Halloween looms over us with an exciting and intimidating shadow, and the whole month of October has aptly been filled with festivals to warm even the darkest heart. I got in touch with Joel Heyes, svengali of the Leeds goth scene, to find out how preparation for the second Goth City Festival is progressing.
The Blogging Goth: Thanks for talking to us Joel – can you introduce newcomers to Goth City Festival with a summary of the salient information? What is the special place Leeds has in your heart, why hold it there?
Joel Heyes: Well, Leeds – and Yorkshire more generally – is probably one of the most important sites in terms of goth culture due to its musical legacy. Obviously bands like the Sisters, Mission, Ghost Dance, Skeletal Family, NMA, Salvation and so on, but also venues like the Phono, the Faversham, the Warehouse, and more.
So the main rationale for the festival was to give Leeds a major UK goth festival that befits its position in the international goth scene. But we also wanted it to be more of a cultural festival rather than simply a band event, which is why it has spoken word and other art events going on during the fortnight.
Finally we wanted it to be an event which had a real countercultural edge,
which is why we’re supporting smaller underground venues and ensuring it’s a not-for-profit event that helps support a worthwhile local cause. This year and last year our nominated charity has been PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugee and Asylum Seekers) which provides food and provisions for local destitute refugees and is a charity very close to our collective dark heart.
TBG: How is the preparation going for GCF? I understand you’re the only permanent member of staff at GCF High Command? You do have the Flounce Patrol though right?
JH: As I write we’ve just completed ‘Phase 2’ of organising – daily logistics plus a few final details we’re boxing off for one of our smaller events. Next up it’s working on them on a daily basis and then adding a few little extras on top!
We try to work as collaboratively as possible, so everything is organised on the basis that people want to support it and consent to being a part of it. We work closely with local events, particularly Carpe Noctum, to ensure we’re not intruding on any territory and are working for the greater gothic good.
But in terms of our admin we do have a skeleton crew (as it were!), as we have streamlined all of our our processes to fit our ‘anarcho-goth’ DIY philosophy. The Flounce Patrol are our invaluable crew of lovely stage managers, door staff, first aiders, DJs and security who help give us our sashaying guts, and we’re privileged to work with each of them.
TBG: There is a sprawling schedule of events coming up. Obviously it’s all recommended, but at there any particular highlights you are personally anticipating? I appreciate the cultural angle as well, so people can enjoy more than just the bands.
JH: It’s really impossible for me to have a preference to be honest – it’s like someone’s made your favourite cake but ten times bigger, and you can sit down and eat it all in one go!
‘A Night of the Dark Arts’, our cabaret night, is always so much fun and a real unique event. It’ll be great to see Alice Moving Under Skies again at their comeback gig and all our headliners (Attrition, 1919, Manuskript) will be fantastic, although it’ll be really emotional to see 1919 for the first time since I played guitar for them in the wake of Mark’s death earlier this year.
But I’m probably looking forward the most to seeing my old mates Libitina on stage for the first time in ten years, and especially at Goth City. So I reckon it’s going to be a really special event all round.
TBG: The grassroots goth community seems to be doing well, with gigs, clubs and festivals all seeing good attendance. Is this your perspective as well? How do you perceive the goth scene in 2017?
JH: I think things are basically thriving now – I remember a few months ago at Carpe Noctum there was a gig where Siberia played and a few of us promoters were swapping flyers, and there was suddenly the impression that there was so much going on that you just had to sit back and admire it all. So many great events and festivals now too – Infest, Sacrosanct, WGW, Black Rose Ball, Carpe Noctum, Darklands, Night Shift, Noircastle, Bunker 13…(un)happy days are here again!
TBG: Obviously we trust GCF 2017 will be successful and lead seamlessly into GCF 2018! I’m sure you must at least have some plans and hopes for the next one, anything you can share with us?
JH: Well, GCF’17 is basically to see if lightning does indeed strike twice after the success of the first one – but by all accounts it appears we’re on course for a great event, so we are making some plans for 2018.
I think you’ll see a slightly trimmer fortnight with a rejigged schedule, possibly featuring one or two international acts and with the odd surprise too. Khaos willing, we’ll be able to announce the dates, theme and first few confirmed acts at the end of this year’s festival.
TBG: Fingers crossed! Many thanks Joel, the best of luck, and see you there.
I will be joining Goth City Festival myself on Monday 16th October to chair a Q&A with David ‘Wolfie’ Wolfenden, Guest of Honour and guitarist with such legendary outfits as the Expelaires, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The Mission. I’m very grateful to Joel for asking me to chair this session, and very excited to be involved with this ambitious festival. I hope I’ll see some of you there!