Whitby Spring: A Tale of Two Festivals

It’s just two months until various goth-themed celebrations begin in Whitby, and time to look ahead to what is happening and when. In this, I’m grateful to the hard work of Ian Francis, who strives to add a Whitby-wide itinerary to the various groups for information. Good work!

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Top Mum Promotions, of long-standing event ‘Whitby Goth Weekend‘ which no longer holds events at Whitby Pavilion, have elected to hold their own event 12 – 14 April.
This is two weeks before Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, courtesy of Absinthe Promotions – 26 – 28 April. Absinthe contacted me with the statement they’ve officially released to clarify any confusion;

We are getting a lot of questions regarding the split in the Spring and Winter dates between ‘Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival’ (26 to 28th April) and the previous promoter’s so we thought it best to clarify a few points.

When we first announced the festival in July 2018, we released both April and November 2019 dates and kept them as close to the usual dates as possible. After announcing this, the previous promoter announced different dates to mid-April and this has caused some confusion. We have coordinated with other promoters over this weekend to make sure our dates stay the same to make it a more inclusive festival to go to.

We have also strived to announce our line-ups as early as possible to assist in planning and will be announcing the full November line-up on 1st March. For further details please visit www.tomorrowsghostsfestival.co.uk

At the same time, allies of WGW have protested that the older festival has long established the dates, and it is Tomorrow’s Ghosts who have ‘split the crowd’ with the new times – another flare up in the ongoing grudge match it seems! Certainly, I shared the 2019 dates from Tomorrow’s Ghosts as early as July 2018, but the issue remains of who exactly fired the starting pistol first!

I note that many of the smaller promoters have elected to follow Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, with events run by Goth Town, Sexy Sunday, Marquis Masquerade and others all tied in with the last weekend of April. Meanwhile, WGW continues to offer the ever-popular Bizarre Bazaar and Fringe events, but no word as to whether they’ll have a live music line-up or venue as yet. Should anyone be headed to WGW and wish to file a review, please let The Blogging Goth know!

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Conversely, I’m holding out and heading to Tomorrow’s Ghosts, whose stellar lineup has some artists close to my heart – The Chameleons, PWEI, New Model Army – and some artists I’m itching to see live – Saigon Blue Rain, Christine Plays Viola. It’s a great mix of classic and breaking new talent, with some international appearances as well – a wise move to head off a UK-heavy set of familiar faces. I’ll be posting regularly to social media, and a review should follow promptly.

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On the fringe events, Absinthe are pursuing a horror theme enthusiastically, with discussion events featuring the ‘Women of Hammer’ – the leading ladies from the bright-red blood-stained British classic movies who will be talking about their experiences and answering questions. Joining them will be author, historian and descendant of the famed Dracula creator, Dacre Stoker who will be updating vampire fans on his investigations into the mythology and history of our favourite Transylvanian count!
I’m very flattered to be asked to host this session so please join us on Sunday 28th and bring your most cutting questions!

Sadly this does mean I’ll miss the inaugural match between Stokomotive Whitby FC and brand new goth football team F.C. 2019 Gothenheim, who will both be taking to the turf for good causes. A great deal of delicate diplomacy has gone on to ensure a team comprised of the players in black can be fielded, whilst bearing in mind who is attending what weekend and wants to play in the first place! Please take the time to check out the beautiful (goth) game and the pitch-side punnery which is an absolute highlight of the Whitby experience.

Around all of this, I intend to step into some of the alternative events on offer such as RAW Nightclub, ekeing out my bank account in the markets, plenty of time drinking and catching up with friends in the pubs of Whitby, and my regular visits to sightseeing spots like the Abbey. I’d also recommend a visit to the Museum, which is absolutely crammed with fascinating artefacts from this beautiful town’s rich history.

Despite all of the drama, which I naively believed would be put to rest at the last event, I’m still keenly anticipating this high point in the UK Goth calendar. Will I see you there? What are you most looking forward to?

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Celebrity Endorsement: I broke my goth addiction and so can you!

Last week veteran DJ Jo Whiley interviewed comedian Dom Joly on BBC Radio 2, in which he remarked he was an ‘ex-goth’, presumably having received his jet-black P45 from the Department of Woe and Pouting.
They posted a comic tweet remarking on other celebrities with a past dabbling in the scene such as actor Simon Pegg and comedian Marcus Brigstocke, not to mention Whiley herself. All of them have since ‘moved on’, presumably to better and brighter things… if not brighter clothing.

The tweets in reply were approximately 20% reminiscing over goth phases, and 80% comments along the lines of “What do you mean, used to be?” It was heartening, reading of people into retirement age still rocking excess eyeliner, compared to their fuzzy photos from University days in the Eighties. Talk about a ten-year challenge, try three or four decades!

It got me thinking about exactly how transitory goth can be. It’s a youth subculture, certainly, and it draws people in during the adolescent years most often – I was about fifteen when I finally started listening to trad. But what was the magic key that kept me on the terminal track, whilst these big showbiz names discard their diaphanous attire and chuckle fondly over memories of big hair and pints of snakebite?

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Could it be an obstacle to a career under the bright lights of the public gaze? Not exactly the natural haunting ground for the shrinking (march) violets of the goth scene. Would your career deter from your usual sartorial selection? Has it led to you leaving the scene entirely?

The concept of the ‘goth phase’ has been reinforced by these comments, and that’s a little disappointing as all the replies indicate plenty of people don’t ‘grow out of it, mum’. In many articles previously, I’ve acknowledged the hard work by academics – who are often goths themselves – researching the phenomena of adult goths and our tendency towards respectable middle-class careers.
It seems the one career track that isn’t hospitable to a collection of Bauhaus vinyl is showbusiness!

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Forty Years of Face-to-Face: “The Scream” released this day in 1978

Siouxsie and the Banshees, 1979 – By Source, Fair use, Link

One of the most recognizable bands in the goth pantheon, Siouxsie and the Banshees released their debut album “The Scream” on 13th November 1978. They had impeccable punk credentials, would go on to be populated by a talented brace of musicians including Steven Severin, Martin McCarrick, Robert Smith and John McGeoch, and all led by the mesmeric Siouxsie Sioux, an indecipherable silent movie star turned furious postpunk prophet swathed in the timeless fashion of the underworld that would become a universal constant for an undying subculture.

Their origins are fascinating – Sioux and Severin formed the band on a whim, with an opportunity to play support to the Sex Pistols that Sioux, a fervent fan, didn’t want to miss. They can later boast they played one of the earliest ever punk festivals in 1976, on stage with the likes of The Clash, The Damned and the Buzzcocks.
The band amazingly busked the whole thing, improvising a twenty-minute set with Sioux reciting random memorized text including The Lord’s Prayer. It probably didn’t help they had Sid Vicious behind the drums in this first ever lineup!

Despite an urge to split the band up, some fast talking ensured the Banshees stayed together, and ascended quickly to dizzying heights – magazine front cover material, an appearance on Tony “Mr. Manchester” Wilson’s show So It Goes, and a Peel session all in the can by ’77. Next they needed that debut album, and after a guerrilla, punk-promo campaign of vandalism around London by a fan, Polydor delivered a contract in June ’78 that the Banshees signed.

There was one frantic week in August when they recorded The Scream, and it spent the next three being produced, mastered and polished. The result catapulted into the music journalism world like a divebomber, scattering glowing reviews everywhere. Melody Maker praised the sound as “strong, abrasive, visceral and constantly inventive.” Kris Needs, writing in Zigzag was effusive, saying

It is certainly a special classic to join milestones like Diamond Dogs, Roxy Music’s first and (Lou Reed’s) Berlin.

Rolling Stone called it a “striking debut album” and prophetically described their music “…acknowledges the enduring power of the Old Wave, but yields not an inch in its assertion of the New.”

It’s a brilliantly accurate description. Even in this first recording, you can hear Siouxsie’s strident, challenging tone enveloped by icy expanses of discordance, and hypnotic pulsing rhythm.
It’s clear they’re going to tire of the restraints of the contemporaries in punk, and even post-punk, and aspire to something newer and darker. By 1981 they had that down with the darkly delicious fourth album Juju, helping set the boundaries of what we now know to be goth rock.

But right now, time-travelling back forty years exactly to 13 November 1978, the Banshees have an album that only hints at their vast, exploratory future and the eternal mark they’ll leave on untold generations of fans and follow-on musicians. It’s revelry and rawness and a riotously good start for a band who’ll reach further than they can probably imagine at this moment…

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National Black Cat Day: Goth Holiday!

Would you believe that the 27th October is National Black Cat Appreciation Day? This year it’s on a Saturday – sorry, #Caturday – and it’s right before Halloween. Whilst you’re reading this, I’m in Whitby for the Goth Weekend. It’s like the dark side of every moon just aligned!

Please enjoy some carefully curated content containing our cuddly, curious cat comrades. Remember, according to figures black cats who desperately need homes are often overlooked at shelters, spending up to a week longer in care. If you can give a loving home to a needy cat, please consider a pitch-black puss!

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BORLEY RECTORY – A creepy Q&A with director Ashley Thorpe

Followers will know I’m excited to be hosting a Q&A session with director Ashley Thorpe, after a screening of his animated documentary, Borley Rectory, on Sunday at 5pm. To whet your appetite, first enjoy the trailer for this witty, intriguing production…

I’ve been lucky enough to have an early preview of it, so I can challenge Ashley with some pointed questions, and I can recommend this imaginative, intriguing, eerie film to any ghost story connoisseur.
Not a regular A-to-B thriller, it instead strings together the rumours, allegations, experiences and experiments that swirled around the ‘most haunted house in England’ from the very first encounters, to the building’s violent perishing in a fire on the eve of World War II.

It’s well anchored by a cast of familiar faces, including the creepily commanding presence of actor Reece Shearsmith – of the League of Gentlemen and Inside No. 9 fame – and the exceptionally expressive Jonathan Rigby as famed paranormal investigator Harry Price.

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Reece Shearsmith and Jonathan Rigby, courtesy of Carrion Films

There are dramatizations of somber seances conducted in shadowy chambers, words scratched into the walls, dangerous liaisons masked by staged spookiness, an unwise journalist chasing ghouls in the gardens, pleas for help from entombed emanations, and all of it swathed in a spectacularly unique rotoscoping / animation effect that transports the entire film into the realm of the supernatural itself.

Through excellent use of costuming, props and design it moves seamlessly from the 18060s to the 1940s, and we are transported along with it, an unseen audience watching the interaction between characters and the structure, a battleground for belief and deception. The horror is most expertly demonstrated with the shadowy shapes half seen – much is obscured and left to the imagination, as is admirable, but occasional moments may cause even the hardened viewer to jump as unexpected activity of a mysterious origin besets the frequent, short-lived residents of Borley Rectory.

Please join us at Whitby Pavilion on Sunday 28th October at 5pm for a unique screening of this paranormal production, followed by a Q&A session with director Ashley Thorpe conducted by yours truly. All thanks to Absinthe Promotions, organizers of the first Tomorrow’s Ghosts festival who promise an array of frightening fascinations for the fervent fans of fear!

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Some of the cast explore the boundary between life and death within Borley Rectory – courtesy of Carrion Films.

 

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