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A Team of Zombies

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Words by Caroline Matthews
Escaping the crowds of Odder’s main bar, I turned away from the front door and instead hurried up the dark deserted stairway to its function room. Like a classic horror movie victim, seeking sanctuary while actually leading myself right into the arms of the attackers. For what lay behind the purple doors was the sell-out Zombie Pub Quiz organised by MMU’s Centre for Gothic Studies as part of its Gothic Manchester Festival, with several teams dressing the part.  So forget your usual pub-quiz knowledge of the Grateful Dead and Boney-M tonight. Instead, what was needed was an understanding of the walking dead and boneys. With my recent Zombie knowledge being limited to reading Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies for the uni’s Contemporary Gothic Reading Group I was worried whether I’d be able to hold my own. But there was to be no hiding in the corner for me, as a group of zombies – complete with sunken eyes and blood-dripping mouths – welcomed me in with outstretched arms.

The quiz was soon underway, with Matthew Crossley introducing the microbiology round. In other words: infections. I’d never realised how many similarities there were between zombie contagions and real life diseases. And there’s nothing like assessing a photo line-up of celebrities and discussing their zombie-like diseases and issues to spark up new friendships.

Arguments along the lines of ‘I’m telling you, that blonde one has definitely had herpes’ and decisions over whether or not ‘her botched-Botox looks like botulism’ were hotly debated.

Thirsty work indeed, but a break in the quiz meant time to nip to the bar. There, attempting to avoid the attention of another pack of assembled Zombies I managed to sneak a whispered conversation with Dr Linnie Blake, Centre Director, about the ‘amazing backing MMU has shown to the new Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies’. It’s certainly put a lot into this week’s events. My teammates told me about the reading by the renowned Nicholas Royle, expert on all things gothic and uncanny they are off to at the Lass O’Gowrie on Saturday. Although apparently not all of the festival’s events are being held in pubs. Based on my bar tab, maybe that’s a good thing.

Heading back to the table, I also got to meet with Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes, Research Fellow in the Gothic who, along with Linnie Blake, has organised the Gothic Manchester Festival ‘to showcase MMU’s expertise in the field of Gothic studies’. He explained, ‘Gothic studies is a specialism which can be marginalised, but has growing prominence and importance in contemporary culture’. And prominent it certainly is. The range of quiz categories showed the Gothic, and zombies in particular, to have huge influence on both British and international TV, film, music, literature, gaming and much more.

As such, Xavier seemed very proud to be involved in ‘the city’s first gothic festival’. Although this was not its first zombie quiz – as one of the veteran quiz goers was keen to point out. Coming after the legendary zombie quizzes written by Professor Joanna Verran, for Manchester Science Festival, it had a lot to live up to – and succeeded. But then she had lent the delicious brain of Matthew Crossley to Linnie and Xavier, to help them to write the quiz.  So, which team won the night? Well, let’s just say ‘I forget’. Nothing at all to do with how poorly my team did, you understand, and, in our defence, it was written by a team of gothic experts. In any case, there can be no winners come the zombie apocalypse. Or can there?

Yet, despite our failure to win the top prize, we did whet our appetites for more adventures on the dark side. My newfound friends and I made plans to catch up again at the Gothic MMU Open Day on Saturday 26th October. With a host of experts talking on everything from zombies and vampires to modern Gothic TV and steampunk, I kind of wished we’d got to do that before the quiz – it might have improved our score! But what really appealed to us were the creative writing workshops. Everyone’s got a novel in them? Maybe not, but after the night’s antics, I can’t help thinking that everyone has a little something monstrous in them. Maybe in this Saturday’s workshops I can find my inner zombie. Although perhaps I already had. Before the evening was over the symptoms of contagion were all there. Staggering, glazed eyes, vomiting, loss of coordination. Definitely a case of zombie infection. Either that or I’d had one too many vodkas.

Caroline Matthews is a Mancunian, wife, mother, student and writer.
You can follow her on Twitter @CarolBMatthews

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