Two Podcasts: All About UFOs and Covid-19 folklore

Children’s publisher Usborne have reissued the classic 1977 title All About UFOs from The World of the Unknown series.

Usborne’s reissued All About UFOs

The UFO title is the second in the series to be brought back through popular demand (a companion volume on ghosts was released last October).

Having been a fan of the book since my own childhood I was delighted to be invited to be a guest on the amazing Folklore Podcast for the launch, along with the impressionist and amateur astronomer Jon Culshaw who has provided a foreword for the new edition.

The resultant podcast can be downloaded here and the book is available from Usborne here. All about UFOs is written for young adults but is, in my humble opinion, far superior to any other book aimed at an under-18 audience for this subject matter.

Much like Jon, I was captivated by the idea of UFOs from an early age. This title with its wonderful illustrations and engaging practical tasks – such as how to fake a UFO photograph – fired my imagination.

The text did not pull any punches, introducing youngsters to ‘what [was] known about the flying saucer mystery’ at that time including UFOnauts, radar evidence and the many and varied explanations for unusual sightings.

Missing from the list of topics are the ubiquitous alien abductions (apart from the Betty and Barney Hill story), conspiracy theories and the twin legends of Roswell and Rendlesham that have become the twin pillars of the modern myth. Apart from these more modern obsessions the contents reveal little has changed since 1977.

The text poses some key questions such as where do UFOs come from? Are they spaceships guided by creatures from other worlds? Or are they figments of people’s imaginations?

All About UFOs will make a fantastic birthday or Christmas present for any youngster with an inquiring mind!

On the subject of podcasts Sheffield University‘s annual Festival of the Mind includes a 40 minute programme recorded and produced by me and my Sheffield Hallam University colleague Andrew Robinson on Folkloric Customs in the time of Covid-19.

The 40 minute podcast, available here, summarises our ongoing project that aims to collect and preserve images and personal experiences of new customs, rituals and traditions that have emerged in the United Kingdom since the country entered lockdown in March this year.

A Covid 19 scarecrow from Sheffield, Yorkshire, May 2020 (copyright David Clarke)

The Centre for Contemporary Legend (CCL) based in the Department of Media Arts and Communication at Sheffield Hallam is interested in many different manifestations of legend and narrative.

Rituals such as the now defunct #ClapforCarers and the decoration of windows, pavements and scarecrows to thank NHS and other frontline workers are new folklore deserving of scholarly attention and study.

In the Festival podcast Andrew and I discuss older antecedents including the legend of the Eyam plague in the Derbyshire Peak District and we assess the impact lockdown has had on existing calendar customs such as Castleton Garland and Hastings May Day.

Images of new and emerging folkloric and ritual customs can be found on the CCL website here along with information on how to contribute to the project.

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