Louder Than Words Festival – The Goth Panel

They convened the greatest minds in contemporary Gothic culture on a cold November Sunday. Academic insight from David McWilliam, media savvy observations from Natasha Scarf, the myriad creative channels of Rosie Lugosi, and the incomparable music world experiences of Si Denbigh. All were colliding in Manchester to pick apart this mad culture we find ourselves in…

As part of the highly ambitious Louder Than Words festival, the panel was also lucky enough to be chaired by the formidable John Robb, that titan of music journalism and mastermind behind Louder Than War itself.

He certainly didn’t cut any corners either, and went straight for the jugular with that armor-piercing question, What IS Goth?

Ultimately, our delegates came up with the best answer that I have summed up as – “Goth is a vague and slapdash term that lazy journalists came up with to describe a maelstrom of creativity borne out of the end of the Punk Wars.” In particular, musicians Si Denbigh and Rosie Lugosi were making all sorts of different, post-punk sounds, and only afterwards did they find out what descriptions they’d been lumbered with!

It began with music, and it was midwifed by journalists, that much we can agree on. But John was pressing for harder facts, and wanted to define the lifestyle that Goths lead.

DSCN4506Natasha Scharf maintained firmly that her lifestyle is dominated by the dark aesthetic we’re trying to describe – and it’s pretty believable, coming from the former editor of Meltdown, and the author of Worldwide Gothic and brand new The Art of Gothic, a review of which will soon appear on this blog! However, much more relaxed attitude was espoused by Si Denbigh, who seems to hold much of the posturing and bitter infighting of the Goth subculture in baffled amusement.

On such a broad spectrum of experiences, it’s not surprising we find Goth hard to define. David McWilliams confirmed the vague and often contradictory nature of the culture from without…

If the music itself, the source from which this culture springs, cannot be clearly demarcated, then what chance does any other aspect? With her typical creative flair, Rosie defined how she always felt within the urge to be different, the attraction of a particularly dark and dangerous aspect – and, like her band, was surprised to learn afterwards she had been ‘tagged’ with the Goth moniker!

It’s certainly possible that many people learned of the subculture, and strove to adopt the traditions and trappings – but many others, I believe, were always predisposed towards the traits of this oldest subculture, and became almost unconsciously and organically part of the community. That vague drift into the circles of Goth confounds the neat box-ticking of journalists, I should well know.

Rosie is dismissive of tidy definitions of this or that culture, and equally dismissive of the increasingly bitter spats over Whitby Goth Weekend, and the subcultural divide. “Why should anyone care what you, or anyone else, defines themselves as?” True words, yet such diplomacy won’t smooth over the pressures developing as Whitby’s popularity increases beyond the small seaside town’s capacity. The author, singer, performer and more did comment on the popularization of such counter-culture events like Whitby, and compared them to the ‘mainstreaming’ of such marginalized locations as Canal Street, the famous Manchester Gay Quarter.

She dryly observed how ‘ironic’ it was that such places have become destinations for a good time out by casual visitors, when they began as an escape from the casual mainstream!

At the same time, it was pointed out that the behavior of certain parties, promoting that elitist agenda that is so frequently observed in Goth culture, are falling foul of the discrimination that Goths have received themselves from the mainstream. Casting aspersions on the Steampunk and other casual participants at WGW, who may never visit the Spa for the gigs, is not a fair policy. Nevertheless, it happens.

DSCN4510On lighter topics, during the Q&A, I asked the panel – especially the musicians and DJ – what their opinions were on music policy within the scene. We are all well aware of the Goth scene’s tendency to revere the classic music of decades past, even as new bands develop under those same influences. I wondered if the speakers could provide any advice on the topic?

I’ve DJ’d occasionally, and done my best to blend new songs in with the older – as I said to Si and Rosie however, I’d often find that tracks from their newer albums wouldn’t have half the attraction power of their Eighties breakout hits, even though March Violets tours (for example) have been formidably popular! Discussing it later on Twitter, more common sense words were forthcoming.

A vast round of applause met the end of the Q&A, although I felt it could have gone on much longer. Many thanks must go to the Louder Than Words festival staff – especially John for initiating everything and hosting the panel, and Jill who kindly gave us tickets – for incorporating the panel as one part of a vast and new literary celebration, that we hope to see repeated in years to come!

DSCN4512All images taken by your author, hence the blurriness!

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About The Blogging Goth

The Blogging Goth - the world's only dedicated UK Goth news service.
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One Response to Louder Than Words Festival – The Goth Panel

  1. Pingback: “The Art of Gothic” by Natasha Scharf – Review | The Blogging Goth

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