Thursday, 29 November 2012

Whitby Goth Weekend

The Goth Weekend was an incredible experience, but not for the reasons I thought it would be when I booked the tickets as an enthusiastic darkling. Rather than the official events and the other Goths, I was captivated by the creativity of the traders (we attended the Bizarre Bazaar, the steampunk market at The Rifle Club and several other assorted small markets we found in our travels around Whitby), and the atmosphere of the town itself; a charm and a strangeness about the place that I am almost at a loss to describe.

I felt almost like the town, watched over by the solemn, brooding presence of Whitby Abbey, rekindled a dormant spirit in me that I hadn't realised was lost: a faith in mystery and magic, a sense of the unknown and unseen all around us. I fell in love with the winding streets, quaint buildings, hidden alleyways and salt air.

Dan and I stayed in the Argyle Hotel, where most of the WGW guests are regulars who help each other dress up for the evening events and who take breakfast together in their black pyjamas and bat-patterned socks. Our room was in the attic - from our window we had an undisturbed view of the abbey keeping watch over the town below.

The train journey had been fairly arduous, a ten-hour affair leaving us tired, hungry and fairly cranky, but nonetheless we dropped off our bags and headed out straight away for food and a spot of sight-seeing. It was Halloween night, and couldn't have been more romantic - there was a light drizzle falling as we ascended the infamous stairs to Whitby Abbey (chili-spiced hot chocolate clasped firmly in hand) for an evening wander amongst the gravestones of St Mary's. We ended the day with a walk along the pier and a quick trip to Jumping Jack's, a 1950s-themed diner, for hot dogs and - in my case - an ice cream sundae as big as my head. Possibly my favourite Halloween ever, despite the utter lack of a costume!
The rest of our trip continued in similar vein - we missed one club night that we had planned to attend entirely because we were so intent on a conversation that we lost track of time - although I spent far too much money in the markets! Unfortunately I suffered a couple of migraines whilst we were there which meant we also didn't make some of the bands I had wanted to see, although I did scrape myself out of bed to see ten minutes of Alien Sex Fiend before I had to give in and return to the hotel. I was determined that I wouldn't miss them!

I loved how much the shopkeepers of Whitby contributed to the event - almost every stall and shop was selling some kind of Goth-themed product or had hung a 'Goths Welcome' sign; even the charity shops had decked out their windows with corsets, bustles and other spooky regalia. The restaurants were in on the act too; I treated myself to a bag of purple Whitby Goth Floss on the seafront and downed a Howling Goth Chili Burger at the Hatless Heron. My favourite place to go, however, was a lovely coffee shop called Sherlocks, decked out entirely in, well, you guessed it, Sherlock-themed decor. Beautiful and cosy! We had breakfast there one morning and for me it was a highlight of the trip!
Another highlight included fangirling over - I mean, meeting! - artist Anne Sudworth, whose work I've admired with all my heart since I saw a piece on her in a magazine. Not only did I buy myself an unframed print of her work 'Night' for my reading corner, but Dan bought me a copy of her latest book and she signed it for me and gave me a hug. I probably made an ass of myself and could only gibber incoherently for about half-an-hour afterwards, but it really made my day!

Music-wise, it was a delight to finally see the Fiend, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Mesh, Fangs on Fur, Inertia and Bad Pollyanna - I came home laden with their CDs. :-) Of course I had too much cider and danced badly - what would you expect? ;-D
In short, a trip definitely worth the taking, and I do hope that I will be able to go again in future. Also cannot recommend Dan more highly as a travelling companion, I enjoyed it all the more for him being there.

(P.S. I hope the images on this post are OK; I've used Tumblr as Google says I've reached my upload limit... oops.)

Life as a Recovering Goth

Hello there! As an introductory post this is somewhat unusual, I suppose, but I have a strong feeling that most of you reading this will know me from my older, Goth-oriented blog Stripy Tights and Dark Delights (or, as it was known once-upon-a-time, The Ultimate Goth Guide). It seems strange to be posting in a new place and introducing myself all over again, but as my interests have grown and changed it seemed unfair to dump new posts on top of followers who were looking for Goth-specific content alone.

Before I get started on regular(ish) blogstravaganzas, I thought I'd go straight for the nitty-gritty and talk about the changes that occured to make me reconsider my time as a Goth blogger.

Are you still a Goth?
Goth specifically? No. Dark culture is still something I hold dear, but the 'Goth' label began to feel a bit restricting, and I have branched out a little. I still consider myself very firmly 'alternative' and enjoy experimenting with varied subcultural fashions running the gamut from punk to Lolita. Although many areas of my life have a definite dark tinge, I don't generally call myself  a Goth.

Was it just a phase?
I'm inclined to say no - hopefully that's not just my vanity talking! By some (or many?) people's standards, of course, I never quite made it as a 'real Goff', but being a black-clad spookster for the last six years certainly made a big impact on who I am as a person and how I saw the world. Whilst I may no longer always feel the need to wander around beclad in a melancholic darkness (not that I was ever particularly melancholy - nor were most of the Goths with whom I became friends), making the choice to visually express the parts of myself that rose to the fore through dark culture was comforting, cathartic, enjoyable, challenging and fun.
Of course, those aspects of me that drew me to dark culture still remain and are still celebrated - I am an avid bookworm with a particular fondness for dark faerie tales, the paranormal, Gothic literature and, yes, vampires; I find cemeteries beautiful and peaceful; I adore dark fashion in all, if not many, of its manifestations; I have an enduring fondness for fantasy art, particularly with darker aspects... etc, etc, etc. None of these, of couse, are particularly 'Goth' traits, but many of those who associate themselves with dark culture, if not the Goth scene specifically, will know where I am coming from!

As long as the part of me that drew me to dark culture in the first instance remains, I will still thoroughly enjoy such cliche activities as hanging bats from my ceiling, stomping around in my New Rock boots, tearing up my fishnets and kicking back with a glass of absinthe. (Needless to say, my taste in music continues unchanged - although those guilty pleasures are no longer so guilty!) Which is why I don't personally look on my time as a devoted darkling as 'just a phase' - it was, and is, an enormous part of who I am, no matter how I do or do not dress.

What happened?
I started to feel disillusioned with the Goth scene around January this year, and that feeling grew until I was definitely sure that Goth was no longer a label I wanted to apply to myself, to the point of giving up blogging and taking time off from the internet to evaluate who I really was (cheesy, I know!), how I wanted to express myself, and essentially, whether the life I was living was the right one for me.

For me, the trouble with belonging to a specific subculture is that I felt I had to live up to other people's expectations of what a proper Goth should be if I wanted to 'earn' the label, which after a while felt limiting and uncomfortable. I learned that I prefer a more fluid, general descriptor like 'alternative', because there were things outside even the most vague boundaries of dark fashion drawing my attention, and I didn't want to just shut off the side of myself that wanted to (for example) wear florals and no make-up.

As I blogged back in March, "Long-time readers will know that crimping personal tastes to fit labels is certainly not what I'm about and never will be. I was reminded of those slightly awkward adolescent years when I tried to buy the 'right' clothes to impress the 'right' people, and something inside me rebelled against the idea of reliving a time when I didn't feel good enough to be accepted for who I was. The Goth label had begun to feel a bit redundant; I still loved most things about the fashion, music and culture but I no longer felt sure that the tag applied to me. I liked having the freedom to experiment with fashion, the quirkier the better, and experience different styles and genres of music without feeling like a fraud for calling myself a Goth."

I spent most of this year ricocheting between trying to reconcile my darker tastes with my newfound appreciation for other styles, and trying to shoehorn myself back into the Goth box (now there's an image!). For many people, Goth is more than a fleeting event in their lives - it works with most parts of their identity and fits them like a second skin. For me, sadly, it became only a smaller part of a larger whole.

What will you be blogging about now?
Oh, Goth stuff... ;-)

Well, yes, probably, some of that. Once dark culture has a hold on you, it never fully lets go! However, I don't intent to tout myself as a Gothy expert - simply what I am, an enthusiast and appreciator of that style and subculture.
I'm afraid there will also be some personal stuff; some over-excited and gleeful notes on styles that have captured my attention from week to week (teapunk! Apparently this is a thing!); crafting and DIY, as I'm getting more and more into it by the day; book reviews; and, well, you'll have to wait and see what else I've got up my sleeve!

I don't expect this blog to achieve the success that The Ultimate Goth Guide once did (more by luck than judgement), and I'd like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who came along for the ride and who gave their support. <3 If any of you do choose to stick around, that would be delightful, and I look forward to sharing my journey with all of you!

Many hugs and sparkly bats!
Amy xxx