Another Whitby Goth Weekend has been and gone and the arguments have started again. This time, it seems less about the paparazzi style invasive photographers and more about the weapons issue that I mentioned in this article from the last WGW (Whitby Goth Weekend). There’s also a relatively new problem that seems to be rearing its head. That problem is disgruntled Goths who attend the event but don’t think that steampunks should be there.
Whitby Goth Weekend press coverage
In the Guardian, they posted a number of pictures of the event but somehow seemed to miss Goths off of the list for the most part and concentrated on steampunks. That didn’t really help matters and the disappointment soon set in from Goths.
“Yet again another Whitby Goth Weekend article with no actual goth just people in fancy dress I would just love one year when they actually put the real goths oo 😦 it makes a real mockery out of us that are actual Goths that go for the music event that it is” – Emma Morgan
This is a fair point and is aimed directly at the publication. Why would the newspaper not photograph that many Goths? To me it’s one of four outcomes:
- They don’t understand the difference between Goth and steampunk
- They didn’t know steampunks were attending (which essentially links to outcome 1)
- Goths aren’t as interested in having pictures taken as steampunks
- They don’t like either Goths or the Goth outfits/they thought Goth clothing is too “extreme”
I’m surmising, of course; the Guardian has never actually taken the stance of the fourth point, or indeed any of them. There’s only one or two in there that could be considered Goth, which strikes me as a bit odd.
This issue in turn led to another as the blame started to fall at the feet of the attending steampunks.
“Steam punks hijack Goth weekend should have been the title.”
This quote came from username Gerald Fisher. The Good Thief left a few light-hearted comments including this one:
“I came to this article expecting some interesting pictures.
Little did I know I would be stepping into the middle of sectarian warfare between goths and steampunks!
Oh the humanity!”
Despite the amusing approach, there was a good point being made in this statement, both in both the irony and the absurdity of it. The reason it’s absurd is because it’s just some pictures and not representative of why steampunks go or that steampunks are taking anything away from the Goths who attend WGW. It’s ironic, because – as The Good Thief rightly pointed out later on – a group which “defines itself through deviation from normal societal expectations [seeks] to exclude others who deviate from the norms of their own sub-group.” If you didn’t follow that, it means that Goths pride themselves on being different to what society would consider “normal” and stick to their principles, even when faced with extreme peril. Despite them sticking to these principles, a growing number now wish to exclude people in a similar position.
Being this principled is an admirable trait and one that I’ve cited as the reason that individuality is more commonplace today. I’ve spoken to many Goths (mostly at steampunk events). I’ve told them that if it wasn’t for them changing people’s attitudes to difference, other subcultures would either be not as much in the public eye or even maybe not exist at all.
This all seems to be lost though, as one user going by the name of Zaphod Bebelbrox complained that while it may seem as something to chuckle over, when Goths are trying to find accommodation in a small coastal town with limited space, it’s disheartening when the steampunks have taken them all in advance. How this user knows that it’s all steampunks who have taken the spaces is anyone’s guess. After all, there’s no denying that year on year, WGW becomes more popular with ever more people visiting. Who’s to say that tourists aren’t also taking these spaces?
This event is over 20 years old and is always held at the same time of year. Some accomodation takes advance bookings for known events, so bookings can be made early. There’s nothing stopping them booking early to avoid this kind of disappointment. It’s easier to blame the steampunks, though, it would seem.
Zaphod Bebelbrox then goes on to say that Goths are completely open to anyone attending the event as long as they identify themselves as Goth. He (?) then goes on to say that Goth being an inclusive community for anyone is a myth. There are three points that I see which contradict this statement. First of all, this person can’t possibly speak for all Goths. Second, the WGW website has this statement on the front page:
The organisers quite rightly accept anyone to attend, just like steampunk events welcome anyone. It’s the right thing to do and to say otherwise creates an atmosphere of animosity. Thirdly, as I previously mentioned the response that a community built on being different doesn’t welcome other people being different. That’s an odd stance to take. I would think the sacrifices they’ve made over the decades by standing up for what they believe in would make them more compassionate to other people in a similar position.
The Goths who are the most vocal are the ones who don’t like the steampunks attending what they consider to be their event. They don’t like that it makes the event busy and they don’t like that the steampunks don’t go to watch the music in which is essentially a music festival. Those are fair points. On the other hand, the steampunk community is huge and will be providing a large portion of income for the organisers of the festival and people who trade there.
If the steampunks left Whitby, those traders could lose a lot of revenue and it a possible knock on effect is that it could potentially shrink the event. On the surface, it seems the people who want to “reclaim Whitby Goth Weekend” aren’t concerned with that. They just want the “interlopers” to leave. Could that even be at the expense of losing the event? I don’t actually think they want the event to diminish so much that it fails entirely. Am I also be putting too much faith in steampunk as a crutch for what could still be a successful event? It appears that in their apparent angst about steampunks attending WGW, they’ve overlooked the long-term issues that it could cause. This whole episode begs the question:
Out of respect for Goths and the Goth culture, should steampunks back away from Whitby Goth Weekend and leave it completely with Goths?
Thankfully, it’s a relatively minor issue that’s triggered this thought. It’s not like someone has got hurt from clashing steampunks and Goths. However, it made me wonder what could be underlying those comments left on the Guardian pages. A national newspaper has visited Whitby Goth Weekend and taken pictures of people. They’ve selected their favourites and posted them online. Most of the pictures are of steampunks and that irked some Goths. That’s not the fault of the steampunks, but they seem to be getting the brunt of the blame and that’s not right.