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Scarred for Life: Revisiting terrifying pop culture

Pop culture in the 70s and 80s was laden with terrors. Enable US Festival returns this month and one show invites us to revisit the moments that scarred us for life.

My childhood memories are peppered with terrifying moments from pop culture - the Wheelers from Return To Oz, all the weird stuff that went on in Round The Twist and Eerie Indiana, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, to name a few.

There is plenty of fun to be had in collectively looking back at all the stuff that had us hiding behind the sofa. On 19 November, Scarred For Life comes to Enable US Festival to throw those doors wide open. I chatted to event host Bob Fischer to find out more.

Hi Bob. Nice to meet you. First things first, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brings you to Enable US Festival this November?

Oh, blimey - I’ve been around the block a bit. I’ve been a BBC radio presenter, a short-lived Elvis impersonator and I’ve written a book about science fiction conventions. But I’m coming to Enable US as the host of the Scarred For Life show. It’s a live version of a brilliant book by Stephen Brotherstone and David Lawrence. Well, actually, two books now!

Volume 1 is an exhaustive account of everything that scared them as children in the 1970s, and Volume 2 does the 1980s. In the show, we discuss some of this stuff in detail - everything from Doctor Who and Space 1999 to the threat of nuclear armageddon. Despite all this, we think it’s a really funny show and at least one of us will be wearing ridiculous trousers.

How did you meet Stephen and Dave and what specialist expertise will they bring to the table?

When Scarred For Life Volume 1 came out, I invited them both to be guests on my radio show on BBC Radio Tees. They were down the line, as they’re both in Liverpool, but we had a brilliant laugh and as soon as they started talking about programmes like Children of the Stones, I knew I’d found kindred spirits.

About a year later, I brought them over to the North-East for a little chat in a small local venue and it sold out in 24 hours. So we thought we should do some more. Stephen and Dave are wonderful. They combine an absolutely exhaustive knowledge of 1970s and 80s pop culture with a brilliant sense of humour.

I can definitely recall some pretty terrifying moments in popular culture from yesteryear. If you had to choose one, what would be your own top Scarred For Life moment?

My first memory of anything is the cliffhanger to episode one of the 1975 Doctor Who story 'Terror of the Zygons'. I wasn’t quite three years old, and I remember the camera zooming into the face of a Zygon, a hideous orange alien beastie covered in suckers. I screamed and my Mum had to make a blancmange to cheer me up.

The event will undoubtedly be popular with people who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, and I’ve seen you describe it as more of a support group. Will there be the opportunity for some audience participation on the night?

Definitely! We host a little Q&A at the end for anyone who wants to stay behind. It’s really fascinating to hear other people’s Scarred For Life moments, especially if they’re things that might not usually be considered that scary. There was a woman at one of our shows who couldn’t look at a picture of Worzel Gummidge. She had to cover her eyes.

YouTube is a bountiful resource for revisiting those childhood scares. What would be your recommendations for people wanting to get in the mood ahead of Scarred For Life?

The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water! It’s a 1973 Public Information Film in which a cowled figure hovers around litter-strewn ponds as innocent children drown around him. It’s both terrifying and beautifully evocative of its era.

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