The Thrill of the Dark: Heritages of Fear Fascination and Fantasy

Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, B3 3BS
Arts and Law, International, Lectures Talks and Workshops
Thursday 25th (09:00) - Saturday 27th April 2019 (17:00)
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The Thrill of the Dark:
Heritages of Fear, Fascination and Fantasy

25-27 April 2019, Birmingham, UK

Darkness is a complex concept. In a real and a metaphorical sense it invites contemplation and imagination of the sad, the unknown, the fearful and unwholesome desires. At the same time it is thrilling and strangely attractive, playing with deep and persistent cultural and metaphysical tensions of good and evil , right and wrong. Darkness provides space for hiding but also for exploration; it holds the potential for acceptance, forgiveness, or reconciliation for the haunted. Despite our apparent fear of the dark and the risks it hides, it nonetheless holds a powerful fascination which is evident in many aspects of popular culture.

Over recent years there has been tremendous interest in ‘dark heritage’ and associated ‘dark tourism’ but still we struggle with the powerful attraction of the darkness, the thrill it can provide and where (and if) we draw boundaries around its commodification its representation and the experiences we seek from it. Many forms of heritage function as a materialization of darkness and what it represents and offer ways of exploring how societies / communities deal with complex moral and emotional issues. Heritage sites and associated events / activities reflect both historical and fictional trauma and can act in illuminating and reconciliatory ways. Others hold onto their dark narratives to deliberately obscure and hide. Others still, play with, parody and test public sensibilities and capitalize on the idea of the thrill.

This conference seeks to explore the multiple relationships we have with the concept of darkness with reference to the legacies we create from it. How is the thrill of darkness expressed through the widely framed notion of heritage? How do we experience, negotiate, represent, commodify, valorise or censor the heritages of darkness? What and where is the thrill of the darkness and how is it negotiated across cultures, generations and gender? Why does the dark fascinate us so?

Organised by the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham, UK,  Stockholm University, Sweden, and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy at the University of Illinois, USA, we invite researchers from the fullest range of disciplinary perspectives to consider these and other questions in an open-ended and thought-provoking manner. We welcome papers from colleagues working in anthropology, archaeology, architecture, business, education, English, ethnology, heritage, history, geography, languages, sociology and urban studies.

Registration is now available

  • Conference Rate: £195
  • Early Bird Rate: £165 (ends Monday 4 February)
  • PhD and Student Rate: £105
  • One Day Rate: £70

Click here to register



There are many accommodation venues in the city centre that would be suitable, some suggestions to facilitate a wide range of budgets are outlined below and early booking is recommended. We recommend that you use online accommodation booking websites to find the best accommodation for your needs. Examples include: and Please enter the destination as ‘B3 3BS’ in order to find accommodation close to the Birmingham Midland Institute, our conference venue.

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Venue and Travel

Birmingham Midland Institute

The Thrill of the Dark will be housed in an attractive Grade II listed building, conveniently located in the centre of Birmingham. Established in 1854, the Birmingham Midland Institute is a registered charity whose aim is the “Diffusion and Advancement of Science, Literature and Art amongst all classes of persons resident in Birmingham and the Midland counties”.

By Plane

Birmingham International Airport has direct flights from locations in the UK, as well as from the USA, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. The journey by taxi from the airport to the city centre takes approximately half an hour. Birmingham International railway station (next door to the airport) has frequent services to Birmingham New Street Station in the city centre (journey time around 15 minutes).

By Train

Most cross-country services to Birmingham arrive at Birmingham New Street Station, in the centre of the city. To walk to the Birmingham Midland Institute from New Street Station takes approximately 5-10 minutes. Snow Hill Station is also a 5 minute walk from the venue.

By Coach

There are frequent coach services to Birmingham from London, Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, and many UK cities. The long-distance coach station is in Digbeth in the city centre. From Digbeth it is a short walk to Birmingham New Street train station. For further information, and to plan your journey, please visit the National Express website.


Please visit the Birmingham Midland Institute for links to carpark close to the venue.

Things to see and do in Birmingham

Birmingham is the UK’s second-largest city. You won’t be disappointed by the vibrant whirl of culture on offer, or the warm West Midlands welcome.


For local history, visit the National Trust’s Back to Backs, a recreation of nineteenth-century working life. Discover the city’s connection to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, or check out what is on at Town Hall and Symphony Hall during your stay. Art enthusiasts might visit IKON, an internationally acclaimed art gallery situated just a short walk away from the Birmingham Midlands Institute. Fancy catching a show? Check out the Birmingham Hippodrome, which is one of several theatres in Birmingham.


The city centre is a shoppers’ paradise, with the Bullring and Grand Central located in and beside Birmingham New Street. The Mailbox  is home to Harvey Nichols and upmarket chains, whilst The Jewellery Quarter lives up to its name with an array of sparkle on offer. Or keep it quirky, with a visit to one of the many independent arcades.


If you’re visiting with family, don’t miss the story of chocolate at Cadbury World in nearby Bournville. Meet jellyfish, seahorses and penguins at the National Sea Life Centre. Or create an alien, explore the stars and learn how a Spitfire was built at ThinkTank Science Museum.


If you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat, and you won’t need to venture too far. Discover authentic tastes in the Balti Triangle and Chinatown. Head to the Digbeth Dining Club, bringing street food heaven every Friday and Saturday. Alternatively, stroll towards the shopping areas for a host of different eateries to cater any budget. 

Take a look at what Birmingham has to offer, including the latest events on