THE WHITBY GOTHS
Whitby is a small fishing village on the north east coast of England famous for a number of reasons. One being its connections with Captain James Cook the 18th Century British explorer and also for one if its sons Frank Meadows Sutcliffe the 19th Century photographer.
In the late 1890's an Irish theatre critic and part time author, Abraham Stoker stayed at Whitby, taking the sea air for health reasons. Whitby with its maze of narrow streets and winding alleyways, along with its Saxon abbey of St Hilda and haunting St Mary's church graveyard perched on a hill overlooking the town provided the inspiration for Bram, as he came to be known, to pen the 19th Century classic "Dracula". A dark tale of the supernatural, part of which is set in Whitby and the dramatic backdrop of the town added to the books success. Even today it remains unequalled as the definitive vampire story.
St Hilda's Abbey - 199 steps lead from the town to the abbey
That could well have been the end of the tale however in 1994 around Halloween a group of people dressed in black with an uneasy resemblance to 19th Century vampires descended on the town for the weekend.
Goth Girl - White make up helps the gaunt look
Initially local people and traders were a little uneasy and because of their appearance viewed these visitors with suspicion. In fact only one public house in the town, the Elsinore, would serve them. Undeterred the Whitby Goths, as they were now called, returned the following year and by 1997 the "Goths weekend" was firmly established as a twice yearly event.
Who were the Goths? Originally Goths were a Germanic tribe, particularly feared by enemies because of their custom of sacrificing captives to their god of war Tyz. They played an important role in the downfall of the Roman Empire. Through time the name Goth became linked with barbarian and uncultured. During the Renaissance period medieval architecture was disrespectfully referred to as "Gothic" and considered ugly. Fashions changed and by the late 18th Century nostalgia for medieval style led to a Gothic architectural revival.
In the late 19th Century Victorian interest in the supernatural, ruined castles/churches, ghosts and vampires resulted in the creation of the most famous gothic character of all time.....Dracula himself. It was fashionable for bright young things to dress as creatures of the night.....the first generation Goths had appeared.
Man in Black - Dog chain leads are a popular accessory
Movies and TV programs starting in the 1960's continued the Goth revival with camp comedies like "The Adams Family" and "The Munsters."
The late 1970's punk scene, itself a backlash away from the early 1970's glam rock grew and developed into Goth pop rock. Suzie and the Banshees were hailed as one of the first great Goth rock bands. This scene has continued to grow and develop in cult popularity.
That in a nutshell is where the modern generation of Goths came from.
Each year the range of Goths, at Whitby, increases, Vampire Goths, Biker Goths, Punk Goths, Cyber Goths, Transvestite Goths, Mohican Goths, Dreadlock Goths, Military Goths there are even Frankenstein Goths and one Yogi Bear has been seen lurking in the shadows.
I've best heard it described that the Goth is an expressionist movement. It can mean all things to different people. However make no mistake the people taking part go to great lengths to ensure that they are immaculately presented. An example of the lengths some people go to is having enlarged canine teeth permanently affixed over existing canine teeth. This really does help the Dracula impression. The weekends have turned into three day and night events
For some a Goth is a strange looking individual akin to a cross between a vampire and a zombie. However they are really just ordinary people who like to role play and dress up to look different. The weekends at Whitby attract Goths from all over the world. Last Halloween I met people from all far afield as the USA, Australia, Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
Everyone I met was friendly and loved to have their photograph taken, nothing was too much trouble. The Goths weekend is now a trade fair where all manner of appropriate clothing can be bought. Live bands play through the night to a full house at the Spa Pavilion at Whitby. The Goths bring a lot of revenue into the town and are welcomed everywhere they go.
It's strange to think all this started in 1897 when Dracula's ship crashed on the beach at Whitby. Taking the form of a giant black dog the vampire leapt to shore and took refuge in the graveyard at the summit of the 199 steps...............the rest is history!
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