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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Whitby Week!

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Image courtesy of Baxter Photography

It is Whitby week, as hordes of goths, punks, post-punks and those uncateogrized descend on the small North Yorkshire town for the biannual music festival. I’ll be heading over on Thursday to begin the drinking, dancing, and describing events for The Blogging Goth, of which there is an enjoyably bewildering array.

Thanks to the kind people at Absinthe Promotions, I’ll be taking in the bands at the Pavilion on Friday and Saturday night. In exchange, of course, I’ll be hosting the Q&A sessions with Ashley Thorpe of the animated film Borley Rectory and author Jonathan Rigby’s presentation entitled Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema.

During the day I’ll be perusing the shopping at the Bizarre Bazaar, the Dark Days market and the town itself… or dropping into the final Whitby Kustom Car Show… and live-streaming the charity football match El Gothico… or taking in the sights of the Illuminated Abbey (15% off for wristband holders from Tomorrow’s Ghosts)… not to mention the live music available from Gothtown and the Official Fringe.
If I feel brave I might even risk a trip to Old Town during the day, but the crowds usually defeat that initiative. I’ll also be speaking to a crew making an independent documentary film about the weekend, so if you’ve got a burning urge to convey your experiences of the festivities or the goth scene in general, why not be in touch?

Tomorrow's Ghost festival

I find myself wondering how to refer to the weekend however. We’re all going to Whitby, for Goth activities, over the Weekend. We’ve been calling it Whitby Goth Weekend for twenty years. However, WGW is currently only operating the Fringe events at the Abbey Wharf, and the Bizarre Bazaar.

The name itself is a trademark of the company Top Mum Promotions. Should we keep using it as a common term everyone recognizes –  or is it time to distinguish the title of a separate event from the various activities taking place during a ‘festival’ that belongs to no one organizer? Let me have your thoughts below…

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Bowie and Bauhaus: Ziggy Stardust is buried in Camden

One of the earliest progenitors of goth rock, Bauhaus were at their peak in 1982 when they recorded a cover of the 1972 album track “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie, from the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust”. That it was all to spiral into breakup and resentment is as inevitable as night follows day in this fractious scene of ours.

Nevertheless, it was as golden to Peter Murphy as it was to Bowie. Released as a single just ahead of their third album “The Sky’s Gone Out”, it exploded in popularity and catapulted the band onto Top of The Pops. The album itself reached number four in the UK charts, a position unchallenged by any preceding or successive release by Bauhaus.

Bowie’s benediction continued to buoy up Bauhaus, with the band turning in a memorable performance in the horror movie “The Hunger” starring Bowie and Catherine Deneuve that was filmed in ’82 and released in ’83. The film opens with a caged Murphy crooning to a nightclub of post-punks and new wavers, stalked by the vampire lovers Miriam and John Blaylock. Treasured by goths for its gorgeous melding of sex, death and style, it was also the death-knell for Bauhaus who split up in July 1983 – one potential cause, the focus on Murphy above his bandmates in their brief movie appearance.

That appearance is a gorgeous opening sequence, and in part it seems inspired by the ridiculously gothic video for “Ziggy Stardust”, in which the band perform a truly underground gig – in an expansive Camden basement that doubles as a live music venue for alternative bands – of course!
Here, Murphy is locked up in a tiny cage again, released to perform the track with all the manic energy he is famed for. He stage dives into an audience of rampant, adoring, manic goths and punks who then bear aloft a shrouded body they hustle away into the shadowy catacombs. It’s a beautiful slice of gothic extravagance and sets in stone that Bauhaus imagery of death, excess and camp horror fun.

Notwithstanding Peter Murphy’s muffled resentment of the influence Bowie had on so many musicians – including him, we must give our unending thanks to the incomparable artist who first broke down the walls of conformity that led to goth’s ascendancy and, I hope, would appreciate every twisted evolution his music inspired.

Pictures courtesy of Fin Costello / Redferns.
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Black Rose Ball 2018: In Review

Firstly I’ve got to thank Estelle of the Black Rose Ball management committee for extending an invite to The Blogging Goth to attend this year’s event. Now in its sixth year, it’s become something of a highlight in the goth calendar as a small but enjoyable festival in the gorgeous ancient town of York – and I was greatly anticipating an eventful few days! It also works hard to raise money for deserving charities, this year the very relevant Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

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Bob’s World: the biggest goth band ever is The Cure

There’s been a wealth of anniversaries recently. Bauhaus’ debut single, the anthemic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” was released on August 6th 1979, so expect next year to be a major celebration of this milestone.  Siouxsie and the Banshees released their debut single and dancefloor mainstay “Hong Kong Garden” on August 18th, 1978.

More modestly, the well-established goth-rock band The Cure released their third single “Lovesong” from their eighth studio album “Disintegration” on August 21st, 1989. Although not a debut like their goth rock contemporaries, it was a commercial smash, hitting No. 2 in US charts and remains their most successful US single ever. The album itself represents a sudden return to the goth sound after the pop indulgences of “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” and is widely rated as one of their finest albums.

This set me to thinking about The Cure’s position in that pantheon of major artists we revere in the goth scene, and how it’s possible we criminally underrate them. For example, Joy Division are hailed as influential founders, but after Ian Curtis lost his struggle with suicide, they became encased in the amber of nostalgia, never changing, never fading but never innovating. See also, Christian Death – which will forever be frozen in time as Rozz’s band regardless of activities after his death.

Pioneer and role model Siouxsie Sioux will always be a poster girl for our subculture, but her withdrawal in recent years has left the Banshees in splendid isolation.  Bauhaus’ eclectic musical career soared furiously, before coming to an abrupt halt with the band’s fracture five years later, leaving as their legacy a forty-year old song and some sweet style.
Early contemporaries like Adam Ant, Nick Cave, Ian Astbury and Jaz Coleman flirted with the style, then headed out to chart their own courses, never troubled by the jet-black albatross of the surprisingly endurable goth subculture.

The next wave of bands tapped into and refined that sound and style, and we were blessed with consummate professionals like The Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim and Alien Sex Fiend. Yet they laboured in the shade of their first-generation progenitors, or suffered their own implosions that would derail their careers and prevent them from ever having the same impact. Much to the consternation of YouTubers, new musicians and those not obsessed with gatekeeping, goth remains – and probably always will be – inextricably tied to the giants of the first wave.

Yet, people were staggered when Steve Lamacq’s amusing feature the “Goth World Cup” (no relation to our ‘national’ team Real Gothic FC) crowned its overall winner as “Hanging Garden” by – The Cure. They’d seen off all their contemporaries, defeating in direct contest Siouxsie, Bauhaus and The Cult, but it still felt like a surprise when “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” crashed out in the semi-finals. That for me was the moment when I realized what was popularly thought about goth music might not really be the case…

It’s only been reinforced this year. Robert Smith curated the Meltdown festival in June, a ten-day extravaganza featuring a stellar array of artists that ran the gamut from just breaking to impressively well-established, with the event crowned by The Cure themselves. Validating new artists and bringing them to the attention of old goths is a policy that deserves its own article, by the way. We cannot live on preserved memories forever…

Not long after, their 40th Anniversary performance in Hyde Park in the summer was a sell-out 65,000 attendee performance to rave reviews. Accolade after accolade has been laid at The Cure’s feet, and belatedly I – and others – woke up to the fact that in Robert Smith we might have the world’s premier goth musician; standard reluctance to use that term notwithstanding!

I just find it so easy to imagine a pouting, haughty Pete Murphy, an elegant and aloof Siouxsie Sioux, or Andrew Eldritch’s drowned Ramone style whenever I imagine a goth-rock musician. Smith’s trademark messy hair and smeared lipstick visage lurks over their shoulders, a familiar and unremarkable presence.

Perhaps it’s Bob’s trademark modesty and humility, whilst his contemporaries are infamous for their bizarre personalities. Perhaps the failing is all mine, never a dedicated fan of The Cure – it took until 2004’s self-titled album for it to really click with me. If so, I beg forgiveness from the gatekeepers for my ignorance, and urge you all to accept Robert Smith and The Cure as the true custodians of goth, from its very genesis to 2019’s album… whatever it may be, and regardless of whether Bob wants to be associated with our scene. Rejection of goth is peak goth, after all!


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