Chepstow Festival Fringe – A mini Frankenstein Fest!

The 1931 classic film Frankenstein
The 1931 classic film Frankenstein

Chepstow Festival Fringe! – A mini Frankenstein Fest – to mark the anniversary of a remarkable night 200 years ago, June 16 2016 when the spark was ignited that created one of the most iconic horror stories of them all…

5 Nights of events at Chepstow Drill Hall organised by Chepstow Museum

With the celebrations of Chepstow’s Wye Bridge opening in July 1816, came the idea of marking other events that made 1816 significant. It was known as the ‘Year without a Summer’ because of the dreadful weather conditions in Northern Europe that resulted from a massive volcanic eruption of Mount Tamboro in Indonesia the year before. Temperatures were low, rainfall was high and the sun was obscured. This was not just miserable, but catastrophic causing harvests to fail and famine and suffering as a result. But the dark and stormy nights would have other consequences that had a lasting impact on English literature and culture.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley by Richard Rothwell courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley by Richard Rothwell courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London

Percy Shelley, the 18 year old Mary Godwin (not yet Mrs Shelley until Percy’s wife committed suicide later that year) their son William, and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, one of Lord Byron’s lovers, met up with Byron, travelling with his physician Dr Polidori, at Lake Geneva where Byron rented the impressive Villa Diodati. The weather confined them to the house, and long nights were spent talking late, reading poetry, ghost stories, and discussing the spark of life, animation and galvanism, while lightning flashed across the lake, thunder crashed, and candlelight flickered. It was one such night, the 16th June, that Lord Byron suggested they should all write a ghost story… a challenge that was to lead to the birth of two iconic tales of horror – the best known Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the other John Polidori’s The Vampyre which would influence Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For everyone there it was a life changing time.


In a mini-Frankenstein Fest organised by Chepstow Museum, there’s a chance to discover much more about the poets and their party, the influences and inspirations that gave birth to Frankenstein and its power as a story to endure and take new form in film especially. Five nights of events at the Drill Hall Chepstow begin on the anniversary of the night itself –

On the night of 16th June two BBC Dramatised Documentaries made 10 years apart, “Frankenstein, Birth of a Monster” and “Frankenstein & The Vampyre – A Dark & Stormy Night” an Oxford Scientific Film for BBC, look at the events, the people and the story of Frankenstein, but with surprisingly different outcomes. Free admission

Friday 17th, there’s a double bill of Frankenstein film – the 1931 classic and Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 film “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”

On Monday 20 June Iwan Morus, Professor of History at Aberystwyth University, introduces some of the ideas and individuals behind the science that made Frankenstein real to its first readers, in ‘Will the Real Victor Frankenstein please stand up?’

Tuesday June 21 turns the spotlight on Mary Shelley and her extraordinary and eventful life. Daughter of unconventional and radical parents, Mary’s life and work will be examined by Professor Fiona Sampson, whose new biography of Mary Shelley will be published in 2017.

By 10 September 1816 Mary Shelley was in Bath where she produced the first draft of Frankenstein, while a series of real life disasters unfolded around her. Show of Strength Theatre Company has devised a theatrical walking tour of Bath this summer and actor Annette Chown as Mary Shelley presents a stage version for Chepstow showing the role Bath played in the development of Frankenstein, July 5. Tickets available from Chepstow Museum tel 01291 625981



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