Stirbitch: An Imaginary

Stirbitch: An Imaginary is a film-poem within the tradition of the English Eerie. Poised between psychogeography and dream, it ruminates on the relationships between land, cultural memory and the carnivalesque through the vanished site of Stourbridge Fair: a seven-century Saturnalia and the greatest fair of all.

  • Michael Hrebeniak
  • Michael Hrebeniak
  • Michael Hrebeniak
    Associate Producer & Researcher for "Arrows of Desire" (Optic Nerve) for Channel 4 TV, 2002-4.
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 9 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    July 30, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Michael Hrebeniak

Michael Hrebeniak teaches literature and visual culture at the University of Cambridge. His first book, "Action Writing: Jack Kerouac’s Wild Form," located Beat Generation writing within the New York and San Fransisco milieu of painting, music and radical politics. Recent publications include chapters in edited collections on the subjects of cinematic space, ecopoetics, photography, manuscript culture and jazz writing. He has produced arts documentaries for Channel 4 and is co-heading the bid to bring the BBC Arena archive to Cambridge. He has also worked as a musician; his poetry has been published in anthologies and his journalism has appeared in the Guardian and on BBC Radio.

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Director Statement

For over 700 years, Stourbridge Common at the eastern edge of Cambridge hosted a fair known colloquially as Stirbitch. The bulk of England's internal trade flowed through this site; currents of people and information accompanied the goods. Stirbitch was an entrepôt to Europe via the Wash and a radiating node of the medieval and early-modern mental map. "Stourbridge Fair is not only the greatest in the whole nation, but in the world," declared Daniel Defoe in 1724, recognising "a well-fortified city [with] the least disorder and confusion that can be seen anywhere with so great a concourse of people."

Today the site yields neither knowledge nor relic of this temporary city, other than in the Norman husk of the Leper Hospital Chapel, which earned the fair its Royal Licence in 1199. The grounds of the great fair have long-since been over-written along with seven centuries of carnivalesque experience. What remains is an absence of presence - or a present absence.

Stirbitch: An Imaginary responds to this erasure with a poetic act of haunting, where signs - both visual and aural - spectrally emerge and instantly dissolve in a weave of ghostly traces, speculative borrowings and ribald lies. This is cultural memory as cinema.

The film is edited by Michael Weir with visual design by Marc Atkins. Voiced by Robin Kirkpatrick, it features original music by the Memory Band and Jeremy Thurlow, alongside an archival recording of Pablo Casals performing Bach & field recordings of East Anglian folk songs.