The future of steampunks at Whitby Goth Weekend

copyright photofairground
copyright photofairground

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:

  1. They don’t understand the difference between Goth and steampunk
  2. They didn’t know steampunks were attending (which essentially links to outcome 1)
  3. Goths aren’t as interested in having pictures taken as steampunks
  4. 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.

Principles

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:

Whitby Goth Weekend welcomes all on the Home 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.

Despondency

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.

 

19 thoughts on “The future of steampunks at Whitby Goth Weekend

  1. At first I didn’t mind the steampunks, but it’s the sheer numbers. I even heard some complaining about the music which was goth I might add.
    This angered me and I reminded them it’s WHITBY GOTH WEEKEND, if you don’t like it go home.
    Just another point I live in Lincoln down Bailgate, during your Asylum weekend last year I went to the bank and as a Goth I was in my black alternative clothing. I actually heard two different groups of steampunks tutting and complaining about goths been their, I sharply told them I lived here and very close by as this was at the top of the hill, they immediately fell silent.
    As you can see I have had a few confrontational incidents with steampunks, if you now have your February date then why do you still come here?
    I will say though there was a lot more Goths this time, whether its to do with Halloween I don’t know….April this year was bad, steampunks were about 90% of the population. All my goth friends don’t go anymore because of this, within the next five years I reckon it will decline very fast with the goths and the weekend will be recalled Whitby steampunk weekend, this will be three weekends you have their amongst all your other plentiful venues that take place all over the country.

    Ian

    Disgruntled Goth.

    1. Hi Ian,
      I’m so sorry you had those experiences. I guess to some people it can be easily forgotten that it’s a Goth event even with it in the title. Perhaps some people have chosen to assume that the “goth” is short for gothic as a style instead of a culture? I don’t know and I also don’t agree that they should complain about Goths attending a steampunk event. Steampunk is all welcoming and if you’re made to feel anything other than completely welcome then they’re doing it wrong.
      I’ve spoken to many Goths and it’s always been at a steampunk event. I welcome them whole heartedly. Like I said in the article, I have a lot of respect for Goths because I believe they paved the way for people to show their individuality by standing up for what they believed in despite such hatred and ridicule in the old days.

      We do have WSW now and it’s entirely possible that we may stop going to WGW but I do know a lot of people like going, so it may continue. The last thing we want is to take over the event. We’re not there to claim it as ours, we’re there because we see similarities between the two cultures and want to celebrate individuality with our Goth brothers and sisters.
      In regards to it declining, the steampunk population of WGW have helped expand the festival to the size it is today and a lot of money comes into the town because of it. The town would suffer if we went away from WGW. With both events, the town will see a larger influx of money. As word gets out about WSW, tourists will come to see it just like they do at Asylum and that will help boost the economy of Whitby. That’s surely a good thing, right? 🙂

    2. Hi again Ian,
      Well done at asserting your goth credentials in Lincoln. As you may remember, I did mention last time that you would be welcomed with open arms. I do apologise if you found this not to be the case, but it may not come as a shock that we have also been on the receiving end of pointed barbs from the goth community and this may have been retaliatory. Not forgivable I realise, but some have been quite roughly treated in the past and may not be as confident as you are in speaking up for themselves at the time. I would have opened my arms to you as I tend to dress on the darker side of the spectrum myself, but then you obviously didn’t encounter me. It’s really a shame when people subject others to intolerance in any form, wouldn’t you agree?
      Personally I wasn’t at Whitby this time around, you did mention that you’d be giving it a miss too although by the sounds of it you changed your mind.

      If you want to meet up at any point with the Steampunks who will welcome you with open arms, try the Victoria on a Wednesday night. They tend to congregate there maybe, they can change your mind if you go with an open one.

      Mark

  2. This is a great piece, and speaks sober words to both subcultures. The only thing that I think the goth community could claim as a legitimate concern is that there are members of their own community who do not want to attend because members of other fringe subcultures are outnumbering them.

    Sorry, but this is what success tastes like. As stated in this article, without the injection of money from the steampunk economy (an older crowd for sure, with more money) events like this would be on their last legs.

    And on the other side – if the steampunks don’t want to attend the concerts because they are all goth bands, that’s unfortunate and shallow, and could also contribute to bringing down the festival in a different way.

    But seriously – I’m on my way to the hospital to get stitches from busting open my gut laughing at these issues. As an aging deathrocker/goth/steampunk/metal scene veteran from an area of the world with no such events – you all need to learn to know how good you have it.

    Goths- if you are serious about making it your event, book your goddamn hotels in advance. The event is popular now. Get over it. Steampunks – it’s a GOTH festival. Complaining about the bands is like complaining that you can’t see in the dark.

  3. “At first I didn’t mind the steampunks”

    As a steampunk (predominantly) I do sympathise with the Goth perspective.
    It IS primarily a Goth event. If I were to visit Whitby I would most likely choose to coincide my visit with the Goth weekend because I respect and enjoy Goths and Goth culture. However, whereas in the past I may have been tempted to S’punk it up a bit to keep in the spirit, I’m conscious now that the Gothic-essence of the event seems in danger of being overwhelmed by us Steampunks, if only because the eye of the media seems to home in on the novel eccentricities of steampunk flamboyance over the well established dark mood of goth aesthetics. I fully grasp how this might cause resentment. Now, if I were to attend Whitby I should think I would make a special effort to ensure my attire supports the gothic spirit rather than dilutes it. “When in Rome…”

    As for Lincoln Asylum I’ll always just as pleased to see Goths as am Steampunks – I do think there’s room for crossover at both events, indeed I’ve seen Steam-goth carried off very well; there’s definitely a place for it.
    Many Steampunks I know are former Goths after all, or have a foot in both ‘camps’.
    Lets not allow ourselves to fall prey to the divisive spirit that seems to be spreading through the nation right now.

    1. HI
      Just read your comments, and you brought some good points to the table, especially the `When in Rome` analogy. Surely the steampunks could help and show respect for the Goth culture and dress in black but still as steampunk s to show support just for WGW.

      Just an idea.

      1. Many do Ian. In fact, the examples in the article are a gothic Victoriana style (more commonly known as Dreadpunk now) but it hasn’t stopped the complainers about it.
        We’re an accommodating bunch so if some organisers could get their heads together and encourage it as one voice, that may have more impact? Sadly the organiser of the Yorkshire Steampunk contingent and the WGW organiser are currently at loggerheads over an entirely different issue.

      2. I went to Howarth the other week for the first time during your weekend to see how many steampunks attended.
        I went in full victorian vampire regalia complimented with pale face, within the first hour I was made to feel unwelcome twice, in fact the first time I nearly grabbed the guys throat.
        You are not accommodating and I shall return the compliment in April at Whitby.
        Im fed up with steampunks they think they are elite…YOU’RE NOT….

      3. Ian, a pleasure to see you continuing to frequent a steampunk site as always.
        It’s indeed a shame that you keep coming to steampunk events and keep being on the receiving end of negative attention. I wonder if this is possibly a perceptual thing though. I would invite you to come and have a beer with me at the next Asylum to have a chat about it. I hate that you don’t feel as though you are fitting in. I was once a goth myself and, as you know, (seeing as I mentioned it the last time I responded to one of your replies) I have fallen by the wayside. To me, goth bands stopped in the late 80’s, early 90’s. It would be interesting to hear your take on it. However this isn’t really the place for it, so I repeat my offer, come and have a beer with me. I trade out of the castle normally and Sunday afternoon is normally quiet. Look for the Broadarrow Jack Leather stall.

        Cheers,

        Mark

  4. There is an element at WGW these days that go only to dress up during the day and get their pictures taken by the various photographers. These people don’t go to see the bands at the Spa or attend the other assorted events, yet take up a number of the b&b rooms. Many of these people dress in victoriana, georgian or steampunk attire and this is the element that annoy a lot of the goths. They go but don’t really support the event. It is first and foremost a music festival and if you don’t like the music why are you there?

    I could prattle on about how originally WGW was not about dressing up it was about letting your hair down, jumping around to the bands, having a laugh and holidaying with like minded people from across the UK and beyond, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    1. A few quotes taken out of context? Really? A few points to consider:

      1. There is a large queue waiting to trade, if a trader pulls out then another takes their place.
      2. Anyone annoyed at not being photographed is obviously not the right person to be listening to, as most of the ‘old elite’ are there for a music festival.
      3. The ‘goths’ are not annoyed at not being photographed, they are annoyed at the hoardes of people that turn up *to* be photographed, that fill the streets, giving the wrong impression about what the scene is about.

      Can you imagine going back to work after the weekend, facing people in the office who have seen the newspaper reports of people like the one in your top photograph, of pensioners in Victoriana, cheap Halloween masks, clowns, werewolves, and yes, even the occasional steampunk, and be ridiculed by people for the media idea of what the scene is like? This is without all the draping of ‘models’ over gravestones, the coachloads of people with cameras, the rudeness of people that think that the ‘goth festival’; is there for their own benefit. People have had enough.

      Try taking off your goggles and looking at things from the perspective of one of the UK’s oldest alternative scenes, and just maybe, you might see why some people are a little annoyed. We are tolerant to a point, but when we suffer so that others can have a day of fun dressing up then a line has to be drawn. Nobody hates steampunks, but sadly they’ve been drawn into this by virtue of being there, attending their own events, and in some cases, not understanding the actual law regarding carrying weapons. On top of this the assumption that a proud scene, one based on music, should somehow be forced to change to accommodate everyone.

      Not everyone can express themselves as eloquently as they’d like, and others feel they need to attack instead of defend, but there is not hate, there is no ‘anti-steampunk’ sentiment, there is only the desire to not have this once great weekend dragged down to the level of a cheap circus there for others entertainment.

      Good luck with everything.

      Dave

      1. Also, the idea this is event would fold without the brown pound is ludicrous. how do people think it survived before it?

  5. if it’s not the cybers than it’s the steampunks…. that they have issues with.
    it’s so sad that goths cannot get on with other subcultures.
    be glad that the invasion of “your festival” is not random normal people.
    besides where is tolerance and open mindedness that the scene always has such a big mouth about?
    i’d say live and let live!
    you would profit a lot by that!

  6. Just a thought here ..i live in scarborough, we have loads of goths and steampunks boking hotels in scarborough to attend WGW , as all the hotels in whitby are fully booked. Scarborough is only 15 or so miles away from whitby , and you would think all the goths and steamers that stay in scarborough would parade around our town as well during WGW but they dont .
    Scarborough is one of the first and largest Victorian seaside resorts , wouldnt it make sense for the goths to keep whitby and the steampunkers could then use scarborough , seeing as their whole genre is based around victorian life and clothing it would make sense for the steamers to parade around scarborough?
    Maybe if the organisers of WGW could arrange and promote this then everyone would be happy , what do you think?

    1. A splendid idea Danny, I think you’re onto something! It could be timed to coincide or be on an adjacent weekend. Scarborough certainly seems like a perfect steampunk setting. A ‘Twinned’ event could perhaps allow Goths and Steampunks to enjoy each others ‘proximity’ without a sense of one overwhelming the other.

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