An expat Halloween in London, UK

For the month of October Listing Toward Forty is Listing Toward Halloween, featuring a variety of Halloween posts including many by guest authors. This post is by Sarah Pitard.

Halloween and London in the same sentence is always slightly worrying. The thought of small British schoolchildren in purple jackets and ties, meandering around the dimly lit neighbourhoods of Hackney and Brixton, seems a bit more like the start to a horror film than Disney family fun– But then again, it is Halloween after all, so maybe it’s appropriate for the season. What with the year round Jack the Ripper tours and the ever present chill in the air, London really is the perfect place to spend All Hallows Eve, even though it is an American tradition that has more recently been adopted by the Brits.

In the four years I’ve lived in the UK, England has become gradually more and more Americanized… I don’t want to give the impression that the customer service has improved, that teeth have gotten any straighter, or that the pound has fallen in value, oh no. However, now, there are twice as many Starbucks as there were 4 years ago, friend chicken shops now outnumber tea kettles, and Lucky Charms have recently been re-introduced to the English market after a 15 year long health ban (although, only available in Tesco’s…for now).

With the advent of ‘Glee’, show choirs are popping up in all the local secondary schools and colleges, and, of course, ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ have everyone in a vampire/zombie mood. The new generation of Halloweeners here in the UK have all the inspiration they need to come up with gruesome costumes and over-the-top makeup, not to mention decorations. Just today I read that a man in Hertfordshire got asked by the police to remove his Halloween decorations because they were too spooky and were terrifying the local children.

In Britain, I’ve seen my fair share of the most un-PC costumes you can imagine—JFK with half a head missing, a Nazi Zombie Jesus, and last year I even saw two ‘blokes’ come to my theatre company’s Halloween fundraiser together as a school girl and Jimmy Savile. If there is one thing I will say about the Brits and Halloween, it’s that the scarier and more uncomfortably rude costume choices are definitely the ‘in’ thing to do. Halloween as an excuse for good girls to ‘dress up like a slut’ and get away with it (as they say in Mean Girls), hasn’t quite caught on… Although I’m pretty sure that for the ‘Geordie Shore’ and ‘The Way is Essex’ crowd, I am completely wrong.

As for me, I think this Halloween I will be heading to Wales to see my husband act in a site-specific horror thriller. A friend of mine from LA may be holding one of his glamorous parties on the rooftop terrace of his flat near St. Paul’s Cathedral, and even though I don’t know if I will attend, I will probably at least wear a pair of ears to work, or maybe even bring out the curlers and go as Marilyn Monroe. You can’t get more American than that.

Sarah Pitard HeadshotSarah Pitard holds an MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media from The Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD) in London. Before that, she received a BFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University. Sarah moved to London in 2009, where she primarily works as a playwright.  She is the Artistic Director of Paradigm Theatre Company, which primarily produces new writing. Her theatre and film writing credits include, A Border Story, which was featured in Paradigm’s Fresh Off the Boat!: Two One-Act Plays About Immigration, The Beginning of Love, which was included in Rewritten by The Pensive Federation, The Inappropriateness of Love and Freedom, Books, Flowers, and the Moon, which were performed as part of the 2012/2013 Season with Paradigm, and The Bells of Casterbridge (An adaptation of some scenes from Tom Hardy’s Novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge), produced by RewindPlay Productions. Currently, Sarah’s radio play, Plus One, is the winner of the The Actors’ Guild’s Write Bites competition and will be performed and recorded in London in association with Wireless Theatre Company, produced and directed by Ché Walker. For more information and a full list of her writing, acting, and stage combat credits, visit

 All Halloween posts from this series can be found here.

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