This past weekend was ‘Goth Weekend’ in Whitby, one of two equally titled events organised by the same people that take place in Spring and Autumn (usually Halloween weekend) in Whitby each year. As I live just six miles from this charming and charismatic seaside town, it’s a real treat for us to be able to pop into town during Goth Weekend and immerse ourselves amongst the incredible sights, sounds and visions. Our lovely little town is already magical (really, it is, I’m convinced of that) but during goth Weekend, something quite special happens. For a couple of wonderful days, it turns into a perfect little Utopia.
Whitby is the ideal home for Goth Weekend; a town that inspired Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, it is steeped in mysterious haunted history. There are ghost trails that you can join at night time and I dare anyone to take the Dracula Haunted House experience and not leave having jumped out of your skin at least once. It’s the perfect backdrop therefore for an event that is designed to celebrate the gothic subculture in all in it’s dark mysteriousness – and more lighthearted homages.
One thing I notice every time a Goth Weekend occurs but never more so than this Saturday was how ‘at home’ everyone is. How relaxed people are to wonder around the streets in outfits that fall at every place on the ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ spectrum. There are those strictly and most authentically loyal to the Goth subculture – they wander mostly as hand holding couples with long dark hair and big boots, extravagant piercings. I have stopped many such individuals over the past few years to compliment them and ask if I can take a photograph – they always oblige with a smile and good grace. There are Steampunk fans sporting the most crazy over the top mechanical contraptions designed to stop crowds – which they do, and for which said individuals enjoy posing proudly. There are foxes and wolves and husbands, wives and their offspring dressed up as the Addams Family, children kitted out as zombies, women walking in corsets and fishnet tights and nothing much else other than an outrageous mask.
I was in town with my youngest on Saturday and had an hour spare to capture some images. The atmosphere was so uplifting. There were a lot of people but not enough to make you worry about crowd control. Nevertheless, the image below sums up how busy it was in some areas of town.
Regardless of this, individuals went out of their way to help the people next to them get past, to make space if someone wanted to take a photograph, to create room for the Goth lady in the wheelchair so that she could stop and have conversation with those around her without feeling overwhelmed.
I stopped for a few minutes to observe and take this scene in – people of all ages, some of them dressed up in the most outlandish outfits, just enjoying being there with one another – no trouble, no drunkenness spilling from the pubs and causing trouble, no anti-goths or anyone causing friction, just people wanting to be with other people and have a good time. Gentleness and kindness, joy and fun abound.
In amidst all the head-turning crazy, there were a number of people quietly soaking it all in. Present, and very much a part of it all, but in a more subtle manner. They might have been dressed up, unrecognisable even to their usual every day selves – men dressed as women, women dressed as men – individuals who felt they could be free to be themselves for a magical two days in a magical town. I spoke to one of them – he was from Essex, a gentleman dressed in Gothic transvestite garb. He looked incredible and told me how much he enjoyed coming to Goth Weekend, because “everyone is always so friendly, and you can just be yourself round here, no one ever judges you.”
I nodded and smiled but didn’t ask to take his picture. I didn’t want him to think I was only interested in that. It was confirmation right there and then however, that this wonderfully fun and fabulous event is more than a game of dress-up for some. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something where acceptance is the norm, where weirdness is welcomed and where inclusivity plays an important role.
I paused to think how utterly wonderful that is and it reminded me of the words often quoted at weddings, by American author, Robert Fulghum; ‘We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.’
The streets of Whitby are full of love and acceptance during Whitby Goth Weekend. It is an event that reminds me how wonderful it is to be unashamedly yourself.
I’m not sure the dates for the October 2018 event have been confirmed yet but it usually always co-incides with Halloween – I’d encourage you to visit sometime. You’ll have a blast and leave with a smile on your face, for sure.