The Thin Veil of London
The stories of Arthur Machen (1863-1947) teem with sinister ancient pre-Christian horrors – troglodyte races and malevolent fauns – that lurk just beneath the surface of modern life.
Yet for Machen, these folklore evils were the flip side of a positive theology that invited the visionary to step through the veil of illusion into another world; a magical world. Sometimes the lifting of the veil occurs on ancient tumuli in the Welsh countryside of his childhood; often it can be found in a back street of London.
The Thin Veil of London takes up this theme. It is a journey into the silent corners of Holborn and Bloomsbury, and it is a journey into the worlds of Faery and science, madness and ecstasy, and what Machen called ‘the eternal beauty hidden beneath the crust of common and commonplace things; hidden and yet burning and glowing continually if you care to look with purged eyes’.
The Thin Veil of London ran from June to August 2013 and received rapturous reviews, some of which are quoted below. Do get in touch if you'd like to hear about future events.
'The best guided walk I've ever been on. A surprise round every corner' - Matt Brown, Londonist
'Last night we saw the thin veil of London pulled back... a magical perambulatory evening' - Henry Eliot, Curiocity
'More than a guided walk... ordinary pictures of London streets don't do it justice' - Badwitch.co.uk
Absolutely superb... we enjoyed it so much. I’ve never been on such a well-planned and thoughtful tour before anywhere ever in the world! A fascinating evening; a memorable experience. A triumph. A fantastic evening. A magical and highly entertaining experience. We were left gasping for our sanity - do it!
Alasdair Mackenzie's photographs of the walk can be seen here.
Our companion book expands upon the stories and personalities from the part of London we explore on the walk, and plunges into the deep well of philosophies, theories and wild beliefs that Machen draws on in his writing. The Thin Veil of London (paperback, 140pp) is available to purchase online from Lulu.com and discounted copies will be available on the walks.
Arthur in the underworld - bbc radio 4
In July 2013, writer Horatio Clare presented 'Arthur in the Underworld' in which he hunts for Machen and his supernatural familiars in a North London necropolis, a fairy-haunted wood and a nightjar-haunted hill. The original programme can be heard here.
Robert was recorded for the programme but tragically ended up on the cutting-room floor; however, the producer very kindly made the interview available, and an edited version can be heard here:
Original recording by Jeremy Grange of BBC Radio Wales. Edited by Robert, with music by Rich.