“The Night Brother” by Rosie Garland – guest review

Rosie Garland’s latest novel, The Night Brother, is out now in paperback. Guest reviewer Dr Claire Nally (Northumbria University) looks at why the book is a unique journey into late-Victorian and Edwardian Manchester…

Rosie Garland might be best known to goths as singer with The March Violets, or perhaps because of her cabaret and spoken word alter-ego, Rosie Lugosi, Lesbian Vampire Queen. However, Garland is also an accomplished prose writer, with her first novel, The Palace of Curiosities (2013) followed by Vixen (2014). Both of these historical novels play with magic realism, gender non-conformity and sexual difference, so in this respect, Garland’s latest novel, The Night Brother (2017) follows in a similar pattern.

Previous reviews of Garland’s work have established a flattering comparison with Angela Carter, and it is easy to see why, given that Garland’s historical fiction also reflects upon subjects like gender, sexuality, and otherness. However, such a comparison also deflects from the uniqueness of the author’s voice. In The Night Brother, which is a split narrative from the perspective of two characters – Gnome and Edie – the subtle nuances of language are obvious. We meet Gnome as an adolescent boy, and his narrative voice is swaggering, informal, and full of mild billingsgate, braggadocio and slang. He is not, however, entirely without sympathy. Confined to a night-time world of street pedlars, city markets, fairs, and the friendship of prostitutes, his world-view is clearly one of survival.

Edie is an entirely different specimen, and the prose carefully mirrors her character. Edie’s language is more tentative, and formal in register, lyrical and literary in style. This is not to say she is a pushover: she takes great delight in telling a drunk in her mother’s pub to ‘Get your filthy paws off me’ when his hands wander up her skirt, telling him that she will grab his ‘wizened meat and two veg and saw off the whole damned lot.’ In such instances, we also have a tantalising glimpse into the crux of the story, that Edie and Gnome have more in common than familial bonds.

Rosie Garland, Manchester Histories Festival at Manchester Art Gallery, photo by Paul Sherlock

Edie is drawn into the counterculture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through her friendship with Guy Heywood, who introduces her to the underground Manchester queer scene, complete with police raids, intolerance and (by necessity) dual identities ­– the novel opens in 1894, but a year before Oscar Wilde’s high-profile arrest for gross indecency. These queer narratives are often recovered by Neo-Victorian writers (think Sarah Waters as an obvious example), but Garland is also doing something subtly different.

Edie’s participation in the suffrage movement, through her friend Abigail Hargreaves, takes her to the heart of civil unrest in the period: she attends a speech by Mary Gawthorpe (suffragette, trade unionist and editor) in Albert Square only to become embroiled in scenes of police brutality and riot. These sections of the novel are precisely detailed, and obviously penned by a long-time resident of the city. The painstaking geography of the novel is easily verifiable in all its multitudinous character: the bustle of Deansgate, the Oxford Road corridor and the ‘fortunate young ladies attending Owen’s College’, Manchester Museum, and thence to the leafy quiet of the suburbs. However, at the heart of the narrative is also a queer love story – Edie’s growing relationship with Abigail is subtly and sympathetically handled, without any of the sensationalism we may associate with aspects of Neo-Victorian fiction.

The ‘secret’ at the heart of the story places the book in the magic realist tradition – insofar as it uses an essentially realist narrative arc (with hints of the coming-of-age bildungsroman tradition) but also participates in fantastical elements which we are invited to accept as an everyday part of the world. This seems to be a political gesture as well as an aesthetic decision: we should accept Edie and Gnome’s complex identities as part of human diversity, as much as it is important to do the same for sexual difference.

Garland’s work is literary and erudite, but despite its intellectualism, it is also a gripping yarn, a political polemic about rights and freedoms for men, women and those in-between, and a compelling but affectionate historical portrayal of Mancunian life.

The Night Brother by Rosie Garland is out now in paperback from The Borough Press (HarperCollins), £8.99: https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008166137/the-night-brother/

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Fields of the Nephilim, Paradise Lost to headline new Whitby event

Goth rock legends Fields of the Nephilim and gothic metal pioneers Paradise Lost will headline a brand new event called Tomorrow’s Ghosts, held during the long-running Whitby alternative festival in October.

Following a breakdown in communications between Sheffield International Venues (SIV) division ‘SIVLive’, who operate the Whitby Pavilion, and Top Mum Promotions who have run Whitby Goth Weekend since 1994, the venue has sought a new promoter to run an event during the immensely popular goth festival season – and a new partnership has been struck with Absinthe Promotions.

SIVLive, who operate the venue on behalf of Scarborough Borough Council as part of the not-for-profit Sheffield City Trust (SCT), have a goal of improving the health and wellbeing of its local communities by providing facilities for entertainment, sport and leisure. Their head, Dom Stokes, said in a statement

“It has been well documented that it has been my priority to quickly find a suitable promoter to ensure that the Pavilion continues to host an event during this October’s Goth Festival …

Absinthe know Whitby and they know the community. I first met the guys at Absinthe Promotions after the first public consultation meeting …
When they began talking about how they go about their business, I was immediately drawn to their passion and their drive. More importantly, their commitment to putting on a major music event to appeal and deliver to a real cross section of the Goth and non Goth community during this cultural phenomenon, really shone through.”

Absinthe Promotions have previously run events in Whitby as part of the broad array of events on offer to the thousands of goths and alternative music fans who descend on Whitby twice yearly to celebrate the darker side of music and culture.
There will also be an array of traders in the Pavilion during the weekend of 26th – 28th October, as part of the Dark Days Alternative Market.

I asked Kirstin Lavender, who heads up Absinthe Promotions, how she feels stepping into the challenging position of succeeding Whitby Goth Weekend at the Pavilion. She is confident and hopeful for the future, saying

“I think putting on great bands, established, as well as new acts will keep people interested and bring more people back to Whitby on this weekend. We also want to introduce more diversity over time as seen in the European festivals such as Leipzig and M’era Luna.”

The lineup certainly ensures an impressive variety of household goth names, with stellar ensemble The Eden House and tested veterans The Society, not to mention breaking new talent from hungry new band Sometime the Wolf and eternal goth rockers Salvation. Tickets will be £35 a day or £58 for a weekend – plus booking fees – with weekend tickets available from Friday 13th July (naturally) and day tickets from Wednesday 1st August, all through SIV and the Pavilion.

Tomorrow's Ghost festival


At the same time, Whitby Goth Weekend has taken the unprecedented step of announcing the next three dates – up to October 2019 – in advance on social media.

No word has yet been released regarding line-up, venues, or prices, and queries on these to Top Mum Promotions have not been answered. The organizers did take exception to the reporting in my previous article, and wished to clarify that their issues with SIVLive leading to the separation involved perceived concerns over the safety of attendees, and the alleged inability of the venue operators to confirm a schedule of dates with Top Mum Promotions. In a statement released on their official Facebook on 15th June, they said

“The Goth weekend is not defined by any one person, venue or activity. Its main objective for the last 24 years has been to provide a place for the lost and lonely to find friendship, camaraderie and a place to ‘be’. It would be spiteful and egocentric to state events as cancelled on the basis of one venue.”


So, 2018 will end as the final year when the various promoters coincide. From 2019, Top Mum’s Whitby Goth Weekend will divert from the dates agreed between SIV and Tomorrow’s Ghosts. Responding to queries, Dom Stokes of SIV candidly stated that

I am aware that WGW have announced some dates that are slightly different for the April 2019 and October 2019 events which is a shame as they were aware of the dates that the Pavilion had however I am confident that the events at the Pavilion will be a success.

The ease with which the dates have been agreed between the venue and the new promoter seems to call into question the argument that SIV were not willing to agree them with Top Mum Promotions, but matters here are uncertain.
It’s also unclear how other promoters in town, who arranged events previously to coincide with WGW will proceed – with events at the Rifle Club, RAW Nightclub and the Metropole Hotel both independent of either Absinthe Promotions or Top Mum Promotions. I suspect they will hang back, identify the most successful promoter, and coordinate with their calendar.

As lines have now been drawn, it will fall to the average punter to decide which lineup attracts them in October, and which weekend they’ll visit Whitby in 2019 – with the numbers alone being a measure of success.

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Pavilion parts ways with Whitby Goth Weekend promoter

A tense meeting at the Whitby Pavilion on Wednesday night has resulted in great uncertainty over the future of the UK’s best known goth music festival. The owners of the venue that hosts Whitby Goth Weekend have confirmed they are no longer working with Top Mum Promotions, who have run WGW since 1994.

Dominic Stokes, head of SIV Live, chaired the meeting and confirmed that a breakdown in the relationship between the managers of the Pavilion and the promoters behind Whitby Goth Weekend had occurred. He referred to increasing difficulty in negotiations and alluded to provocative comments on social media that led SIV to be concerned about the “safety and well-being of their staff”.
Top Mum Promotions staff, including original WGW founder Jo Hampshire, were present and hit back at SIV, accusing them of inflexibility in negotiations, and insufficient respect for the importance that Whitby Goth Weekend has to the entire festival and Whitby as a whole.

The accusation was also made that SIV were unwilling to confirm the dates going forward, and that was preventing Top Mum Promotions from negotiating with bands, but Mr. Stokes stood his ground and indicated the dates were very much fixed in SIV’s diary right into the following year and beyond if necessary.

Then, Mr. Stokes made it clear that SIV were not at all interested in a ‘land grab’ or making any plans to run a successor event themselves – whilst paying tribute to the extraordinary work Top Mum Promotions have put into founding and operating Whitby Goth Weekend. SIV are seeking new promoters to work with to run an event at the Pavilion on the dates that traditionally have held goth weekend – from October this year, and into the future.
Representatives from local businesses in Whitby pressed Mr. Stokes for reassurances that SIV are committed to holding a new event, that they will find a new promoter and that if necessary, SIV will help project manage to ensure an event goes ahead – to which Mr. Stokes cautiously agreed.
It has been quite clear from repeated comments that SIV are not seeking ownership or management of events during the goth festival – further confirmed when Mr. Stokes reserved the right as owners to close the Pavilion during the October weekend, should the situation require it.

Suggestions were also made by promoters not linked to Whitby, to consider introducing a ‘promoter’s cooperative’ with multiple interested parties working together for a new event at the Pavilion – the implication also being to hopefully move past the often fractious relationship between events promoters in Whitby during the festival. The concept of working through a committee of intermediaries was tentatively agreeable to both SIV and Top Mum Promotions, but no firm agreement was established.

I asked if SIV would commit to keeping the community updated as to their progress, and Mr. Stokes agreed. He made the point that SIV have no obligation to help run any event, as they are only venue owners – but reminded us of SIV’s community obligations as a charitable foundation, and stressed his enthusiasm to help support an event he termed a ‘cultural phenomenon’!
SIV are committed to working with any promoter – or group thereof – that is interested in running an event, and Mr. Stokes added it would not necessarily be the highest bidder either, indicating a set of requirements he was not at that time ready to release. A committee of interested parties outside the goth community – SIV, Scarborough council, the local tourism board and police representatives – was proposed, and may be introduced in the future as a group working with a promoter or promotions group, at the Pavilion.

Ultimately, the meeting concluded without delivering on its main objective of charting a way forward. What has been established is that Top Mum Promotions are no longer running an event at the Pavilion, but appear to be committed to running an event elsewhere on the same date. I reached out to Jo Hampshire after the event,  and she responded saying

“There is so much more that I could say but what’s important now is to move on for the greater good. My priority always has been the longevity of the goth scene in the UK.”

She then referred to the statement published on the official Whitby Goth Weekend Facebook page, confirming that their event will continue – with traders catered for at the traditional venues of the Leisure Centre and Brunswick Centre. Music events will also continue at the Abbey Wharf which has previously held regular events as part of the official WGW Fringe.

I also reached out to Mr. Stokes of SIV Live, who came back promptly to say

I am totally committed to moving the festival forward and we will be working with partners who have the best interests in the town and the festival as a whole.

SIV now face the unenviable task of sourcing a competent promoter or group of promoters, who can secure eight bands including two headline acts, inside of four months.


The events of Wednesday have shone a light on the peculiar arrangement that exists behind the UK’s most notorious goth event. To SIV, local business owners, tourists, visitors and anyone not enmeshed in the UK goth scene, the entire breakdown appears to be a bizarre and petty slice of goth politics. This is in fact the case.

More than that, it brings into question what the significance of the events at the Pavilion are. As the police representatives reminded us, far more people visit Whitby for the spectacle than for the band lineup. Even in the goth community, how many attend the Pavilion to see the bands? From a cold, practical business perspective, questions must be asked about how to attract attendees in a competitive market. April’s event at the Pavilion was downsized to the Theatre Room of the building, and even that was not filled.
Why, then, do we perceive Top Mum Promotions and Whitby Goth Weekend as the unchallenged and unimpeachable arbiter of events in Whitby? Credit must be paid to their hard work in the past, but calm perspectives must now consider what can be done in the future.

One local business owner at the back of the room stated “The days of the event at the Spa Pavilion setting the dates of goth weekend have passed.” As the corporate owners of Whitby Goth Weekend’s physical home look to a new event, and the community – goths and locals alike – reconsider the entire festival, that statement seems to ring very true indeed.

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The Cure’s Rob Smith ‘Not goth’ // Whitby Goth Weekend ‘Future in discussion’ – DREADLINES

Hello, I’m Tim Sinister with the dreadlines today.

Robert Smith, crooner with original post-punk outfit The Cure, has been doing the rounds with various press outlets promoting his upcoming alt-rock extravaganza, the Meltdown festival in London. Time Out magazine pulled no punches and zeroed in on the goth tag that is the pure-black albatross around Bob’s neck.

None of this is news to anyone, but a few outlets ran with incredulous stories of goth’s ‘clown prince’ abandoning the scene. The Old Guard of goth bands have been distancing themselves from the admittedly cumbersome and limiting tag of goth for decades, ever since the British media decided they needed a neat box to fit in, and we needed a convenient word to annoy our parents with.
Siouxsie Sioux herself, formerly Bob’s lead singer when he played guitar with The Banshees, has always put a considerable distance between herself and the scene that idolizes her, saying

“At a signing the other day, someone asked me how it felt to be the queen of goth. I said, ‘That’s rather like being known as the Prince Regent of Fools.’ I hate all that.”

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, producers of the most recognizable goth anthem ever, dismisses such associations just as easily. Andrew Eldritch waxes acerbic in that old familiar way and even uses asterisks to obscure the word goth on his website.

So, these articles expressing shock over Robert Smith disavowing goth are really missing the point. Being scorned by our musical heroes is, I think, peak goth.


Another goth institution’s future seems uncertain, as the owners of the venue that hosts the biannual Whitby Goth Weekend are holding an open meeting to “discuss how SIV and the Whitby Pavilion can be a part of the cultural phenomenon that is the Goth Festival in Whitby.” Note they carefully step around using the phrase ‘Whitby Goth Weekend’ which has been copyrighted!

Discussion has been rife on various Facebook groups, and loyal fans are rallying around Top Mum Promotions, the company who have run the Whitby Goth Weekend event since 1994. There are concerns the venue owners are sidelining the original WGW promoters and will instead arrange a new festival to capitalize on the huge influx of visitors the seaside town receives twice a year.

At the same time, it has been observed that the most recent WGW event made an unannounced move to the smaller Theatre inside the Pavilion building with an unusual line-up that wasn’t to all tastes – you can read my personal review here. No formal comment has been made by Whitby Goth Weekend, but the official Facebook page has published dates for October’s event, indicating they are going ahead as planned.

Could it be that the venue owners have decided they can run a more attractive event to push up attendance at the notoriously cavernous Pavilion? The Blogging Goth is headed over today to attend the 6pm meeting and will report back thereafter!

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The Addams Family – Animated Origins!

AddamsFamilyRebootCharacters

The Addams Family – Rebooted! Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

The live-action movies of The Addams Family remain some of my most cherished films, with a stellar cast, superb writing and gorgeous, gloomy design. So I applaud the decision regarding the 2019 adaptation to steer clear of the established canon from the Paramount Pictures releases in the early Nineties.

Originally linked to goth-stereotype director Tim Burton and pitched as a stop-motion animation, the latest update is The Addams Family will instead be fully animated and released by MGM. The casting has now been announced, with a bevy of talented Hollywood A-list actors stepping into the roles.

 

It’s wonderfully close to the ideal, live-action pairing of Oscar Isaac and Eva Green which a few people have pointed out would be aesthetically perfect. At least the art style is linked more closely to original creator Charles Addams’ 1930s look.

Nevertheless, the raw talent in this cast is impressive, and the production team seem experienced – even if joint directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan are better for helming horrible success Sausage Party.
We also have Pamela Pettler, the screenwriter of Burton’s Corpse Bride and 9, joint-producing a screenplay that promises to show the fabled first meeting of Gomez and Morticia, and the beginnings of The Addams Family.  The proposed face-off with a pastel-obsessed reality TV show host seems to hearken back to Joan Cusack’s character Debbie from 1993’s Addams Family Values – not to mention a sly jab at reality TV show hosts in general, even those that have stumbled into higher office!

Indeed, it’s a franchise that can’t seem to be left alone, with studios attempting multiple times to resurrect America’s spookiest family – but time will tell if lightning has struck, or if they should be left to rot in the graveyards of our minds. Snap-snap! 

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