the building during the evening (although tickets need to be booked separately): a screening of The Lost Boys in partnership with Pilot Light TV Festival. Many may be familiar with this 1987 cult classic film directed by Joel Schumacher, which explores teenage encounters with a vampire gang. The film screening is due to run from 7-9pm, drawing a close to a diverse day packed with uncovering the eerie side of the ‘80s and considering not only The Gothic as a theme, but its continuing contemporary relevance, across culture.

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