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Dark Tourism: Session 2

Witness Seminar

Published onMay 23, 2022
Dark Tourism: Session 2

Law, Crime and History

Volume 10, issue 1 (2022): 97-131

© The Author(s) 2022

ISSN: 2045-9238

Witness Seminar

DARK TOURISM: SESSION 2

Location: University of Plymouth

Date: 7 November 2019

Organised by: Dr Simone Schroff, Lecturer in Law, University of Plymouth

Chair: Professor Judith Rowbotham, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Plymouth

Abstract

In association with Culture and Heritage Exchange (CHEx) and funding from the ESRC, this witness seminar series on dark tourism addressed the popular demand for sensationalism and the response from tourism professionals and specialists. The discussion included contributions from Chris Wilkes (Bodmin Jail), Ruth Heholt (University of Plymouth), Alan Bricknell (Ford Park Cemetery) and business and tourism PhD candidates Andrew Fry and Alex Rowe (University of Plymouth) among others. The discussion focused on a range of issues that included the challenges associated with dark tourism and its ethical presentation. The seminars also focus on tourism in the South West of England and discusses Cornwall’s spiritual connections, Bodmin Jail Museum’s recent renovations, and the effects of mainstream popular culture - such as the recent BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark series - on tourism.

Transcript

Judith Rowbotham (chair)

Right, I’m going to suggest we resume, and the recording is running again, so the same rules and principles apply for this afternoon’s session as applied for the morning. No Chatham House rules, but … what I would like to do is start by focussing on the work being done by the two PhD students we have joining us and get them to talk a little bit about their projects and also the issue of audiences, audience reception for tourism and management, and the issues surrounding that. So, again, you go first. Remind the tape of your names.

Alex Rowe

Ok. This is Alex Rowe speaking. I’m a PhD student in the Department of Tourism and Hospitality here. My work focusses on the impact that ‘Poldark’ is having on heritage tourism and tourism in Cornwall, and mainly looking at identity and the impact it’s had on the local communities. Where the dark tourism link with my research comes in is Levant and the Levant mine disaster of 1919. What I was going to say as well is Cornish mining, in general, has a dark tourism link that if you strip away the ‘Poldark’ infused idyllic engine-house perched on a clifftop, you have the morbid and dark realities that can be told through a historical narrative. In the past, when the miners were underground, they were subjected to disease and all sorts of injuries. They were subjected to accidents and then you have your big disasters like Levant where 31 men were killed in October of 1919. What I wanted to come to was, a definition of dark tourism from Tollo 2005. They defined dark tourism as visitation to places where tragedies or historically noteworthy death has occurred and continue to impact our lives. That comes straight back to my research and the impact that ‘Poldark’ has had on the mining communities in St Just and Pendeen. The research has been really interesting. A lot of local people don’t like fictional representations being used at heritage sites and they feel that Levant is a place of remembrance and memory. So, they’re quite offended that fictional representations are being used and see the National Trust’s representations as quite disrespectful to their identity. The Cornish identity is directly linked to mining in the past and the heritage that’s ongoing at the moment.

Judith Rowbotham

Thank you

Andrew Fry

I’m Andrew Fry. I sort of started off with a bit of a question in my head. The question I was asking myself was, could a spiritualist medium be a form of interpretation at a dark tourist site, especially the ones on the darker side of the scale where there’s been death and there’s been mass loss and maybe even genocide. Then I started exploring this a bit further and thought what does a spiritualist medium do, and of course, they have a role in the energy which some people might call ghosts or might call spirits, but for me, I call it an energy. I believe as sentient beings that we can all feel energy. We’re not probably all open to feeling that energy because of the world around us and how we sort of become blocked off and maybe not sure that that thing we might’ve saw in our peripheral vision wasn’t quite there or we had to double-take and on the second look it might not have been there, which is some coding which I got from part of an interview I did with someone at Bodmin Jail.

So, then I wanted to look at the tourist immersive experience and their emotions and then the role of authenticity of that experience. Not whether that is authentic, because I don’t want to question whether the medium can do their job and I don’t want to question whether ghosts or energy exist, I want to add it to the whole authentic experience. So, telling the stories there, which is what it is about, it’s telling someone’s story or telling the story of multiple people. That’s what my research is about. I know it’s in an area not everyone’s going to agree with because you might start saying what is that energy and then you start looking at ghosts and I don’t believe in ghosts. It was always going to be one of these subjects which is a little bit on the fine line, but that’s what I want to do and I’m working now with Chris at the jail, who’s offered the jail up as the place where I can do my research. Hopefully we’ll go from there and start finding out what comes out from the data.

Judith Rowbotham

I think that what we’ve just heard raises the point that Ruth concluded with and that I then took it a bit further forward, the relation of identity. How should dark tourism challenge or confirm identities? Is this why it’s so popular? Is this why people visit such sites? I know, for instance, that in the aftermath of the Great War, the First World War, there was a huge visiting of the battlefield sites with people seeking to connect with the spirits of husbands, brothers, sons, fathers, whom they had lost, and you have a great many stories associated with the white compadre. There was a genuine figure, [inaudible] Kennedy, but he was seen, according to mythology, after the war in about five different places at exactly the same time. So, is this imagination? Is this something which goes beyond? Do either of you want to take that further at this stage or can I get somebody else to comment?

Alex Rowe

I think I can comment on Cornwall as being quite a special and unique case that it’s got almost like a hybrid identity. You have people who identify as British and Cornish, or English and Cornish, and then you’ve also got people who identify as Cornish, either ethnically or as their personal identity. And you also get like a nationalistic identity coming through. In Cornwall there are groups of people that find it disrespectful to have English organisations representing their heritage and that’s what causes some of the dissonance that you see today

Jane Sanderson

Jane here. Does that kind of lead onto identity within relation with tribes, because if you connect yourself as say a Celt in Cornwall, that you’re the Celtic tribe, and then like you say, you might have invasive forces that are not of your tribe or different tribes. But surely with dark tourism, due to its subject matter, it is going to make us all think about our own mortality and our positional feelings about that. Is that not the purpose, perhaps, and the attraction towards dark tourism? Ruth, what do you think on that?

Ruth Heholt

Again, it’s hard to know because dark tourism transgresses boundaries. In a way it can break down boundaries. So, for example, like the tragedies that you’re talking about, something that everyone can relate to, to a certain extent, and it’s obviously to do with place, but as we were talking this morning, it’s also those identifications as well, which will bring us together rather than the identity, which might split us apart.

Judith Rowbotham

We’ve been joined by Jason Lowther, who also has an interest in undersea remnants, graves, wrecks and things like that. So, would you like to comment on that Jason?

Jason Lowther

I can comment on a couple of things. One of them, I’m not sure it falls under dark tourism, per se, but it might do, is that I tend to go to places that appear in environmental law cases, generally where something bad has happened to the environment. So, where the Torrey Canyon went down at the end of Lands End; a particular waste dump in Greece. My wife gets dragged along with me to all of these things, I have to say, and also to some eroding cliffs in East Anglia, just in terms of the way that they’re factored into a negative story about environmental degradation. Otherwise, bringing it back more relevant to this, then yes, a lot of the work around Underwater Cultural Heritage, particularly, is explicitly linked to unfortunate events. That’s probably the best way to put that. The interest then generated by people wanting to go and dive on various wrecks, whether or not they’re permitted to do so … in Plymouth Sound there’s quite a lot of wrecks that are protected under either the Protection of Military Remains Act or the Protection of Wrecks Act, and people still want to go there. They still want to take a souvenir from them. They still want to be involved in some way or another. So yeah, I think there’s a healthy dose of wanting to be involved in the marine environment too.

Judith Rowbotham

Chris

Chris Wilkes

Cornwall, very much here for the Cornish, is seen as an island nation. A friend of mine, Will Coleman, who runs a company called ‘Golden Tree Production’, probably sums it up best. Cornwall now has its own embassy. It is a double-decker black bus. The Cornish Embassy does travel, and I would urge anybody, get onto Golden Tree sites and actually take a look at some of the work they do. It is put out there as the nation of Cornwall and there is a river that defines it from the rest. Dark tourism in this respect … or is it more spiritual? Is there a connection to earth energy? We were talking about the world of the paranormal, which is all actually quite explained through quantum physics at a subatomic level. So, you have earth energy. Is there a connection or is there a wanting for a connection with something spiritual? So, whether you’re at St Nectan’s Glen, whether you’re stood on the top of Carn Brea, whether you are way down west somewhere, Penwith, there is a connection with the energy, the environment. It links a little into ‘Poldark’.

The images of the mind, the moors, the sea, the crashing waves and everything else that people see on their tellys. That might make them want to come to Cornwall, whereas actually an individual attraction, they’ll visit when they get there. They don’t say, other than the Eden Project, I’m going to visit St Michael’s Mount this year. They’ll say I’m going to Cornwall and while I’m there I’ll do the jail, St Michael’s Mount or whatever. So, there is a spiritual connection. Is that dark tourism? Noteworthy, was a word I picked up on in the definition. Does that cover it, possibly?

Alex Rowe

Yeah, I think it does. What you say about maybe the impact that ‘Poldark’ has, with television, people do make those connections between themselves and the landscape that they’re viewing and then they go and pursue that.

Chris Wilkes

Or even actually a connection with your mind and with the landscape because if you walk into places like St Nectan’s Glen, it has an amazing feel. It does. It has an amazing feel. It has amazing energy depending on the time of year and what’s going on with ley lines and whatever else, just as if you tromp around parts of Africa. There are things there that do have a very, very particular and special feel about them, as do many places. So, perhaps the media is also responsible for creating some of that in our minds.

Alex Rowe

It’s Alex chipping in again. The tourists that I have spoken to, with the representations that are put out there in the media, television, that kind of thing, they see Cornwall as a different place and a special place. Yeah, I think it is spiritual, like you say. They’re coming looking for this special and spiritual experience.

Chris Wilkes

King Arthur at Tintagel; the lost land of Lyonesse, between Lands End and the Isles of Scilly. ‘Poldark’ will do for Cornwall what ‘Downton Abbey’ has done, generally. You think of where ‘Downton Abbey’ has been sold around the world. The mark in China is quite big for that as well as America now, isn’t it? Scotch whisky is selling extremely well in that part of the world. People are buying into the heritage. So, it will happen with ‘Poldark’ because now they’ve finished the last series, obviously that will get sold on and over and over and over again, and we will see tourism … we had tourists actually standing in our front yard this year saying “over there, that’s where they were hanged, that’s where the executions took place”. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that none of it was filmed there. It was done in Corsham, but actually, those people truly, truly believed what they’d seen on the box.

Alan Ramage

Can I just say, a lot of place names in Cornwall are prefixed with ‘Saint’, aren’t they?

Chris Wilkes

Yeah.

Alan Ramage

We once met … we were at Perranporth and we met a catholic priest from Newfoundland. He had links with the community there. He visited his family links there. It links with Saint Piran, isn’t it?

Chris Wilkes

Saint Piran, yes.

Alan Ramage

That’s right. He was really driven by that. We had a chat with him at the B&B. It was very interesting to hear his perspective. I’m not aware that much is made of what I call the Christian spiritual dimension, despite the fact that ‘saint’ prefixes so many of the names. I’m asking the question. It’s just my ignorance.

Chris Wilkes

There is a degree. Even recently, within Bodmin, the Church of England, the Team Ministry has started what’s called ‘the Saints’ Way’, which is actually a walk that they’re doing for locals and visitors that cover many religious sites within about a five to eight mile radius, as well as within the town boundary. So, that side of it, yes, there are pockets, I believe, throughout the county.

Alan Ramage

Thank you.

Ruth Heholt

This is Ruth. It tends to get conflated, the very early Christian, with Pagan and quite a lot of the science as well. When you get down to Madron and you’ve got Madron Well and then you’ve got the early Christian site there at the same time, and St Michael’s Mount and that sort of thing. Back to the land of myth and magic. I think it all tends to get conflated into this sort of big mythological magical Cornwall thing.

Judith Rowbotham

I find myself, particularly considering the recent comments, do we actually need to re-think the stories of Christian pilgrimage back into the Dark Ages as an early form of dark tourism? Because of course, what you’re doing with that is you are very often visiting sites of martyrdom, you’ve got all the images that you see in churches and things like that, depicting the fearful agonies of various martyrs. It’s something which perhaps then carries forward … I know that, for instance, a lot of preachers in the evangelical revival period, 18th to 19th, into the very early 20th century, were in themselves, tourist attractions. People would go and visit the churches or chapels where they preached to listen to hellfire sermons. A lot of the literature and a lot of the thinking has presumed that somehow dark tourism is a modern phenomena, fed by modern media and modern technology. Are we over-complicating it?

Jane Sanderson

It’s Jane again. Yeah, I think so. My mum went on a, what one might call a pilgrimage, visiting all the Eleanor Crosses up and down the east coast of England. Like you say, is that not a definition of dark tourism, monuments put up in memory of a departed loved one. She wouldn’t describe herself as a religious person. I think for herself, and a lot of the other people on the walking tour, it was a kind of combination of interest and walking, yet also gaining history and local context along the way. So, sort of the best of both worlds. You’re enjoying yourself, but you’re also gaining information as well and paying homage to people that’ve gone in the past in history.

Chris Wilkes

Chris here. It’s a good point. Within the town of Bodmin there are five holy wells. There are well walks. Just up the road Temple, there is the Templar Church. So, it’s been around for some time.

Molly Buxton

Molly. I just wonder, at the risk of … dark tourism is already a vastly sort of complicated subject with many different parts. I wonder if then mixing in religious aspects, which people wouldn’t necessarily … when our school, which was C of E, went to church on certain days and things like that, it wasn’t considered that we were tourists, it was you just went to church. I wonder if just adding more things in …

Judith Rowbotham

Molly, what I was suggesting is that people would travel a long way.

Molly Buxton

Oh ok.

Judith Rowbotham

Reverend Thomas Scott, the commentator, my several times great-grandfather, preached sermons of minimum an hour. I think the record was three-and-a-half hours. They were hellfire sermons. They were all about the awfulness that would happen to you. So, you go and it’s not the ordinary every Sunday churchgoing. It’s picking up your bag and baggage and setting out for a particular experience. You would go and hear Wesley or various other preachers. Back into the 17th century, the Civil War period, with the pilgrimages, particularly when you were itinerating on foot, then even travelling around Cornwall was going to take you an effort.

Chris Wilkes

Absolutely

Judith Rowbotham

And to go somewhere like Compostela and the crusades, as a form of particularly bloody dark tourism, is perhaps an interesting thought.

Kim Stevenson

Kim. Chris, the hoards that travelled to watch the executions at Bodmin Jail, they’re travelling not just from Cornwall, but from Devon and Bristol. Was that not tourism?

Chris Wilkes

Of course, it is, absolutely. Depending on the notoriety of the person on the end of the rope, would dictate the size of the crowd. You go back to 1840, two roughnecks, the Lightfoot brothers from Wadebridge, had murdered, allegedly, a merchant from the town. This was a big news story. It was all over the West Britain newspaper of the day. Somewhere between 20 and 25,000 people attended the execution.

Kim Stevenson

With the Cornish pasties that were being sold.

Chris Wilkes

With the Cornish pasties, yeah. That was so well publicised, they were walking from miles. 1,100 actually got to the train from Wadebridge up to Bodmin North and sat in first, second and third-class carriages. Didn’t get out, just actually watched from those.

Ruth Heholt

What year was this?

Chris Wilkes

1840.

Ruth Heholt

Because the railway didn’t go over the Tamar until 1859, did it?

Chris Wilkes

Correct. But what did happen is the London and South West railway had got pieces in there, but the Molesworth-St Aubyn’s of Pencarrow, had actually put the Wadebridge to Bodmin and Wadebridge to Wenford Bridge line in, because they were taking slate and stone from their quarries on the moors down to the harbour at Wadebridge to get it out. So, they were very forward thinking. To touch on what you were saying Judith, if you think of the likes of the Wesley’s, Gwennap Pit. Google, have a look and see. Gwennap Pit, this enormous bowl of a venue. There was nothing to do on a Sunday, that’s where you went. There was no telly. There was no radio, and actually it was even an offence to play games, certain games, toss-a-penny and other things, on a Sunday, for which people were incarcerated in the jail. Because guess what, you’re in church, you’re listening to the word of the Lord. Be it his writings or whatever, that message is being pumped out.

Andrew Fry

Andrew Fry here. I’m going to change it a little bit, but it’s on the same sort of wavelength. Can I ask each of you, if you were to want to go to Bodmin Jail and recognise yourself as a dark tourist … because I don’t think we’ve done enough to let people know whether they are a dark tourist. Sometimes it could just be an attraction because of the heritage that goes with it. Would you go on an evening viewing at Bodmin Jail with a spiritualist medium because you wanted to experience a different experience of the jail? May I ask everyone in the room?

Jane Sanderson

Jane here. Yes, but not on Halloween. [laughter]

Ruth Heholt

Ruth. Yes.

Jason Lowther

Jason. Yes.

Chris Wilkes

I’ll just interject here and say it does not have to be night-time. I get there at half-six, seven in the morning and some days you’ll walk in there and there is nothing. Other days, you are definitely not on your own.

Andrew Fry

Why do you guys want to go there? Why would you want to go there with, let’s say, a spiritualist medium present?

Simone Schroff (organiser)

That is a very good question. I wouldn’t.

Karen Bond

Me neither.

Chris Wilkes

Why? Frightened of what might come up?

Jane Sanderson

I believe that they have a power, perhaps, that’s more tuned in. There’s possibly a power within all of us, but they have homed in on it. Back to my mother again, she has a little bit of that skill, and funny enough, yesterday, at the Underwater Cultural Heritage seminar, I found myself reminiscing about taking her to Notre Dame Cathedral, and as she’s stepping up the stairs, places a hand on a wall, immediately jumps back and starts recounting some back story of the person that put that brick there. Now, whether one believes in such things, that’s my mother’s experience that she retold to me, and that’s why I would be interested in going to a historical place which, undoubtedly, has seen lots of parting souls, such as Bodmin Jail, with someone that is tuned into that sort of energy.

Alan Ramage

Just offering a complete contrast. I’m trying to think. Is it the Glasgow music hall where the comedians used to play in a certain light? Would you say, I’ll go along to there with a spiritualist because I want to hear the spirits of the comedians who joked there and caused riotous laughter because it exudes that good spirit that was generated there. Why the focus on … I mean, I can understand the focus on the negative, the macabre and the dark, because that’s in our nature, but equally, I just put the question, would you go along if I said I’m organising a trip to the Glasgow music hall so that you can tune yourself into the spirits of the comedians who had performed there? Can you see what I’m trying to do? I’m playing with the …

Andrew Fry

Andrew again. The reason for me is that people lost their lives there. If you look at the South Americans, they believe that stones are the keeper of secrets, the keeper of stories. Stones hold memories. They hold energy. Like Chris said, Bodmin Jail is complete granite, an enclosed space. So, all that energy of those people that lost their lives there, that has to go somewhere.

Alan Ramage

You mentioned about subatomic physics. Where’s the evidence for this please?

Chris Wilkes

Energy that is based … are we alright to go off at a bit of a tangent here?

Judith Rowbotham

Yes, why not.

Chris Wilkes

We all generate energy. We all make electricity. You cannot destroy energy. So, at its most base level, you cannot destroy it. So, when the carcass that this energy inhabits finishes its existence, where does the energy go? Does it stick around? Does it move on? Does it change? Does it transform or does some of it just hang around as an imprint? There are those that believe that some of that energy does stick around. Now, where you have potentially ley lines, the earth’s energy, where you have 20, 30,000 tons of granite, is it not impossible that there may be a higher concentration of that energy? If you were to use an electromagnetic field meter, some of them, the readings you get in our building are very, very strong. There is no electric in much of the prison wings, none at all. So, there is energy bouncing around there. So, is it not possible that some of that energy may actually be held from past lives? Some people believe that they can tune into that.

Rob Giles

But 95% of the energy in the universe is unknown, dark energy. So, there’s a lot of energy about. So, how would you know that the energy that you might find in the stones has come from people who have died there? It’s part of the 95% of the energy that we don’t know about. So, you can’t kind of say because it’s there, it must be from this or from anything else. You don’t know.

Chris Wilkes

No, you don’t.

Rob Giles

It’s a huge unknown.

Chris Wilkes

Is the place an aerial? Is it an attraction? Is it a focus? Have you got little specks of human energy left there because earth energy, rocks, granite …

Rob Giles

It’s a great question.

Chris Wilkes

Yes, it is.

Rob Giles

It’s a very romantic answer.

Chris Wilkes

But there are some that do genuinely believe that they can feel or sense or interpret some of that energy.

Alan Ramage

Alan here. I agree with that totally. My partner is tuned into energy and she has given me examples which I can’t feel at all. I was very sceptical, but the more times she gives me these examples, you start to really do believe that she … she herself can tune into energies and feel those energies.

Chris Wilkes

I can too. I divine.

Judith Rowbotham

Jason and then Simone.

Jason Lowther

I have always had this idea of echoes, not generally so much within the energy thing, I’m no particle physicist, so, I’m not even going to go there, but on the basis of the fact that we generate a noise, that noise dissipates, where does it dissipate to? Does it just stop at the point where everybody understands that noise and there’s no need to carry on with it? So, similarly with that energy that is part of all of us and is a creation of all of us, yeah, absolutely, that’s the bit of physics I do understand. Matter is neither created nor destroyed. It’s just there. So, it has to go somewhere. If somebody is able to divine that or if somebody is able to ground truth that in some particular way that that happens, then yeah, I’m sure that there echoes that are held within places, and perhaps higher emotion generates a more resonant echo. I wouldn’t like to say one way or the other, but it’s a nice little romantic idea, Rob, that I probably go along with.

Rob Giles

Absolutely. I completely buy into it if you can paint the picture, but it doesn’t mean to say it’s true.

Judith Rowbotham

Simone.

Simone Schroff

I feel no energy whatsoever, but I’ve been on these ghost walks for an entirely different reason. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t feel any energy. Sorry, but when I go on these walks, I’m more interested in the historical information and getting an insight into the past. Yes, some people on the walk feel energy and some become really stressed and really freaked out, but for me, it is a unique way of experiencing the past that I cannot get from books. This is the reason why I’m doing this, and I’ve done this in Japan, in Amsterdam, in Norwich, in Exeter, everywhere where I have lived. I haven’t managed here yet, but for me, it’s really about (a) what the people think are important stories that tells me as much about the city as anything else, and (b) how it is presented and how the other people in the group react to the different stories. That tells me more about local people than I will ever get out of a book. That is the reason why I am going, not to see a ghost.

Judith Rowbotham

Karen and then Chris.

Karen Bond

Going back to your question about why I wouldn’t go on a ghost walk. I don’t believe there are old chain rattling, spectres. Energy, to me, personally, if I’m ever down or I need grounding and getting back to me, I either go to the ocean, which I can explain scientifically, ozone, or I go into woods, photosynthesis, whatever. The atmosphere makes me feel better. I’ve never been a fancible person, although I do have Celtic heritage, so, I do believe in energies of a sort. I’ve just never been able to really quantify it. However, 20-odd years ago I went to Nottingham for a week’s holiday and went to Nottingham Jail with my children. We went all around the jail, we went in all the cells, we saw the history bit, we looked at all the exhibitions, then we got to the chapel. The chapel in Nottingham Jail is built in a wooden semi-circle and very high walls and it’s designed so that prisoners could not see anybody.

Judith Rowbotham

That’s Lincoln actually.

Karen Bond

Oh, is it Lincoln?

Judith Rowbotham

It’s Lincoln and I know that because I did that.

Karen Bond

Sorry, went to Nottingham and Lincoln that week.

Judith Rowbotham

Yes. The chapel is Lincoln.

Karen Bond

I went in there and went and stood in one of the stalls. I went in there as a catholic, a religious person. Yes, I’ll go in and have a look. All of my kids absolutely freaked out, not because they were upset, but because I disappeared. I got in there and even now it still makes me feel ill, just the thought of it, I ran. All I could feel was a malignant, oppressive, horrendous sadness and it was literally as if every single soul who had gone through that jail … I can’t describe it, but it was horrific. I will never ever be sceptical again, and that’s why I wouldn’t go. It’s not exactly fear, but it’s not an experience I’d ever want to repeat.

Judith Rowbotham

The really interesting thing about the Lincoln Jail and the Lincoln chapel is it did not take time to build that up because that jail was opened in the 1840’s and closed 20 years later because the insanitary conditions, it was, for various reasons, it was built so that the drains didn’t work. So, jail fever and things like that, but it was a prison that held. It was the county prison. It was the assize jail and it housed some pretty nasty people in that period.

Karen Bond

It was just horrendous.

Chris Wilkes

Chris. We don’t do ghost hunts. What we do is we will take small groups. We will teach them some basic elements of Reiki and energy management so that they can understand and feel and interpret. We all resonate at different frequencies. Now, you clearly resonate at a certain level. So, when you’re in certain places near the sea or in the middle of the woods and that resonance hits, that’s where your connection is. Think of a phonebook. Go through a phonebook. You’ll see every 30th or 40th page, whatever it is. So, obviously in that chapel, your frequency hit something. Now, question for you, Judith, within the death sentence, thinking back to Victorian times, that you will be buried within the confines of the jail within which you were last held, and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. Were the condemned buried within the walls? Yes. Were they all buried with their feet facing the jail up to 1964? Yes. Why? If the spirit rises in the afterlife, it’s still facing jail. When did that come into the death sentence? Because I think that’s part of a far wider belief set. You go back to hangings at crossroads outside of towns and villages. Why at crossroads? So the spirits in the afterlife didn’t know which way to go. Drawing and quartering. The body’s in four quarters, in the afterlife there was no chance of being whole and thus being resurrected. So, there’s a whole belief in all of this that goes far further back than perhaps we’ve given it credit for.

Rob Giles

If you don’t mind me just interjecting once more, but also for many people, they might go to the goalmouth of Wembley Stadium where the penalty was taken … I don’t know football, so I’m out of my comfort zone, to win the World Cup, and they stand there. They feel an energy, they feel a buzz and they feel an excitement, and it’s coming from them because they’re in that spot. Nobody died there. This isn’t a place where anybody died. So, energy is something that you generate from within yourself because you know the stories, you know the history and you have a buzz because of that. I’m not saying that your explanation is wrong and mine is right. I’m just saying there are many possible explanations for any of these things. We are all sensitive people and we all feel things and we’re stimulated by different things. So, it could be any number of things that are creating that stimuli, not necessarily death.

Chris Wilkes

Absolutely.

Judith Rowbotham

But there are also other things which are inexplicable by any normal means. I, aged five and a bit, set off for Singapore with my brother, my mother and my baby sister. We were on an RAF flight. We left the now defunct Blackbushe Airport, south London. We were staying with my maternal grandfather in Forest Row. We got the summons. There was absolutely no time to let anybody know. So, my mother scribbled a note which was posted the next morning to my paternal grandmother in Atherington. She was the wife of the rector there. Flight. We landed at Calcutta Airport and we landed on top of a plane that was about to take off, RAF wives and personnel going home. We were RAF wives and personnel going out. Everybody underneath us was killed. We were the plane on top. It took me years to understand that the reason why I had to take my shoes off to be evacuated over the wing was that it was a Hermes jet and the wing was wet with fuel. My grandmother, at home in Atherington, there was no telephone, there was nothing there.

Atherington, if anybody knows it, it’s high on a hill. They relied on oil lamps and well-water. This is 1957. You can check the story. You can go and look in The Times. There’s a picture of me and my father, my father clutching the pair of us. My grandmother stood up when the plane crash came on the news, and said “oh my god, Giddy and the children were on that flight” and she sat down and she said “but they’re alright”. Now, there is absolutely no way she could possibly have known, no way at all, but she did know. It was absolutely accurate what she said. It was something that, I think, that this again brings us back to the issues of dark tourism. By the way, when I was an RAF trustee, I found myself going to the Sir John Bullock restoration centre at RAF Cosford. We had just opened that facility and I didn’t like it. Then they pointed out the engine of the plane that we’d crashed in … it was sitting there. It does seem to be something that while you can pick up … and I think that this is where perhaps there is a distinction that there is something that people do seem to be able to pick up when it’s a dark energy, as opposed to something which I think is more likely to be self-generated, but that there is something which does seem … there is such a substantial body of evidence. It is very interesting when you look at a case such as Maria Marten and ‘The Murder in the Red Barn’, which is actually interesting because it is the last murder trial in which the modern legal system took, seriously, evidence based on dreams. That dream evidence was used to convict William Corder.

Rob Giles

I think there would be a way of actually studying this and you might be interested in this. You could paint this picture of the red barn and you could take a group of tourists to a barn that’s not the red barn and find out what they feel. If you did this multiple times, you could actually get statistically data on whether it’s the barn itself, whether there’s a residual energy there that people are picking up on or whether it’s the story.

Judith Rowbotham

This is perhaps something that one result from the discussions from this seminar should be a challenge if we do. As people in various ways involved in dark tourism, dark heritage, the study, the responsibilities involved in managing it, presenting it, and that does need to be done.

Rob Giles

It would be fun to do, and can I film it if we do? [laughter]

Alan Ramage

I want to draw attention to the other gentleman that spoke and his contribution, which hasn’t received quite the same attention, understandably, but it’s the history that the British public are very loathed to speak about and address, and that’s social class. ‘Downton Abbey’ has been suggested it helped the Conservatives win one general election because it presented the working classes in such a favourable light, giving a marginal boost to their vote. I don’t know what ‘Poldark’ does. I haven’t followed it. I just wanted to bring the issue of social class because it’s still a powerful force nowadays. It’s been a very, very powerful force in the past. You mentioned Nancy Astor yesterday and so on. I wonder how that is dealt with within the context of tourism.

Alex Rowe

Alex Rowe here. The interesting thing about ‘Poldark’ was the first novel was published in, I think, 1945, which was round about when the Labour government came in after the Second World War. So, it has elements of the working class. Ross Poldark is seen as a working-class figure, but it’s like fighting against, I guess, what would’ve been the Tory establishment. It does portray elements of the working class in the miners. I think the main thing that it does is it does play like the working class versus the elite, and that resonates with people today. It’s the sort of thing that’s being played out in the general election campaign at the moment and it seems to be that Labour are going with ‘us versus them’ kind of direction.

Judith Rowbotham

I think it’s an interesting question because it’s certainly true that if dark tourism relates to places of death, disaster, assault or unhappiness … let’s face it, quantitatively, the majority of people associated with any side, either singularly or individually, are likely to be from the lower echelon of society. If a ship sinks, they you’re going to have one captain and an awful lot of crew.

Jason Lowther

Jason. Take the Titanic. The bigger loss of life were the people that were locked downstairs in steerage, as opposed to the people that were able to get to the boats that weren’t locked in steerage. So, yeah, I’d definitely go along with that. I think, also, possibly within the penal system as well because if you’re talking about the potential value of dark tourism for old prisons and going to those sorts of things, there’s an attraction to it to feel that, if you like, then you are generally going to be feeling the debtor, the low end criminal, maybe the high end criminal; whereas your country house ghost of a sort of Walter Raleigh figure with his head under his arm or something, which is the general conception that that sort of thing would be, there are a lot fewer of those than there would be in the context of other big losses that people might want to go and get involved with.

Kim Stevenson

Kim. Jason, the Titanic is probably the most iconic dark tourism event in some ways, isn’t it? Because everybody seems to be so obsessed with it. So, is that class aspect or is there more to it than that?

Jason Lowther

Jason again. We were discussing this yesterday in terms of framing the value of marine heritage and realising that actually the real value to it is in the story rather than the artefact. There can be many artefacts that can be brought up from wrecks around the place and quite often where there’s been tragic or significant loss of life, people do identify more with the story and want to get involved more with the story of that sort of thing, rather than some rusty old porthole. Other than the fact that anything that comes off the Titanic, anything, from a rivet all the way through to a chandelier or something like that, has an immediate premium upon it that would be more important than anything else. I think with the Titanic, possibly it’s yes. There was so much of a mystery about it because of the fact it was so deep. It was so inaccessible, and it’s only become accessible and discovered in the last 15 years or so really. So, with the lack of mystery now and the more accessibility of it, then the Titanic, per se, is not that exciting, but bits that come from it are. If that makes any sense at all.

Chris Wilkes

Yes, it does.

Alex Rowe

Alex. I recently went to the museum in Belfast, the Titanic one, and there were so many people there that I just couldn’t connect with any of the stories. I don’t know if all these popular stories and these myths that build up, can they create such an interest that you get too many people buying into it, that it kind of distorts the dark heritage?

Chris Wilkes

Chris here. It depends on the size of the venue. If you get a big crowd and you’ve got a big enough venue, you can just keep filling it and it’s not an issue. It’s containment. If you turn up at the Eden Project, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got 500,000, 1500, 2000 or 4000 on site, you can fill it because you’ve got space. You come to the jail, if we get over 1400 on site, we’re in trouble because you’ve got a fixed sized building and you’ve got fixed walls and you can only stuff so many in. So, going to the Titanic, you’re in a box. You’re in a confined space with fixed points. It’s just too full, that’s all.

Molly Buxton

Out of curiosity, because I went to see the Mary Rose, which obviously is almost in completion and you can see it all, yet has not nearly the representation that the Titanic does, and I wonder if at any point that is due to the film which was massively critically acclaimed and has caused that interest from other countries as well as England and America, which was what was primarily involved with the Titanic. So, I wonder if that has created it to be a worldwide thing because there is more of the Mary Rose to see. It’s sort of pretty magnificent, whereas the Titanic, it’s more of bits and pieces and what we can see that’s still on the bottom of the ocean.

Chris Wilkes

Chris here. I think the Titanic is closer in history. It has been far more widely reported. The Mary Rose went down so long ago that it’s very difficult for us, now, today, to identify with that. Coming back to what you’re saying, it’s an old wreck, it’s a rusty porthole, but the Titanic, you know, the tenders were off Millbay, whatever it was. That you can associate with because it’s within our perception of time.

Judith Rowbotham

But how much in fact, going back to something that has kept coming up, first raised by Ruth, is how much is it to do with stories? Now, we can identify, perfectly happily, with Henry VIII and his six wives, although they were a long time ago, but then we know the stories. We can actually fill the stories in. We know virtually nothing about the crew that went down with the Mary Rose. There are no stories apart from the broad generic stories, which in a sense brings us back to the fact that the major loss of life was the ordinary sailors. We know more about, and it had much greater resonance at the time, about the Royal William which keeled over and sank because we know there was an Admiral onboard and we know about the Admiral.

Ruth Heholt

This is Ruth. Can I just say, C. J. Sansom has recreated it in his Shardlake series? He’s putting stories into the Mary Rose in a very effective way.

Judith Rowbotham

Jane.

Jane Sanderson

I was going to try and address your question earlier Alan, yes, I would go to the theatre with you equally of an evening with a medium. I think you’d be hard pushed to find any kind of old-school vaudeville theatre that didn’t have sort some of ghost, haunting or at least ghost story. As to comedians, having met a few in this life, they’re normally actually quite dry in person, but as I say, I think, to clarify what Rob was saying, you are going to find those presences not just in jails and cemeteries, but equally in theatres, stadiums, where people have gathered and congregated. At the risk of flipping the table, and I’m hoping Jason, in particular, might answer the question, should there be a line drawn possibly as to dark tourism, and I’m thinking in particular with the recent interest in people going to Chernobyl. The site of an environmental disaster where people have obviously suffered and lost their lives. A visit to Chernobyl as an entertainment.

Jason Lowther

Ok. Where do we go from there? I know that there’s a professor at Portsmouth University that’s developed vodka from grain grown at Chernobyl now. It’s the most expensive vodka in the world at the moment because there’s only one bottle of it, but they’re attempting to market it. Now, in some respects, I would say, it’s absolutely horrific to want to go and drive around and be part of the Chernobyl experience, which you can do. It is very, very accessible now for people to go to. I’m wondering the same if people would want to do similar things with Fukushima or Bhopal. I was unfortunate enough, 15 years ago, to be in the tsunami. That was particularly unpleasant. I know that quite a few people did go to places, particularly on the east coast of India to go and have a look at some of the devastation that was there and around some of the temple sites. Mahabalipuram, for example.

That was the place to actually go to, to go and see the tsunami damage, which I think is pushing the boundaries. However, I think that this comes back to one of the things that we were talking about earlier on, which is the proximity. The temple proximity to the actual event that happened. There was just as much of a proportional disaster with the Mary Rose going down, in terms of the number of people that were around at the time and the number of people that were on the boat, to the number of people that went down with the Titanic, for example. But there’s two different narratives going on around that. I guess with Chernobyl maybe that there’s a recovery story to be told. A light tourism that balances off the darker side of it maybe. It’s not for me. Like I said earlier on, I’m quite happy to go and see where things have turned up in case law have been, like a waste-dump in Chania in Crete, and drag my wife along. But I’m not sure I’d want to drag her to Chernobyl to see where a lot of people have lost their lives in respect to that. So, I’m not sure.

Rob Giles

One thing I can add onto this is, having created some virtual reality experiences, one of which was a transportation ship to Australia for convicts, there is a way of generating emotion in people just in this very room. So, not at a particular site where anybody has died or anything has actually taken place, and yet those emotions are still real. I’ve witnessed that and I’ve had feedback on that from students who have actually taken part in it. So again, it reinforces that the stories are possibly, and maybe the visual and the immersive experience, are creating the emotions.

Chris Wilkes

So, you’re actually saying there that it’s a mental connection. It’s what we’re associating.

Rob Giles

What I’m doing is reporting my observations and feedback. I mean, how that gets there, it’s probably tied up in a whole load of experiences throughout the persons life and so their emotions are probably in contact with something that is stimulating them and bringing them to the surface. I think that is occurring, but what I would say is it’s possible to generate those in different forms and fashions.

Jane Sanderson

Yes, but Rob, I’ve witnessed people in the ship simulator here, on campus, get seasick, standing in a room.

Rob Giles

Yes, I can generate seasickness, yeah.

Jane Sanderson

So, are you saying that that seasickness is no more real than if they’re on a boat? There’s no motion in the room. It’s just their perception of the room moving.

Rob Giles

Seasickness is motion sickness. It’s equilibrium.

Jane Sanderson

Do you get the point that I’m making though? You’ve got seasickness actually happening at sea and then you’ve got seasickness happening in a room in Plymouth, are they equally as valid in your opinion?

Rob Giles

Well no. Seasickness is to do with balance. There’s a chemical reaction that’s happening. It goes back to very, very historic times where a human, if they had been eating something and were poisoned, then they would get everything that’s inside of them out. So, that’s actually what seasickness is. It’s to do with equilibrium. The brain is saying something’s gone wrong. I’ve obviously been poisoned. So, I can generate seasickness in you. It’s just a chemical process. Emotion is a very different thing. Obviously, going to Bodmin Jail can create that emotion. Going around Ford Park Cemetery and being told stories can generate those emotions. So, it does happen.

Judith Rowbotham

What happened with the transportation virtual reality was that you identified, when you created the virtual reality physical frame, that it was lacking. So, what I did was I went and researched in the newspapers and I created, using very substantially the words reported in the crime reportage at the time, I created voices so that you stood in that virtual reality ship in the cells, and what they were hearing in their heads were the stories of people who had been transported. I took a little bit of artistic licence and took over about three years to get good stories and good reportage, but basically, they were all people who had been transported, set out from Plymouth and were indeed bound for Botany Bay. So, once again, it brings us back to stories.

I’d like to, again, bring up some of the issues of responsibility. One of the challenges that we faced at Lincoln Jail was when the people who were doing the attraction suggested that a good exercise for the school children would be to imagine themselves in the personality of various inmates of the jail. They were thinking in terms of Lincoln Jail as it had been in the 18th and early 19th century when it had held a number of petty criminals. So, you might be in there for stealing an apple or a handkerchief or something like that. Where I stuck was that you were looking at Lincoln Jail in a period where the people housed in there had any kind of stories. They were bigamists, blackmailers, burglars, fraudsters, murderers. Is it something that we should be asking people to do as part of an immersive experience, to imagine themselves in that kind of character? I pushed instead for the alternative of imagine yourself as the governor, a chaplain, a matron, one of the jailors, a prison visitor.

Jason Lowther

Jason. I imagine myself as a murderer every day. [laughter]

Judith Rowbotham

Yes, but that’s because you’re a lecturer and counting students.

Kim Stevenson

Kim. At the Galleries of Justice, it’s not just imagining them, is it? You’re actually given the photograph, the name, the history, to become the individual that was convicted at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham. So, you go around and you’re more than imagining. You are that individual, which is a little bit, perhaps, even more of a reality experience.

Judith Rowbotham

They’ve actually modified that. They’ve now got videos which you see, which I found upsetting. They have a video of a young woman, late 18th century, who was hanged for murder and it’s showing her with the noose around her neck and she alternately plays with her hair and plays with the end of the noose, and starts off by saying “mother always said I’d never have my 15 minutes of fame” and goes on to tell her story. Now, I found that very wrong.

Alan Ramage

Alan. I organise the Green Book Club and I organise the Global Book Club, and I recently read extraordinary extracts by a Swedish professor full of fascinating stories of different behaviours and complexions of behaviours. We’re actually endorsed by the Eden Project. I’m tempted to get in touch with Tim and say would he consider displaying more information about the insects and the role they play with regards to the plants exhibited at the Eden Project. Another book the Global Book Club were considering using for 2020 and the Mayflower celebrations, is called ‘Indian Givers’ by Jack Weatherford, recommended very much. It’s all about the benefits you gain from the knowledge and expertise of the American Indians and the new world giving to the old, which has been very little recognised. I was speaking to an anthropologist last night and he’s an expert about that and he thought very highly of it too.

Once again, get in touch with Tim and say could he put more information about the way plants were used by indigenous people who knew what they would benefit from. I think I’ve had this conversation with one of his guides. They don’t put too much information there because it will swamp people. They just want them to have an immersive experience. I’ll let you know the outcome in due course. I feel obliged now to do that. What I’m coming around to is how far tourism has really … people don’t want too much social history, too much fact, they want entertainment. As you know, Andrew Marr talks about the newspapers and their history. They sell because they deal with sex, they deal with issues that raise anger, corruption, that sort of thing and celebrity culture. They’re the driving factors that are common to the tabloid newspapers anyway and I’m suggesting that a lot of tourism has to get bums on seats and visitors into the centre. I wouldn’t say it’s the lowest common denominator, but it has to be confident that it’s going to get the numbers to keep the businesses going.

Ruth Heholt

Ruth. I think from my point of view, a lot of what the conversation has been doing for the last five, 10 minutes, is talking about putting emotion into tourism and putting it into the places, telling the stories, putting yourself in it and making it immersive. I’d like to go back to Alex and the way that actually dark tourism can also take the emotion out. So, if we do go back to your heritage sites and we go back to Botallack and we go back to the mines at Levant and that sort of thing, and turning those into basically just somewhere gorgeous, and the working class lives and the working class experiences and the sufferings are sublimated in favour of just making it sublime and beautiful and completely romanticized.

Alex Rowe

Alex. There’s a difference between Levant and Botallack. Botallack is more of an open space. So, you do get exactly what you’ve just said. It’s romanticized.

Ruth Heholt

Yeah. It’s gorgeous.

Alex Rowe

When I’ve been there, when ‘Poldark’s’ been filming, people don’t know the real history of the site. Like Wheal Owles, which is the main mine in ‘Poldark’, Wheal Leisure and Wheal Grace, was subjected to a disaster in 1893. People weren’t aware of the history because it wasn’t this tourist focussed heritage site with the interpretation boards. They just saw it as this beautiful scene on the clifftop. I’ve seen it on tv. I want to come and see Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson here and immerse myself with that.

Ruth Heholt

But it takes the stories away to a certain extent, doesn’t it?

Alex Rowe

Yeah. At Botallack they’ve tried to merge the two, so they have interpretation that’s brief and starts off with ‘Poldark’ and then links the stories in that way.

Ruth Heholt

It’s Ruth again. It’s just interesting, this post-industrial landscape and again, given as the romanticized and the sublime and the beautiful things, whereas actually they’re sites of loss and also sites of mourning.

Alex Rowe

Alex again. Because I focus on locals, what the tourists see to the locals is a completely different thing. The locals will see the sites as places of loss and remembrance, as in the case of Levant, but because of Cornish mining, it’s just romanticized everywhere. The tourists see them as beautiful places and just don’t recognise it as a place of loss.

Ruth Heholt

But that gives us a question in a way, doesn’t it? Because if the tourists are just seeing the beauty, is it dark tourism?

Andrew Fry

Or are they dark tourists?

Ruth Heholt

Absolutely right. They’re not seeing the dark.

Judith Rowbotham

Are we insulating them and are we doing that rightly?

Jason Lowther

Jason. Or do they go there as dark tourists knowing that there’s been a huge loss there and wanting to sort of soak up a bit of the energy of that, and then get there and find actually under trades descriptions, actually it’s a bit too beautiful.

Jane Sanderson

Jane here. Has anyone ever been to the lepers’ passages in Totnes or even heard of them? Looking around the table. Right. I was living in Totnes and was just walking down the street in a beautiful environment and happened to notice a lot of ribbons. It turned out that around this well, it used to be … it was apparently the place where the local people would take the lepers and bathe their bodies. Still to this day, the locals, thinking about what you were saying about the difference between locals and tourists Alex, will come and often lay flowers there or place ribbons and little other mementoes of remembrance. It has, if you want to go back to energies, an atmosphere to it. I stumbled upon it as an unintentional tourist, but it is a very well-known phenomena in the area and history in the area. The passage continues down towards the river, where they used to bathe the lepers and then transport them down via very high-sided walls of this passage to, I assume, keep the infection from the general populous. Luckily, it has not necessarily made it onto the dark tourist trial, but it is a place that is steeped in history, remembrance and loss.

Judith Rowbotham

You said ‘luckily’.

Jane Sanderson

Yeah.

Judith Rowbotham

That’s interesting.

Jason Lowther

Can I just add to that? If anybody’s been to Crete, then you’ve got the island of Spinalonga, which is again, a leper colony, that is in every single tourist operator’s trip to go there. Like I said, I went to a waste-dump, everybody else went to Spinalonga. It was the subject of a novel as well, wasn’t it, I think, called ‘The Island’ or something like that. It was the subject of a novel which then, again, increased even more interest in the place.

Kim Stevenson

I think it was Ian Hislop’s wife that wrote it.

Jane Sanderson

Jane again. Is it oversaturated now, that island?

Jason Lowther

Yes.

Jane Sanderson

Reports I’ve heard back from people that have visited, there are so many people going to it and automatically trampling across this island without due respect to the departed.

Kim Stevenson

I don’t even know why we went that day. It was like you’ve just said, it was almost like … we went on a package holiday, but there were just certain things that were daytrips and you signed up to and you wanted a boat ride. Therefore, you went along to the island. It was more for the boat ride that we went.

Jason Lowther

Jason again. So, you went on the boat ride, you had lunch and then they got you drunk on the way back and that was your dark tourist experience of going to a leper colony where people had had horrible times.

Kim Stevenson

You never really got a sense of how horrible it really was.

Jason Lowther

But really, it was a boat trip.

Simone Schroff

A rather related question. Why are some events creating dark tourist sites? I’m pretty sure there’s not a single square metre in this country where blood hasn’t been shed at some point or another. Why are some so famous and so appealing, whereas others not at all? I’m not aware of a single German or Dutch place where you would have a mine disaster where people would go. It’s not something that is remembered in the same way. I think it’s actually really British. To have a 100-year old disaster and then to elevate it above all other disasters.

Kim Stevenson

It’s only because of ‘Poldark’ though, isn’t it? Isn’t that the argument?

Simone Schroff

Yes, but to answer my question, it’s not just ‘Poldark’. I know up north, you also have mines with big disasters, where people are going and remembering this particular disaster, but not the 20 other ones that have happened in the same mine. It’s not one time that people die. It happens a lot or used to happen a lot.

Jane Sanderson

Jane. You don’t get people visiting railway bridges to remember the people that have …

Alan Ramage

What do people do in your country?

Simone Schroff

I know, for example, there was a famous train crash when I was about 10, so, mid-90’s. There is a memorial for that, but there is nothing … for example, the city bombings in the Second World War, all cities were equally bombed. It is not something that we remember in that way. It’s just not done in this way.

Judith Rowbotham

How much is it, once again, to do with stories? The stories that hit the headlines, the people and things like that, that somehow create that. I found myself travelling. When an aunt was moved to a nursing home, I needed to go to a station called Headcorn in Kent. We passed through Staplehurst and I immediately thought “oh Staplehurst rail disaster 1865” because I knew about that. Charles Dickens was in it, but survived. He writes about it at the end of ‘Our Mutual Friend’. Kim and I did a conference ‘Off the Rails’ and I did a bit on rail accidents and the issues of fault in law and so on and so forth, so, I knew about it. The guard came down and I was sort of rubbernecking out of the window trying to work out where between Staplehurst and Headcorn the actual crash site had been, because I was interested, because I knew it had happened. The guard said “what are you doing?”, I said “I’m trying to work out where …”, he said “ugh?”. He was a longstanding guard, somebody I had seen on the Hastings line who transferred, so he knew me. He’d not heard of it. It was a particularly horrible rail disaster. Dickens wasn’t killed, but a number of people were, but they were, once again, they were ordinary people, not stories of any fascination that came out in the newspaper or out of the reportage of the time.

Simone Schroff

Yeah, but take the example of the lepers. Why is Totnes remembering the lepers in this way? Exeter, which is bigger, probably had more of them and doesn’t.

Jane Sanderson

Yes, but the passages that maybe were in Exeter have probably been developed over and built on. Totnes being a smaller town, they’ve been preserved just outside, behind the town.

Kim Stevenson

It’s understanding the buildings and the architecture.

Jane Sanderson

Car parks have been built around them.

Chris Wilkes

It’s association of suffering.

Simone Schroff

But was that conscious decision? To preserve it and then for others to build over it.

Jane Sanderson

Possibly. There’s a lot of people that would say Totnes is a very spiritual place. It’s probably on a ley line, but I think Exeter is as well, is it not.

Chris Wilkes

You walk up Totnes’ high street and you …

Kim Stevenson

They wouldn’t worry what they were building over, would they? You only need to look at Plymouth. In the past, they just built wherever they wanted to build.

Jane Sanderson

I think Totnes has always had a good tradition of looking back at history, even say in Victorian times, even possibly more so than Exeter. On Thursdays, I don’t know if they still do it, but they used to dress up in Tudor and Elizabethan costumes and go about their daily shopping business.

Chris Wilkes

I was just saying to Judith, is this actually more of an association with suffering and empathy with suffering? Be it a mine disaster.

Simone Schroff

Yeah, but it’s also a really good research project to actually look into this, why some communities chose to encapsulate the suffering and make it memorable, whereas others have moved in a different direction and why.

Judith Rowbotham

It’s different cultures. I went to Lisbon for the first time and one of the places … because I taught the enlightenment and the great challenge to the certainties of the enlightenment in the 18th century. As Alexander Pope put it, “one truth is clear, whatever is, is right”. You get the great Lisbon earthquake, which takes place on All Saints Day when all the good and godly are in church and all the drunkards, fornicators, idlers, adulterers, are out enjoying themselves. There’s a huge death toll in Lisbon and the death toll is hugest in a convent church on one side of the valley, and literally the roof crashed in and hundreds were killed. I went to see the site of that, and I was astounded to see that since 1754 there has been a tradition of memorialisation and visiting that particular site. They have preserved it. It wasn’t just restored in a modern sense.

Quite literally since that time, it’s been treated, if you like almost as a graveyard. They left the stones very largely where they fell, obviously the bodies were removed, but the stones have been left. The floor is grassed over, but it’s a very strange and very eerie sight. It was not at all what I expected. I went there expecting more or less to see some modern building in place with perhaps a plaque on the wall. I was interested in the location and what was left of old Lisbon, what was there of new Lisbon, and was totally astounded to find this 250-odd year old preserved site in a modern city, but something that had been literally preserved as a site of …

Simone Schroff

The opposite example … in Dresden they haven’t rebuilt the Frauenkirche, which collapsed right after the big bombing, until reunification, when suddenly everybody in the city decided … it used to be a memorial before the bombing, beforehand, for all of the people that died, to rebuild it and to not use any state money to do so and to not accept any money outside of the state. We have 16 German states. They did it entirely on donations and rebuild it with the original stones. That’s why some parts are white, some parts are black. The black stuff is the stuff that burned. They’ve never thrown away the stones. For years you could see shelves and shelves on the marketplace, as they were building it up, with the original stones. What I’m fascinated by is that Lisbon has decided to keep it that way and that Dresden has decided now is the time to move on and we want the church back. Before, there was never a thought to rebuild it. The ruin itself was the marker that the city had suffered. I find this really interesting, how the same thing is handled entirely different.

Alan Ramage

This is on behalf of my neighbours, is to bring up the subject of Grenfell Tower. Now, you could imagine a memorial place there would be a memorial to corporate criminality, civic negligence, gross negligence or criminality again. A memorial to the fact that it was substantially people of immigrant status who were regarded as a lesser significance, perhaps, by the authorities, who paid the price of what took place. That could be a site of people remembering all those factors, commemorating them and perhaps saying never again. It’s a thought to consider. I’ve been asked by to bring that up.

Judith Rowbotham

I think a very clear echo there is of the Twin Towers.

Molly Buxton

It’s Molly again. I was going to say something similar and it’s to do with the 7/7 bombings because in sort of recent disasters that have happened, things like terrorist attacks, we don’t tend to sort of commemorate them in this country very much. I don’t know if it’s to do with the idea of giving them the notoriety or making them sites of dark tourism and whether that’s an avoidable part, but I can’t really imagine London being very, very sort of hospitable to the idea of commemorating things like that.

Simone Schroff

Actually, there’s only one documentary currently around for 7/7. It’s really interesting. You get dozens on the 11th March in Madrid. September 11th, huge amounts, but 7/7 for some reason, there is no proper documentary on this. I wasn’t in England yet when this happened. It just kind of decided I’m not allowed to go to London to university. There is one that’s called ‘10 Years On’ and that’s the only one I could find via any of the major streaming services. I found this really stunning in a way.

Jason Lowther

I’m just wondering whether there is anything in Tavistock Square to mark where the bus was blown up that day. I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Judith Rowbotham

No, there isn’t. I just got off the bus to go to the Anglo American, but there isn’t anything there.

Jason Lowther

Right, ok. I was just going to contrast that with King’s Cross with the fire, where there is a memorial. There is a memorial there at King’s Cross. I’m not sure that people would go there, other than perhaps friends, family or first responders to memorialize it. It’s just something that you said earlier on Judith about memorialising which I wrote down and I was just thinking in terms of … particularly with individuals and particularly with device of individuals, the extent to which memorialisation actually comes into that and the contemporary disinterment of Franco and removing Franco’s remains from somewhere, that so far as Spain is concerned, is massively divisive and then putting it somewhere else where it can’t be a dark tourism site because no-one’s going to know where it is. What the Americans did with, agree or disagree, what the Americans did with Bin Laden, which was to make sure that there was nowhere that could be memorialised or nowhere that could become a dark tourism site to actually go and visit or to inspire.

Judith Rowbotham

The treatment of Ian Brady’s body.

Jason Lowther

Yeah, sure. My dad used to live in Berlin, this was West Berlin, and all the time that West Berlin was West Berlin, then Hess was in Spandau. When Hess died and Spandau prison was knocked down, they removed everything, absolutely everything from the site so that none of it could be … I mean these days, it would’ve been on eBay, but it couldn’t be sold, none of the bricks, none of anything, so that it couldn’t be memorialised. There’s a supermarket there now, weirdly.

Jane Sanderson

Jane here. As a Londoner, I’d have to say I can understand why there’s a memorial at King’s Cross and I think it’s possibly a difference between loss of life that has not come about through terrorism. Growing up in London you’d be hard pushed to find a place that didn’t actually have some form of terrorism activity, and I’m talking obviously pre-9/11 here, but with regard to the IRA, even including just in south-east London alone, my father was blown across the room by a bomb just as he was working on somebody’s boiler, so he thought it was his own devices, but it was just down the road from an army training centre, so it became an IRA terrorism target. We kind of grew up in almost a Cold War feeling whereby you didn’t have access to lockers, you didn’t have access to putting your rubbish in open bins. We had that sort of existence prior to 9/11 and I can say if you was to put up a memorial to every site where there’s been a terrorist attack, not to take away from 7/7, you would probably have one in every town in London.

Simone Schroff

Yeah, but there is one at Liverpool Street and Liverpool Street still doesn’t have bins, even today.

Jane Sanderson

The train stations and the tube stations are different because they’re almost seen differently.

Simone Schroff

For some reason some terrorist attacks are more impactful in a way and they deserve a memorial and everybody else doesn’t. Like Germany had terrorism in the 1970’s. There are no memorials for this at all. I can’t explain why Germans don’t do it, but I find this really interesting because some bombs … I know there’s an IRA Manchester bomb that has left a huge impression on the psyche of England, whereas there were a lot more bombs, but I would be hard-pressed to mention any of those.

Ruth Heholt

Can I bring it back, in a nasty academic way, can I bring it back to theory? The idea of tourism again and the idea of ‘The Tourist Gaze’ and what we choose to look at and what we choose not to look at and the stories, again, behind those. Urry’s idea that ‘The Tourist Gaze’ largely looks at the not every day and the extraordinary. So, if it’s, for example, in London they won’t be stuffed with all the IRA bombs because there would be too many. So, it’s the more extraordinary things.

Kim Stevenson

Manchester was extraordinary because it was the shopping centre. At the time, it was extraordinary.

Simone Schroff

It certainly was outstanding.

Jane Sanderson

As Londoner’s we’re used to it.

Alan Ramage

Is there an agenda to mentioning any of this? You brought it up last night with regard to Nancy Astor. You mentioned that she herself didn’t want a statue to herself, did she?

Judith Rowbotham

She did not want that memorialisation, but I don’t see it exactly as dark tourism or the opposite. I do think that the issues of memorialisation and dark tourism are interesting. I suspect it’s more to do with the cultural values placed on individuals. I suspect that Nancy Astor didn’t so much see herself as an outstanding individual, but rather as a representative of a whole lot of women and she didn’t want to mark herself out more than anybody else. Whereas, I think, we have a history of heroization or valorisation of men that actually plays into memorialisation of individual men more than of individual women. I think it’s interesting that about the only female character that you can think of in the long historical memory who ended up with a statue is Boudica with her chariot, cannily located outside the Ministry of Defence on the Embankment. You’ve got Emmeline Pankhurst, another figure associated with violence, not personal violence, certainly not in her own case, but those are about the only two prominent statues in London. I was part of a project that was trying to celebrate a millennia history of women in England. France has got Joan of Arc. Who have we got that’s, in an uncomplicated way, a representation of female valour? The more you looked at Boudica, the more problematic she became as a character who’d had anything particularly positive. So, we abandoned …

Jane Sanderson

Grace Darling. I mentioned Grace Darling to someone last night, but they didn’t actually know who she was.

Kim Stevenson

What?

Judith Rowbotham

We were trying to look back because we wanted a thousand years. We were trying to look back into longer ago history for somebody. As I say, France could’ve had Joan of Arc.

Simone Schroff

Yeah, but she was burned at the stake. It’s not exactly a glory end.

Judith Rowbotham

It’s a form of martyrdom and things like that. We just done have a figure like that, which is interesting. We haven’t valorized women.

Simone Schroff

What about Elizabeth I?

Kim Stevenson

Yeah, I was thinking Elizabeth I, but then crowns and monarchs automatically get …

Judith Rowbotham

We didn’t want a monarch.

Simone Schroff

Yes, but to have a woman inheriting the crown, that by itself was remarkable.

Jane Sanderson

That also brings us onto dark tourism. Haven’t we got the original dark tourist sites in the Tower of London and London dungeons, which we’ve never really questioned. So, it’s quite interesting that some people think dark tourism is a relatively new phenomena, but it’s like you say, people going to witness executions and hangings. All the events that the Tower of London and other places have witnessed, and yet it’s a place that is very much held up in high regard.

Judith Rowbotham

If you went to the Tower of London, according to the late 18th and early 19th century guides to London, you were not going to see it as a prison, as a site of past horrors and execution, you went to see the mint and they had a zoo there, a menagerie of wild beasts. That was the big attraction of the Tower at that stage, until Harrison Ainsworth wrote a novel about the bloody Tower of London and all of a sudden, that absolutely transformed its public profile. Michael Kandiah.

Michael Kandiah

Going back to dark tourism, one of the things that occurs to me is that there’s obviously organised, shall we say in terms of Bodmin Jail and the dungeons and so forth, I must admit to doing my own disorganised dark tourism. Two separate areas because of my personal research interest. One is the Second World War and bombing sites. So, I go all around the cities looking for bombing sites. The other one is the Cold War. I’m a Cold War historian. So, when I go to Germany, I discovered a lot of Germans because I’m lurking about places, because I know they are Cold War sites and then the Germans will see me and say “why are you hanging around this bridge?”. I know what’s happened there during the Cold War periods and so forth. Fortunately, I’m not the only one, but there is a certain amount of informal stuff going on like that, isn’t there?

Simone Schroff

People know. That’s the thing. People know what has happened at different locations, but to actually lay down flowers there, is crazy. This is not how it’s done. It’s just not something we do. We do not go around and lay flowers around corners of a house. Yes, somebody has died there, for example, the shooting range where the Hitler bombers were shot, still exists. It’s not an open place. It would obviously be a place to memorialize them, but we also know that they weren’t exactly democrats. Yes, they are heroes, but then we had very few resistance fighters, so, we’ll take whatever we can get. This is as sad as it is. Germans do not memorialize in the same way. It is a traditional thing, I think, here, where you have …

Kim Stevenson

Cultural.

Simone Schroff

No, you have like a political system here which has lived for 500 years with no breaks in between, whereas the German system has entirely changed. So yes, we have stuff from 1871, German Unification War with France. There are memorials there, but [inaudible/coughing] years later, it was not in vogue to memorialize them. So, German memories were broken up. We don’t look back at German history with the same continuity as British people do.

Rob Giles

But it’s international surely. When I went to San Francisco, I couldn’t get to Alcatraz, there were so many people trying to get there, and they’re a very different culture to what we are here. In France, there’s memorials everywhere, and in Holland.

Simone Schroff

Yes, but the French memorials are about the last war. The French memorials, if you look closely, they are not in the same way honoured, depending on which republic they came from.

Rob Giles

But it is a worldwide phenomenon, dark tourism.

Simone Schroff

Yes, but it’s not done in the same way. That’s what I’m trying to say.

Rob Giles

Maybe not in Germany, but it is done in many other places. It’s definitely not a culturally English or British thing.

Alan Ramage

There’s some group that wants to open Berghof in Berchtesgaden to the public. I came across that as a news item a few weeks ago.

Simone Schroff

Yes, they will never open it up.

Alan Ramage

But there is a group pushing for that, isn’t there?

Kim Stevenson

Is that Hitler’s place?

Simone Schroff

Yes. It’s Hitler’s final retreat place, but the thing is, we don’t actually want people to go there and its state owned. It will never be opened up because you can’t control it. Like ‘Mein Kampf’ couldn’t be published in Germany until a few years ago because there was copyright on it held by the Bavarian state and they didn’t licence anyone, unless it was a commented version for educational purposes. This is how they suppressed this. This is how they made it possible that in American school library you can free copies of ‘Mein Kampf’ in English, whereas in Germany it is not sold. Even now, bookstores will face a backlash if they store ‘Mein Kampf’. The book is so discredited and seen as so inappropriate in uncommented versions. Since the copyright has run out, they’ve moved it to the censorship list. It is culturally different how you view your past and it depends on the political system. Germans are very aware, especially now with [inaudible] and all of this coming up. They open up [inaudible] files etc. What used to be good 40 years ago, is not good anymore. But it also means you don’t get the build-up of tradition in the same way that you get when you have continuous history.

Jane Sanderson

Jane here. Could I ask you, from King’s College, London, have you not done the Jack the Ripper trail? I would feel it remiss of us to talk about dark tourism today and not mention Jack the Ripper.

Michael Kandiah

Michael. I’m not at all interested in that sort of thing. One of the things, when I joined King’s College, London, I was delighted because I wanted to go and find out where [inaudible] was arrested in the college because he used to teach in King’s. So, my interest in dark tourism is very particular. But the interesting point about … of course, all cultures memorialize. That’s absolutely clear. Every single culture from north American Indians going to the Australian Aboriginals, everywhere in the world … but I think really what’s been teased out has been suggested that it’s done in a slightly different way in England or Britain for that matter. I’m sort of inclined to agree. The way people memorialize in Britain does seem to me, and this is just a personal view, to be slightly different. Connections seem to be slightly different. I’m not saying everybody doesn’t do it, but it's the way you do it, and I think that’s really what you’re suggesting.

Simone Schroff

Yes. For example, there’s a famous German serial killer from Hannover who killed people in the 1920’s. Most Germans have heard about him etc, but you don’t have this continuous build-up of stories that are passed down the generations that make it into novels, that build-up in the same way. In this particular case, the break is the Nazis. The guy was Arian, and he killed Jews. So, you get really bad stories until the 1930’s and then you get nothing for 15 years and then it slowly comes back, but until 1968 Germans didn’t talk about the Nazis, until the student revolutions came along. Since then, you slowly start to get the documentaries etc. It’s weird. My generation knows this case. My grandfather’s generation, who was six years old when the War ends, has never heard of it. You don’t get the same build-up of tradition. I think it has to seep into popular culture at some point to make it into novels, remembrance stories, all of that. If this doesn’t happen because the political winds have changed or whatever, I think it just doesn’t get the same …

Judith Rowbotham

It comes back to Ruth’s point about folklore.

Simone Schroff

Yes.

Judith Rowbotham

And folklore is popular culture. A great deal of what both Alex and Andrew have been talking about is the issues to do with the management of popular culture, the presentation of popular culture. Places that were important once are no longer important and things like that. It’s an interesting change. As I say, I find it fascinating that people didn’t go to the Tower of London to think about it as a site of misery, execution and everything else until Harrison Ainsworth writes a hugely popular novel and everybody goes “oooh”. They actually end up having to close the menagerie because they can’t cope with the menagerie and running the visits to Traitors’ Gate and things like that. It’s why London has a separate zoo outside the Tower of London.

Ruth Heholt

It might’ve been going to Tyburn though instead.

Judith Rowbotham

Who now remembers, as they whizz around on a number 390 bus or anything like that, whizzing around Marble Arch, who thinks of the … I do, but then I’m peculiar … of the Tyburn Martyrs. The Tyburn Convent there is remarkably unobtrusive. You don’t see tourists going “oooh”, but this is one of the really big sites of martyrdom. An awful lot of people were burnt there. People were hanged there, dragged there on hurdles, pillories and things like that, until it was decided it was positively uncivilised for the dwellers on Park Lane.

Ruth Heholt

But people do go to Pendle Hill. So again, it’s these choices, isn’t it?

Judith Rowbotham

It’s the choices. It’s the mythology. You’ve still got the song ‘Pendle Stands Alone’, so it’s an interesting phenomenon.

Rob Giles

I noticed on the news just last week, Ayers Rock, they’ve stopped people from going there because of the amount of people trying to go there. Of course, that’s the spiritual site of the Aboriginals.

Andrew Fry

It’s their spiritual ancestors.

Rob Giles

It is a worldwide. It’s a worldwide phenomenon.

Judith Rowbotham

We have a few minutes left. Would any of our three morning panellists, Alan, Ruth, Chris; and our afternoon panellists, Andrew and Alex, like to say anything to bring it to a conclusion? Have you found it useful, for instance, in your studies?

Alex Rowe

Alex. It’s useful to get different peoples views. The conversation is almost like going out and doing your own interviews. I found it quite similar to that. It’s a good knowledge and evidence base to have a range of people here talking what they think dark tourism is and the important matters. So, I think it will be really useful to the way I think about framing some of my work in the future.

Andrew Fry

Andrew again. For me, it had an impact on my literal view, a little, and I’ve got lots of other people’s opinions, which is also very useful. But it also confers what I think is … I forget the academic names now … but they did say that there is a growing body of literature on dark tourism and that none of it is ever conclusive. You’re only ever adding more and more.

Jane Sanderson

When’s our ghost evening then? [laughter] That’s what I’d like to know.

Judith Rowbotham

Oh, and by the way, I don’t believe there was a Jack the Ripper. I just believe it’s a series of copycat killings. That again is an interesting thing. I first aired that theory in a programme that I did with Vic Reeves. They cut most of what I said for that. There is a real resistance. Nobody wants to hear, and I haven’t even managed to get into an academic journal my theory that what you got was simply a series of copycat killings. It doesn’t hold together as a serial killing. I’ve just done murder maps and I’ve been saying it again, I know full well when that airs next Spring, that bit’s going to be cut.

Molly Buxton

You can’t mess with cult classics. [laughter]

Judith Rowbotham

The whole thing is, Victorian newspapers, because they believe that the body … very much a hangover of an older tradition … that the body had a voice. The body of the murder victim had a voice and could help to identify the murderer. So, what you get, in both the local newspapers … and it was a highly literate population, Victorian. Not necessarily able to write, but well able to read. Huge newspaper circulation. So, whether you’re talking about the local papers like the East London Observer or the national papers, you’d get detailed descriptions. The Times runs to three columns, detailing the state of the body. That was an all-time common. You wouldn’t be allowed to publish it in that way nowadays. The exact dimensions of the cut of the throat and things like that. The only area of discretion is when they say “a piece of the female anatomy was removed”, and a different piece of female anatomy is removed in every single subsequent case. There is a credible potential culprit for the four final cases. The only one which is genuinely a mystery is the first one, Polly Nichols. The police discard witness testimony because the police decide pretty early on, the second one, that it’s a serial killer. So, since the credible suspect for the second, third and fourth killings couldn’t have done all of them, there was no conclusion to the case. But nobody wants to hear the debunking of a cult classic. So, dark tourism of Jack the Ripper continues, and I remain a lone voice saying “nah”.

Chris Wilkes

But it is very true, isn’t it? It’s he who holds the pen who writes history.

Kim Stevenson

‘He’ who holds the pen, yes, or ‘she’. But that’s only 20th century. Historically, it was ‘he’ that held the pen.

Chris Wilkes

Well, back in those days, it was, wasn’t it?

Judith Rowbotham

Anything from you, Alan, or Ruth?

Alan Bricknell

Alan. I’ve found the whole event very entertaining and very interesting. I think looking at all the different views and ideas that have come out today, we’ve covered a lot of different topics. I’m not sure at Ford Park Cemetery that I would describe everything we do is dark tourism, to be honest. I think having listened to all that’s gone on, a lot of it is just really history. Possibly one of the walks we do we might describe as dark, but I think other than that, thank you for inviting me along. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Judith Rowbotham

Thank you for coming. Ruth.

Ruth Heholt

I’ve had a great time. I think, for me, the bit that I’ll really take away is the expanding definition and the going deeper and deeper and deeper and further and further back into the past. Because I was invited, I’ve been reading quite a lot of dark tourism stuff and this whole discussion has actually expanded on just about everything I’ve been reading, which is interesting. So, thank you.

Judith Rowbotham

Thank you.

Simone Schroff

I would like to use this opportunity to thank our host, leader, Judith Rowbotham; all of the panellist, thank you very much for coming and we shall continue.

[Applause]

End of Recording

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