Looking back at…The Scare Slam & Halloween Tales

Halloween Tales, 30th October – 1st November 2014, The Selkirk Upstairs

‘You think it’s all me and it’s not. It’s not always me.’

It starts as a normal night-shift – and then you start to see double…

Duncan Gates’ chilling short play, Fetch, alongside some spooky fireside stories, formed our first foray into scary short stories. Halloween Tales was almost certainly the spooky seed from which did grow the horror-bloom: Blackshaw’s Annual Scare Slam.

The Whistling Room by William Hope Hodgson, read by M. J. Starling

Wailing Well by M. R. James, read by Duncan Gates

Fetch by Duncan Gates

There’s a bunch of lovely photos, interviews, and behind the scenes joy available to browse.


ROSIE MARSH Ally (Fetch)
M. J. STARLING Storyteller
DUNCAN GATES Storyteller


ELLIE PITKIN Director & Producer
MICHELLE BRISTOW Set & Costume Designer
ANDREW CRANE Sound Design/Tech Operation

The Scare Slam, annually, October 2014-present

From the mind of Blackshaw associate, Helen Stratton, the Scare Slams were born. Over the years (we’ve done 5) the Scare Slam has been performed at The Horse & Stables, The Old Red Lion, and The Pleasance Theatre, as part of the London Horror Festival.

The show has provided a platform for the telling of terrifying short stories and poems. All in the dead of night. To the gentle hiss of a geriatric smoke machine…

Scare Slam 2015

Scare Slam 2016

Scare Slam 2017

Scare Slam 2018

Scare Slam 2019

You can drip some fear into your ear, and listen to the audio of the Scare Slams, whenever you like.

Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 84

  • Listen to the Q&A session from the end of our WAF writing workshop (featuring Blackshaw’s Director, Ellie Pitkin, Blackshaw’s Project Manager, Vikki Weston, and writers; M. J. Starling, Chris Buxey and Kat Roberts.
  • Strat & Alex Do Art: this time they try their hand(s) at haiku
  • We announce that ‘The Final Adventure of Frankie Fightwell’ will be played in full in the next episode (released 20th June).

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Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 83

Pop this in your earholes – the fantastic Chris Buxey, Kat Roberts, and M. J. Starling discuss writing – the discipline of writing, how to write ‘real’ dialogue, and more!

Chris Buxey

He wrote ‘The Final Adventure of Frankie Fightwell’, which is our next show for Wandsworth Fringe at the Putney Arts Theatre! Find out more about Chris on his website and our blog – http://blackshawonline.com/blog/announcement-the-final-adventure-of-frankie-fightwell-cast-and-creatives/

Kat Roberts

She wrote ‘Staying Alive’, our 2014 Showcase Award Winner, which went on to have a run at the Pleasance Theatre with Blackshaw, AND was published by Nick Hern books! Kat is now developing a new play, and writing scripts for TV.  Find out more about ‘Staying Alive’ on our blog – https://blackshawtheatre.wordpress.com/category/theatre/staying-alive/

M. J. Starling

He wrote ‘Audience with the Ghost Finder’, which we produced at Wandsworth Fringe 2013, and London Horror Festival 2013! Find out more on his website and listen to the radio play version on our blog – https://blackshawtheatre.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/the-blackshaw-arts-hour-episode-17/

The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 17

This week on the show as Blackshaw Theatre celebrates it’s 5th year as a company, we are playing the first ever produced Blackshaw radio play – Audience With The Ghostfinder, written by M.J Starling for your listening pleasure!

Tickets for Alice in Wonderland at the Streatham festival are also available here!


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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 16

This week on the show Matt and Vikki join Iasha in the studio. Matt reviews Mad Max Fury Road and the Arts Thing Of The Week is Eurovision. We dissect this years Eurovision, welcome Australia to the competition and  Vikki tells us the three golden rules to a winning act.

We played Corey Hulls’ essay “The 9 Stages of Drinking” and Richard Stratton reviewed Carmen Disruption at the Almeida Theatre (Running until the 23rd of May)

Excitingly our production of Alice in Wonderland has secured a transfer to the Streatham Festival on the 4th and 5th of July. We heard some cast interviews from Steve Wickenden, Tegan Cutts and Rosie Marsh and also spoke about the fact that Blackshaw is turning 5 this coming Friday!

Happy listening!


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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 15

This week on the show, Ellie and Matt join Iasha in the studio to chat theatre and arts and bring you more information on what is happening at the Wandsworth Arts Festival 

Matt reviews The Falling starring Maisie Williams and we chat a little bit about what our deal breakers are in films.

Vikki gave us her Arts Thing of the Week which is the Hay Festival taking place this year from the 21st to the 31st of May and we chatted about the writers we have seen give readings.

We played an interview with Richard Stratton who has adapted Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice in Wonderland. Richard spoke to Helen Johnson about how and why he choose to adapt this particular story and the process he goes through as a writer.

Ellie and Iasha spoke about the WAF launch that took place last Friday night and some of the other pieces of theatre happening as a part of WAF 2015.

This week we spoke a lot about our production of Alice in Wonderland which is running until the 16th of May as a part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival. For more information on Alice visit us here and don’t forget to book tickets! Shows are selling out fast. Also coming up at the end of WAF is Blackshaw’s Big New Writing Night, this month at the Selkirk on the 17th of May. Come and join us for an evening of new writing, tickets here!

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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 9

The highly anticipated Part 2 of Audience With The Ghostfinder is here this week on The Blackshaw Arts Hour!

Also this week on the show is poetry by Daisy Thurston-Gent and Owen Collins, a review by Corey Hulls and a piece of new writing by Marianne Powell performed by Emily Jane Kerr.

Enjoy and tune in next week on Wandsworth Radio from 6pm to 7pm!


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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 7

This week on the show we had a full house in the studio with regulars Iasha, Ellie, and Matt, and welcoming a new voice, Alexander Pankhurst.

Matt gave us his much anticipated 50 Shades of Grey review, and we heard poetry from Daisy Thurston-Gent.

Vikki told us about an upcoming exhibition by Mr Elbank at Somerset House in our regular Arts Thing of the Week segment. We spoke about free Arts in London and what new piece of art will be appearing on the Fourth Plinth this week.

In anticipation of our radio play Audience with the Ghostfinder, Matt, the writer, and Alexander, who plays lead character Carnacki, gave us background on the piece from its early stages, and also told us about the radio play recording process.

Next is our Character trailer and details of the ticket giveaway we are running. If you have a nickname with a funny backstory tweet us! @BlackshawUpdate!

Enjoy the show!


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The Blackshaw Arts Hour – Episode 5

Matt Boothman is in the studio once again, this week reviewing ‘Jupiter Ascending’ and we reviewed Cyphers’ production of Great Expectations at the Proud Archivist.

The actresses performing in Blackshaw’s upcoming run of Character at the Tristan Bates (9-14th March) spoke to us about the show and we also played a selection of poetry form Owen Collins and Daisy Thurston-Gent.

Happy listening!

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5 Minutes with M.J. Starling

One of Blackshaw’s favourite writers, M.J. Starling, not only agreed to read ‘The Whistling Room’ by William Hope Hodgson for our Halloween Tales production but ALSO agreed to spend a few minutes answering our questions. What a hero.

Why did you decide to pick the William Hope Hodgson story that you’re reading for Halloween Tales?

It was a difficult choice between The Whistling Room and The Gateway of the Monster. (I think my favourite Carnacki the ghost finder story is actually The Hog, but that one would take over an hour to read aloud, plus its copyright situation is a bit fuzzy in the UK.) Gateway features Carnacki’s iconic Electric Pentacle, which Whistling Room only mentions; and Carnacki’s a bit more active in defending himself and defeating the monster in Gateway, too. I could argue that’s why I picked Whistling Room – horror’s scarier when you’re helpless, when the powers involved are just too huge and dangerous to handle – but really? It’s just because I love it so much. It was the first Carnacki story I experienced, and I want it to be that for some people in the audience as well.

What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

GuruGuru, by Rotozaza (rotozaza.co.uk). It’s a fun, cyberpunky, unspeakably meta, unapologetically experimental little show-in-a-box for an audience of five, who are also the performers. You all wear earbuds that feed you lines to speak to each other and to the sixth character, a computer-genersted disembodied floating head on a screen which is trying to coach you all out of your stage fright. Which sounds a bit gimmicky, but I’ve never seen another show whose format is so perfectly designed to illustrate its subject matter (in this case free will and determinism, with some stuff about outer performativity versus inner selfhood thrown in for added spice), plus it’s both fun and funny. It’s also the show that made me think properly for the first time about theatricality, what constitutes a play or show, and whether the traditional business models of theatre are still the best we can do in the 21st century.

What’s your favourite horror movie?

Ridley Scott’s ALIEN.

What scares you silly?

Shipwrecks. Real ones or fictional ones; seeing them on TV, hearing about them in stories people tell, reading about them in books; ancient wrecks and wrecks in progress: they give me the screaming shivers (me timbers (sorry I make stupid jokes when I’m frightened)). I mean, think about it: a shipwreck is like a haunted house, except it’s haunted by be-tentacled deep-sea horrors as well as drowned spectres. And if you were to visit one, you’d already be out of your element, reliant on fallible breathing equipment to survive, much less well evolved to defend yourself or escape from anything you might find down there. Brr. I think this might stem from a childhood visit to the wreck of the Mary Rose. Even in drydock, I was awestruck by it – this huge, impressive human creation, designed to express and exert power, just destroyed by the sea.

Have you ever had a spooky experience?

Back in school, year 7 or 8, I dreamed one night that one of my friends was trying to axe-murder me. I think I escaped being axe-murdered, but only because he chased me right off a cliff and that woke me up.

So I mentioned this to him the next day at school, and we were laughing about it when another of our friends piped up from the desk behind: this same friend had tried to axe-murder him in a dream as well, that same night.

The dreams hadn’t particularly spooked me or the other dreamer, but the coincidence certainly spooked our friend, who worried for the rest of the day that he might be some kind of living, unwitting, secretly-friend-hating version of Freddy Krueger.

You’re going to a Halloween Party, what are you dressing up as?

Humanity is unique among Earth’s creatures in our ability to comprehend the sheer scale of the universe; and the price we pay for this intellectual superiority is exposure to the soul-crushing revelation of our own cosmic insignificance. So I’d go as that – but you know, like, a sexy version?

Not a lot of people know that…

…if you find yourself in the path of a swarm of bees, you mustn’t run: instead, drop to the ground, lie as flat as possible and let the swarm go over you. You might still get stung, but not nearly as badly as if the swarm thinks you’re in its way.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

There are no guilty pleasures. No one should be made to feel ashamed of enjoying something, unless their enjoyment of it is harming someone else.

I used to buy into this idea as much as the next person, and back at school I felt shame particularly about some of the music I enjoyed (that’s too poppy! that sounds like something tween girls would like! that’s not truly deeply emotional and true and raw enough!) until I realised that had more to do with the snobbishness and, to be frank, sexism that I and my friends of the time were passing off as rational critical thought about music. I feel ashamed of thinking that way back then; I don’t feel a scrap of shame at buying Call Me Maybe, which came in for a fair bit of “criticism” that reminded me of those days.

Don’t forget, you can catch M.J. Starling reading ‘The Whistling Room’ by William Hope Hodgson on 30th October. Tickets for that (and the other two performances) are still available.