Now all the celebrations have ended and our hangovers have receded, it’s time to confront reality. 2019 is the fortieth anniversary of many goth origins, and so we must accept that this odd old scene of ours is a legitimate museum artifact. We enjoyed the British Library’s wonderful Terror and Wonder exhibition of 2015, but there was only a small section on our odd scene. One organisation is looking to change how we remember goth, though!
I’ve been in conversation with Lisa der Weduwe who works at YOUTH CLUB where the history of youth culture is carefully researched and preserved. She’s particularly interested in recovering any photos and memories of the genesis of goth from the very early eighties, so I asked her to give us some more details on what sounds like an awesome idea for an exhibition… and how you can contact YOUTH CLUB to be in their collection!
1. Can you quickly intro the Youth Club for our readers? What motivated the creation of a home for the legacy of youth culture?
YOUTH CLUB actually goes back to 1997 when our precursor PYMCA (Photographic Youth Music and Culture Archive) was formed alongside Sleazenation Magazine. This worked as a successful image library for a while and enabled us to grow the collection to over 300 photographers.
Then in 2015 we had a think about why we were doing what we were doing and the fact that we really see this history of youth culture as incredibly important and often overlooked. When we became YOUTH CLUB our focus shifted to preserving, sharing and celebrating this amazing story, with the end goal of opening a Museum of Youth Culture.
This year our focus has been to build an online Museum of Youth Culture, which is going to take the archive as a starting point to tell the story of youth and subculture. As part of this campaign we are looking at gaps in the archive, which is particularly around earlier movements from the 50s and 60s. But we are also asking the public to submit their photographs; whether they have one photograph or a small archive we want their images and stories. We want to know what it was like growing up in Britain?
2. Do you feel like you personally have links to any subculture?
Growing up me and my friends were massively into Emo and that was such an important part of my life throughout my teenage years. As I got older I slowly got into heavier music and have happily stayed in the metal scene since.
3. You’re now specifically looking for records of early goth culture in the capital. What are your impressions of the scene so far? How does it compare to other youth cultures from the 80s?
Well we are actually looking for photos, ephemera and stories from early goth across the UK. The archive is strongest in the 80s and 90s, but for some reason the emergence of goth is a time we don’t have many photographs of.
I’ve always been drawn to the Goth scene and as a teenager many of my friends were Goths. To me the scene has a lot of amazing strong female figureheads and more generally a strong female presence, especially for the 80s when subcultures could feel quite male-led. I also love the style, its so unique and has a real timelessness to it.
The Gothic has a long history as a cultural movement and ties to the mythology of Britain, and goes beyond the teenager in many ways. Its goes beyond the subcultural movement and into the national psyche.
I think more generally the rise and fall of subcultures is quite interesting – some are constantly going strong, whilst others experience real revivals. People are really starting to respond to our 00s nu-metal images at the moment and following the fashions and music.
Part of this could be down to some movements going really big in the media and growing both popular and infamous rapidly, and then seemingly disappearing again, whilst other movements are a bit more underground but have gone along steadily. I think for someone involved in a movement as a teenager, that will always be something they identify with, and movements have become so iconic now that there is always a scene around it, even if it is smaller than in it’s heyday.
6. Will you be looking into the strong presence of goth elsewhere in the UK, like Leeds – and around the world?
At the moment our focus is very much on the UK and trying to build a timeline from post-war Britain to the present, that goes across the decades and represents the entirety of Britain equally. We are hoping to do a bit of travelling as well and stop by Whitby!
Once we’ve got this down we can start looking further afield, even though at the moment our archive is already international.
7. Having looked at the history of youth culture, and how it’s changed going into the present – what do you expect from the future, for young people into subcultures like goth, as well as new trends emerging?
One thing we often hear or get told is that subcultures don’t exist anymore, because of factors like social media. I think although the nature of young culture and how it manifests itself has changed, young people are always creating new things for themselves and in a way the web has enabled more young people to discover subculture movements from the past like goth.
8. Any other comments, or things I haven’t touched on?
Please consider contributing to this awesome project if you can supply memories from the dawn of the dour and the start of something spooky! We’ll be looking forward to what Lisa and YOUTH CLUB produce and sharing updates as they come along – make sure you’re following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Let’s make an exhibition that truly celebrates our subculture.