Elusive, beguiling, dangerous, the mermaid is one of the most popular and long-lived of all the mythical creatures that humans have invented. For over four millennia she has been humanity’s constant companion, swimming through our stories, art and beliefs and appearing in many guises.

This illustrated talk will consider a selection of the most influential, surprising, and less well-known mermaids witnessed around the world. Tracking the development of merfolk across time and continent, it will look at the visual nuances of mermaids depicted by different cultures as well as the expansive mythologies and ideas attached to them. Tapping into religion, politics, art and folklore, the talk is a siren call to all lovers of the sea who want to journey through the fascinating history of the mermaid from her emergence of merfolk in the religions of the ancient Near East right through to the rise of the mermaid economy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Professor Sarah Peverley is academic, writer and broadcaster who divides her time between being immersed in the depths of mermaid history and lost in the medieval world. As professor of medieval literature and culture at the University of Liverpool she teaches across English and History and regularly speaks at festivals and heritage events. She has consulted for organisations like Guinness World Records, and has written, presented or appears in over eighty TV, radio and press features. She is currently writing a cultural history of the mermaid. For more information see www.sarahpeverley.com.

Your curator and host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com

Don’t worry if you can’t make the live event on the night – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day.

Date: Friday 8th December 2023. Time: 7.30pm – 9.00pm (London time)

£5 – £10, & by donation