Whitby – One Month On

WHITBY by night3

First and foremost : A huge thank you to all the wonderful people I met, interviewed, chatted with, photographed and spent time with in Whitby, London, Manchester, Vancouver and all the other stops along the way.   It was brilliant to meet so many folks who were willing to share their stories and be part of this project – thank you for donating your time to my research.

I owe particular thanks to the people I spoke with in Whitby at both the Bram Stoker International Film Festival and the Whitby Goth Weekend.  Thank you for giving up valuable festival time to talk with me about your experiences in the Goth Subculture.

I truly appreciate the efforts you made to fit this project into your schedule. Your honesty, good humour, acceptance, generosity and integrity is a rare and wonderful thing and your contributions are greatly valued.

Bram Stoker International Film Festival 2015

From a research perspective, the weeks in Whitby are critical to the data-gathering phase of my study and time spent there has generated material which I will draw on throughout my project including lots of fantastic conversations and visuals.

From a personal perspective, the trip was hugely inspiring and has renewed my commitment to pursue this research and to write about the Goth subculture.

At a time when so much energy seems to be devoted to writing about societal division it is of some comfort to be reflecting on experiences of belonging.


 

Bram Stoker International Film Festival 2015

 Where to from here?

For the immediate future, I am working through the data I amassed overseas and writing up my notes.

Then, it is time for the Australian contingent!

I will be scheduling interviews in Australia over the next few months, and will reopen the Australian survey to correspond with these interviews.

 

Once again, thank you to everyone who has contributed to and supported this research.

Cheers,

Emma

          Whitby Goth Weekend 2015 (October)

 

 

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Survey reopened

With all the events coming up this month, I have reopened the full International survey for a short time only for those who wish to participate – especially if you are attending a gig, event or festival in Europe.

Thank you if you completed this survey earlier in the year – there is no need to repeat it!

It will stay open throughout the Whitby Goth Weekend and event season, into the first couple of weeks of November.

 

Surveys are now closed – thank you for your responses.

Thank you to everyone who has expressed interest in this research.

I am looking forward to interviewing over the next few weeks.  Thanks also to everyone who has already participated particularly the very generous folks who have taken time out of festivities to chat to me – your contributions are greatly appreciated.

If you are interested in participating further – feel free to contact me by email or Facebook.

Thanks again,

Emma

Just a Phase – New Mini Surveys

Welcome to Just a Phase? Goth Subculture as an identity constant beyond youth.  

This research seeks to improve understanding of the subculture, to share thoughts and experiences with other Goths (and researchers) especially those, like me, who have continued to be involved with Goth well beyond youth!

 

Thank you to all the wonderful people who recently responded to my series of long surveys about the Goth subculture.

Your contributions are greatly appreciated and the wealth of data provided will keep me busy for a long while to come…

The long surveys are now closed for analysis – however I am still keen to receive input.

 

Over the coming months I will be publishing a semi-regular series of very short short (5-10 question) surveys on particular aspects of the subculture identified by survey participants as being central to Goth.

The first in these mini surveys is about Music & Media.

 

Surveys now Closed – thank you for your responses!

 

Surveys Closing!

The current surveys will be closed for analysis on

August 15th 2015


 https://isgothjustaphase.com/2015/05/20/goth-subculture-survey/

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the surveys.
Additional shorter surveys will follow for those who wish to stay involved.

I am following up the surveys with interviews and group discussions, first in the UK.

I will be scheduling interviews in London around October 18th 2015

& then to coincide with the Bram Stoker Film Festival and Whitby Goth Weekend in Whitby October 22nd – November 1st 2015.

 

Thank you for taking the survey - if you are coming to Whitby and you are interested in taking part in the project, let me know, it would be great to talk in person.

Thank you for taking the survey – if you are coming to Whitby and you are interested in taking part in the project, let me know, it would be great to talk in person.

Contact me via Facebook – Goth Phase or at isgothjustaphase.com

I look forward to sharing findings from the surveys in the coming months.

Thanks again for supporting this project, and I might just see you at Whitby!!!
Emma.

 


Just a Phase? Goth Subculture as an identity constant beyond youth.  

Finding the right words

Finding the right words

A central pillar of commencing my research has been the identification of the term ‘Goth’ as being a culturally acceptable moniker for the broader phenomenon of the Gothic subculture and its various subsets. As discussed by Sweet[1], there is an apparent shortage of empirical and interview data from which to analyse and extend discourse on the Goth subculture and its participants; this research project seeks to contribute to rectifying this deficit. Survey reply volumes received to date well exceed my initial estimates for responses; consequently appropriate analysis of compiled data will take considerable time. In obtaining a high response rate I hope to best represent the subculture, statistically, and provide an extensive account of and insights into the personal, social and stylistic motivations of the scene.

Prior to writing the surveys for this study, I invested much time and consideration into finding the right words to describe the subculture and its participants. Among my initial methodologies was surveying myself and assessing my own attitudes and feelings towards the terminology used by, for, about and on the subculture before talking further about those terms with friends and acquaintances in the scene.

Chief among my decisions was a definitive “No Gothic” approach.

Selection of words used by survey respondents to describe & discuss Goth

Snapshot of words used by survey respondents to describe & discuss Goth

As described in the brief ‘notes on terminology’[2] provided at the start of my surveys, my own reading of the term Gothic is very much to do with identifiable periods of historical aesthetics, architecture and the Gothic revivalist tradition of the 19th century. All these feature heavily in the Goth subculture, and are indeed critical in defining its style, design and aesthetics.

However, for me, Goth is not Gothic. Goth exists in its own right as a personal style, an identity signifier, quite distinct from architecture or literary genres. Goth, in my view, has consummately established itself to such an extent that it can be viewed as its own phenomenon, its own thing beyond a subculture – a culture.

When writing my research questions, I was acutely aware that my positioning of Goth in all its forms as a discrete phenomenon may not be shared by all my fellow scene participants, and would most likely be challenged academically. In the interests of stimulating debate and furthering discussions on the notion of Goth as a culture which extends its importance throughout life, I felt this distinction was, and is, warranted.

As the first point of enquiry, my surveys ask respondents to chose a Goth aesthetic with which they most identify, respondents are further asked to describe the subculture and provide terms they most associate with the subculture[3]. Since commencing analysis of the initial response data, patterns are emerging which reveal the complexity of terminology used within the culture, and reflect the ongoing struggle of participants to self-identify using consistent catch-all terms or even a common set of terms.

Respondents exhibit a genuine desire to contribute to the discussion and understanding of the culture and its motivations, providing detailed personal accounts of their involvement in the culture and applying intellectual rigour to their answers to ensure their notions of subcultural identity are unambiguous. Rather than engaging in a collective “quasi-nostalgia for an imagined past”[4] participants appear to fully engage with efforts to authentically portray the culture and consistently express a desire to provide credible representations of the stylistic choices made when adopting such a recognisable subcultural identity. That the subculture can withstand such critique from within, illustrates the level of maturity reached by the culture and the conviction of some participants in its constancy beyond a youthful experiment.

Goth aesthetics (or Goth identity types)

Goth aesthetics (or Goth identity types)

The data to date demonstrates participants’ capacity to cogently self-analyse their relationships with Goth, as well as articulating a genuine desire to provide a measured and truthful description of stylistic and social convictions of the culture. In considering early data snapshots it is apparent the notion of conscious, individualised and considered self-identification is fundamental to participants. When provided with a list of seventeen recognised Goth aesthetics (or identity types) a significant proportion of respondents chose option 18 (‘other’ response category) and provided their own authentic interpretation of Goth.

A demonstration of the significance respondents place on terminology can further be seen in the vocabulary used by participants to describe their image, subcultural style and identity (as per the illustration above).  Preliminary analysis of free-text responses has demonstrated respondents have a thorough understanding of the social and cultural implications of their active association with an ‘outsider’ culture.

Additionally, several respondents have made direct email contact to elaborate further on their answers and provide clarification on terminology in relation to social interactions and beliefs in order to ensure suitable labels are applied to Goth identity in public discourse.

Goth subculture, like any other social group, relies on its own unconscious/unspoken rules and conventions, social etiquettes and visual signifiers to communicate belonging.  The broad spectrum of striking apparel evident in the now decades old scene, promotes stylistic flexibility within the culture, and allows participants to experiment with different images without abandoning fundamental Goth sensibilities.

The “sense of theatre… created and enhanced by the diversity of costumes and looks”[5] that the subculture now fosters, enables participants to embody varied incarnations of their Goth persona and express individualised interpretations of Goth style without losing that necessary sense of belonging to the culture. That Goth culture sustains such a diverse range of distinct ‘types’ of Goths is testament to the scene’s ability to adapt, embrace and indulge different passions and preoccupations – however we label them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Sweet, Derek R. More Than Goth: The Rhetorical Reclamation of the Subcultural Self Popular Communication, 2005, Vol.3(4), p.239-264 pp243

[2] See: isgothjustaphase.com – surveys

[3] For example: International Survey Question 5 “Choosing from the list below – with which of the Goth aesthetics do you most identify (choose most appropriate or provide your own answer)”

[4] Cherry, B. and Mellins, M. (2012), ‘Negotiating the Punk in Steampunk: Subculture, Fashion & Performative Identity’, Punk & Post-Punk 1: 1, pp. 5–25, doi: 10.1386/punk.1.1.5_1

[5] Christina Goulding & Michael Saren (2009) Performing identity: an analysis of gender expressions at the Whitby goth festival, Consumption Markets & Culture, 12:1, 27-46, DOI: 10.1080/10253860802560813

Back in the Day: Perth Goth Club Scene 1989-1998

GothEye Back in the Day: Memories of the Perth Goth Club Scene 1989-1998 As discussed in a previous post, I have been exploring the visual nature of the Goth community as a source of inspiration and impetus for my research.  By digging through my old shoe-boxes of clubbing memorabilia and photographing some of its contents I am attempting to catalogue an indicative selection of club flyers, gig pamphlets and other ephemera from the Perth[1] Goth scene in the decade 1989-1998. A few are included here, and I will continue to add more to my Pinterest page as I digitise them throughout this project. During this time there were several highly creative, motivated and capable people in the Perth scene who collectively made stuff happen!

Amnesia 1

Amnesia Club Entry Card …Admit One

The flyers provide an illustration of the club/event activities of the subculture at the time; the start of this time period marks my early involvement in the club scene through my most active clubbing years during which I helped organise and promote Goth and Goth-Industrial club nights. The geographic isolation of Perth inspired an entrepreneurial approach to social enterprise within the Goth scene during this period.  With the costs of travel high, bands seldom scheduled lengthy tours of Australia, and when they did the far-flung city of Perth was often left off itineraries.

Who else remembers the I need a Cure tour petition??

Firm2

Inner City Firm – Club entry card c.1991

While this resulted in a limited number of major bands performing in the city during this period,  it succeeded in creating a self-supporting culture with an active club and local bands scene. Additionally, for some this isolation inspired travel and provided a catalyst for establishing connections between Goths living in Perth and communities overseas and interstate, which in itself generated diversity through drawing in external influences.

Skin Atrocity 3rd Birthday

Skin – The New Loft

Most people involved in the Perth Goth scene during this period actively contributed towards sustaining its social and economic activities beyond attendance at club nights and gigs. Members of the subculture established record stores, fashion design labels/stores, club nights, publications and other services to keep the subculture not just alive but thriving. A result of this communal desire to improve and support the subculture was a proliferation of specialised club nights and events, (particularly between 1992-5) organised by scene members with the support of nightclub proprietors.  The level of activity, as illustrated by these flyers, gave the Perth Goth and Industrial scene a strong support base which was further enhanced by retail enterprises such as specialist stores and aesthetic services such as body piercing, tattooing and hair-dressing.

The-Loft4

The Loft

This evolving sophistication of the Goth culture is also reflected in the production quality of the scene-generated ephemera.  Initially, the quality of the materials appears secondary to the primary purpose of effectively advertising events to the subculture in suitably familiar language, using in-culture references and styles to speak to the ‘right’ audience.   Improvements in technology, access to materials and reduction in printing costs during this period is evidenced by the transition of many of the brochures from cheap, photocopied amateur productions to more professional materials. Within this vibrant community, the emergence of subgenres is evidenced in the various club pamphlets.  Some venues specialised in particular styles of music – industrial, alternative, indie-pop, Goth – and  provided a venue in which events could be scheduled so as to satisfy the shared tastes of subsets within the larger Goth population.  Individual DJs delivered dependable setlists which catered to the needs of the various key audiences.

Ascension1

Ascension

Growing from the Punk scene, early Goth nightclubs of the late 1980s (such as The Red Parrot, Asylum, Inner City Firm, Fruition, Amnesia among others) provided the Perth scene with predominantly English-influenced Gothic Rock nights and my first introduction to the scene.  These clubs featured music from bands who themselves often did not consider their music Goth, nevertheless the music was (and is) heavily favoured by Traditional (Trad) Goths and played in almost all Goth clubs.

Berlin Club

Berlin Club Flyer c.1992

Industrial music had begun to find commercial success in the early 1990s; frequently featuring Goth-influenced imagery, alternative iconography and dark themes; it was a natural high-energy companion to the comparatively sedate musical approach of Goth.   The flourishing Industrial genre heavily influenced Perth Goth club nights, with setlists often featuring a mixture of Goth/Electro/Industrial and other alternative genres to a lesser degree, with a marked increase in the number of dance-oriented club events being scheduled in the early-mid 1990s.

Geremiahs 10

Desolation at Geremiah’s Nightclub c.1995

The promotional material represents the spectrum of aesthetics within the Goth scene, with Industrial flyers often favouring harsher, mechanised forms and horror themes.  Goth flyers utilise vampire, kitsch-horror and Victorian-influenced imagery to define and promote more traditionally influenced Goth events.  Alongside these are other alternative bands and genres including shoe-gazer and indie sets.  These distinctions demonstrate the stylistic differences in terms of music styles and visual representation as well as  design/iconography within the scene, simultaneously it shows the Goth subculture’s ability to co-exist with compatible music styles and social groups. In 1990s Perth, there was an amicable yet apparent schism between those who principally favoured less energetic rock-based music (the Trad-Goth aesthetics) in comparison to the parallel genre broadly grouped under the moniker Industrial, featuring faster, more electronic dance-oriented music styles, less formal Goth-influenced dress and an emphasis on dancing rather than exclusively focussing on social interaction within the club environment.  Clubs nights at Geremiah’s, The Loft, Interzone and Skin  (among others) catered for those who sought dance-intensive nights primarily featuring Electro Body Music (EBM) and Industrial tracks with strong Goth influences.

Recoil 1

Recoil – The Loft, Post-Detonation c.1995

With music containing mechanical and electronic noises accompanying heavily distorted vocals, the Industrial music genre also generated an occasionally uneasy association with heavy metal and thrash music; genres less congruent with the more flamboyant Goth scene.  This shared patronage, however, helped sustain the subculture and provided financial stability in an otherwise niche market in a geographically isolated city. At times this resulted in uneasiness, when patrons unfamiliar with Goth aesthetics  reacted to the extreme styles of the Goth patrons, sometimes approaching Goths with benign curiosity, sometimes with genuine animosity and attempts to generate confrontation.  While these events were rare, the reliance on nightclub proprietors to provide space for Goth events, in part  prompted future generations of the scene to be more self-managing, establishing dedicated Goth events management and membership-based clubs such as Dominion to better serve the needs of the Goth community.

Interzone - Club Industrial

Interzone 1994

The flyers presented here articulate by example the self-generating and sustaining nature of the Perth Goth and Industrial scene and record a period of high creative activity in the subculture.   The ephemera itself represents examples of subculture specific iconography and thematic preoccupations, and demonstrate the scene’s ability to effectively self-promote and instinctively engage with its participants.[2]

Dominion1

Dominion c. 1998

[1] Perth, Western Australia for basic information about the city see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perth [2] Not all clubs of the period are represented here, just a sketch of the overall scene.  I will continue to add to this theme in future posts, including excerpts from various street press and other media.

Survey Update – Week One!

Survey Update

To all of you wonderful people who responded to my call for survey participants  – a heartfelt thank you.

I have been genuinely overwhelmed by your positivity, generosity and openness and your intelligent and articulate responses.    Collation and analysis of the data is going to take considerable time.

I am determined to present a thorough, authentic and detailed study of the subculture reflecting on the key themes of the research and hopefully incorporating as many of your contributions as possible.

To everyone who indicated that you are interested in participating in interviews, meetings or contributing through other means, thank you!  I will contact you in the coming weeks to discuss interview options.

Thank you all again.

Emma.

Whitby Spires Through Window Arch