Bedtime stories with a bite

Fairy Light

'And then I said, "Those fairies we see - let's take a picture!"'

In the summer of 1917, cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright claimed to have seen fairies by Cottingley Beck. The photographs they took would later be described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as having the potential to 'mark an epoch in human thought.'

In the hundred years since the creator of Sherlock Holmes endorsed the pictures in his 1922 book The Coming of the Fairies, the story of the Cottingley Fairies has continued to fascinate, sparking discussions about truth, photographic trickery, fake news, grief, spiritualism, and belief versus scientific rationalism, hinging on a single question: do you believe in fairies?

First staged in Leeds in 2022 to celebrate The Coming of the Fairies' centenary, Fairy Light returned to West Yorkshire in the summer of 2023, beckoning visitors into Todmorden's Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic to answer the question for themselves.

In this immersive installation, step back in time into the childhood world of Frances and Elsie, listen to their story, and watch it transform into an eerily magical space as the light changes. Combining elements of interactive recorded sound, projected film and deceptively glimmering lights, Fairy Light invites you to take another look at an apparently familiar tale - things aren't always what they seem.

Watch the Fairy Light trailer:

Watch an excerpt from the film, accompanied by some of the installation's 'reactive soundscape' (read more about the making of the film and soundscape here):


Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic, Todmorden, 21 July-23 September 2023
Leeds Central Library, 28 May-8 July 2022

2022 events programme:

Fairy Media: Exploring Fairies, Technology and the Supernatural, 15 June 2022, 18:00 BST, Zoom
Online discussion and performance with the AHRC-funded Media of Mediumship project

Fairy Light: In conversation with Merrick Burrow, 30 May 2022, 18:00 BST, Leeds Central Library
Discussion with curator of the Brotherton Gallery's exhibition The Cottingley Fairies: A Study in Deception

Fairy Light launch, 27 May 2022, 18:00, Leeds Central Library

Fairy Light, Fairy Night, 21 May 2022, 20:00 BST, Zoom
Sneak preview performance night

Story and Set Design/Voice of Frances:
Elizabeth Dearnley

Sound Design and Audio Editing/Voice of Elsie:
Tamsin Dearnley

Film and Projections: Amy Cutler
Poster Design: Joan Dearnley

Supported with funding from Leeds Inspired, part of Leeds City Council, with further support from Leeds Libraries and Killip's Carpets and Beds