The ancient Hopwas Woods are the location for a controversial new music video by rock band DC Fontana. The Herald spoke to Tamworth bass player Mark Mortimer who said shooting the video on a bitterly cold night in March was a “very uncomfortable experience” – and that the video had reawakened the area’s dark past.
DARK links to witchcraft and the occult at ancient woodlands near Tamworth have been highlighted in a controversial music video.
Hopwas Woods – which has long been linked with tales of the occult and supernatural activities – is the location of the video by rock group DC Fontana.
And they say it has “reawakened memories” of the area’s dark past.
The video for the band’s new single ‘Meshkalina’ has been viewed by hundreds of people on the internet. It features the group inside the woods taking part in a mock ritual wearing animal masks and stars an eight-year-old Tamworth schoolgirl.
Youngster Ella Benham, of Two Gates, plays a missing schoolgirl held captive by a cloaked character in a horned mask and eventually rescued by the DC lead singer Karla Milton.
Pagan characters are seen kneeling before the ‘Horned God’ character in the candlelight gloom of the woods close to an altar containing paraphernalia including a cauldron and black candles.
The video has led to some criticism of the group from outraged Christians who have sent messages to the band decrying the video.
The film’s mock ceremony is a throwback to 1984 when a police raid at Hopwas Woods led to the arrest of 16 men and women after a naked occult ritual there.
Later those arrested denied they were witches, but were members of The Order Of The Silver Star, an international occult group.
More recently the discovery of a copper plate featuring magical symbols and an Egyptian statuette re-ignited talk of spooky affairs in the woodland.
But the group behind the new movie were quick to point out they were not involved in any sinister night-time frolics and insisted that “nothing untoward” took place during the filming.
Bass player Mark Mortimer, who lives in Tamworth, said: “The film was actually a tribute to classic Hammer and Tigon folk-horror movies.
“Some people are too eager to criticise without actually knowing the facts and we are well known for creating interesting movies that reflect iconic symbolism of art in pop culture.
“Of course we were fully aware of what happened in the mid-80s and we took the precaution of ensuring all the authorities were aware of what we were getting up to in the woods so there would be no hoo-ha and no accusations.”
He continued: “The fact that some people have decided to slate us for making this video shows how ludicrous some more extreme members of the public can be and actually also emphasises what a bad press pagans and so-called ‘witches’ still receive today.
“People pursuing pagan beliefs have been persecuted for thinking differently to those who believe in Christian doctrine in centuries gone by and it seems that even in the 21st century some people are still prone to out-dated prejudices and ignorance.
“In fact witches do not worship Satan and it would be fair to say that many elements of Christian worship and rituals were cleverly borrowed or nicked from pagans over the centuries.
“We did a lot of research into pagan rituals and yes, I did meet up with several witches and interesting people to take advice before we made what we think is a very light-hearted and fun film.
“It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, it’s a music video and a piece of art, that’s all.
“We don’t go round sacrificing anything or drinking blood! We make music,” added Mortimer, who founded the band. He said: “We mixed advice from pagans with some good old fashioned British horror cinema to develop what we think is a modern-day fairytale in which our singer Karla triumphs over the ‘baddies’, rescues young Ella and everything ends happily.”
The ‘Meshkalina’ movie was made by London-based boutique film company Anotherschmuck Productions which sent a crew to the woods in March to film on the pagan sabbath of Ostara, which gave its name to Easter.
Most of the scenes were shot at night inside the woods with a few extra scenes shot in Tamworth and in country lanes near Atherstone.
Police, Severn Trent Water and Ministry of Defence officials were pre-warned the film was being made inside Hopwas Woods.
Mortimer said the group had spoken at length with Ella’s mother beforehand and members of the youngster’s family were present throughout the filming.
He added: “Ella is the real star of the film and for a youngster with no acting experience she really shines and she seemed to enjoy being in the limelight.
“Making the film at night in March was a very uncomfortable experience – we had to transport a lot of heavy equipment by hand along the canal from Hopwas to the rear of the woods near Whittington which was exhausting and painful and it was bitterly cold.
“One member of the film crew was taken to hospital in the middle of the night after falling and tearing her ankle ligaments. It really was a tough film shoot all round but we hope everyone’s efforts will be worthwhile.
“Certainly the video has attracted a lot of interest.”
DC Fontana has released ‘Meshkalina’ as a seven-inch vinyl record, a multi-media CD-EP and as digital downloads on their own DCTone Records label. The band also filmed a second video to promote the B-side, called ‘It Don’t Worry Me’ among the ruins of the 11th century Benedictine priory at Alvecote, near Tamworth.
The disc is produced by Donald Skinner, a record producer originally from Wigginton, who now lives in London and is well known as fellow Tamworth pop star Julian Cope’s long-term guitarist.
You can view the Meshkalina video on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKE2eMek3C8
See the Alvecote Priory video for It Don’t Worry Me at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV8_eNZv6XU&feature=related