The Most Spectacular Dystopia of the 1970s

The town of Scarfolk, England, exists only in ephemera and at the blog bearing its name. Scarfolk is a authoritarian dystopia, a dangerous and paranoid place stuck in the 1970s. Browse through, and you have to wonder about the mind that conceived it. That would be graphic artist Richard Littler, who created it from the dim and nightmarish memories of his childhood. He explains one of the memories that led to Scarfolk.  

I initially started Scarfolk because I wanted to capture, or rather investigate, the fading memories of my 1970s and early ’80s British childhood. I suffered from night terrors as a kid, and looking back, I often couldn’t distinguish between what was real and what had been a vivid nightmare.

One such memory was of children playing school sports on a railway line: As the children entered a dark tunnel, they’re injured or killed by speeding trains while a brass band played on the embankment. It almost sounds like the plot of a Bunuel film, and for many years I was convinced I had imagined it, especially because everyone I mentioned it to looked at me as if I were insane.

A few years ago, I finally discovered that I hadn’t imagined it—it’s a 1977 public information film called “The Finishing Line,” which was made to deter children from playing near railway lines. The film was screened at my junior school, or around second or third grade in the U.S., where pupils were also shown slide presentations of burn victims to discourage playing with fireworks. “The Finishing Line” caused controversy at the time and was eventually withdrawn. However, its replacement was another violent public information film about a boy called Robbie who loses both legs in a railway accident.

Littler tells about how Scarfolk came about, how it’s been received, and more in an interview at Collectors Weekly. There’s also a gallery of the some popular images from Scarfolk.

(Image credit: Richard Littler)


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