Dare you go down to the woods today?

bigstock-Night-Ravens-35065670logo%20high%20resolutionAt precisely midday my computer screen spluttered into life and I could see a shadowy face staring at me via Skype.

I couldn’t make out any features and his (I think it was a man) voice had been distorted. I knew this was going to be one of my most bizarre interviews so far.

The mysterious curator staging one of Derby’s most unusual art events is intent on remaining anonymous and the only way he would agree to talk to me face to face was via a digital link.

So there I was straining to make out even the tiniest feature in the face of the curator of an art exhibition entitled I Thought I Saw Something being held in a haunted wood just outside Derby – the location of which is a closely guarded secret.

So secret that those of us brave enough to visit the exhibition this month in the lead up to Halloween will be driven there in a van with blacked out windows.

I had plenty of questions – for starters is the location really haunted; why the horror theme and will there be any gore?

“The locations we pick for the events are reputed to have paranormal activity and a notorious history but we don’t fabricate any paranormal activity during the event,” explained the curator.

“The exhibition is designed to enhance the already unsettled atmosphere and if you experience anything unexplainable that isn’t part of the artwork then that can only be described as paranormal.”

He said the horror theme was a deliberate reaction against current concepts regarding art and social issues. Punk rock was once seen as antagonistic – something low and shocking and horror in art is viewed in the same way.

“The art forms you will see at this event offer a refreshing alternative to what is current in mainstream pop culture where there is a tendency to lightness and an avoidance of controversial themes.

“The use of darker themes in art is not an entirely new concept by any means, as artists such as Bosch, Goya and Francis Bacon demonstrate. It is a theme that often causes reaction or controversy.”

The curator laughed as he pointed out Margaret Thatcher famously described Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures” and that Goya’s Disasters of War remained hidden for 50 years until after his death because they were so left of centre.

“Horror frequently pushes the boundaries of audience reaction. Fear evokes the reaction of excitement, bravery and in the end laughter.”

As for the gore, well you can forget it. The curator accepted that the mere mention of the word horror conjured up images of knives, chainsaws and screaming but he said their show would be devoid of such clichés.

The whole idea he said was to offer local artists an alternative to the safe, commercially focused galleries which are often ‘white and bland’ and at the same time offer a more stimulating experience for the audience.

“Currently we are living in a world which is sanitizing artistic expression and making it very safe and overly commercial or elitist.

“This art event looks at the relationship between art and horror and allows the artists the freedom to create artwork which is not controlled by a defined genre or mainstream standards.”

The artists taking part in the event are Barbara Colbert with her charcoal drawings, painters Ian Wadsworth and Clare Brooksbank, sculptors David William Sampson and Trudie Wilson, photographers Daniel Wright and Tayla Cruikshank, film maker Steven King, animator Adam Childs, writer Tom Dale and illusionist Anthony Jacquin.

Visitors will gather at the Seven Stars pub opposite the venue for last year’s event at St Helen’s House before being driven to the wood. It is for over 18s only and you will need to wear clothes suitable for walking through a wood in the dark.

It is being held every Friday and Saturday evening through October starting tonight October 4. There are various hour long sessions to choose from so go to hauntedhousederby on Facebook to check out the details and book tickets in advance.

To view an over 18s video about the event click here http://bit.ly/1fNKRMH

By Amanda Penman