How the ‘Leeds Festival of Gothica’ is changing people’s opinion on Goth culture

By November 18, 2021

Community. Leeds.

The Leeds Festival of Gothica was at Kirkgate Market in Leeds on the 23rd of October, offering visitors a series of trinkets and treasures from independent retailers and creators.

Considered a global hub of goth culture in the 80s and earning the name ‘Gothic City’, Leeds is well known for celebrating the goth scene, seen through the Goth City music festival hosted in early October and a variety of other events throughout the year celebrating goth culture. This rich history of the gothic community in Leeds is prevalent, with nightclubs and venues the Warehouse and Le Phonographique, defining the goth scene in the 1980s.

Stall owners at the event are hopeful that the Leeds Festival of Gothica will help introduce the goth scene to a new generation, which was highlighted by Cosmic Drifters stall owner Jenny Cook, who stated she was “hopeful that events like these will encourage more people to get involved in the goth scene. Goths can look scary, but that’s the whole point. They’re always the sweetest people.”

Jenny’s stall consisted of an array of beautiful handmade-to-order ‘witchy’ clothing and accessories. She is optimistic that businesses like hers can widen people’s understanding of what a ‘goth’ might look like, and that you do not have to dress a certain way to celebrate and be a part of goth culture.

Cosmic Drifters owner Jenny Cook (left); picture by Tamzin Kraftman.

Another stall owner Alex, who runs Heavenly Darkness Candles, also touched on the misconceptions of a gothic lifestyle. She started that: “When I was younger, I was asked if I used to sleep in a coffin and if I worshiped the devil, and it’s just not true. Every culture has their own stereotypes. Yes, we dress in black, and we have a certain lifestyle, however it doesn’t have to mean something bad.”

But not everyone is so hopeful that events like these can do enough to shift public opinion. Harry Sutherland, 26, from Leeds, an attendee at the market, said: “I don’t really think this will change people’s opinions on gothic culture. People are very fickle, so all we can do is exist and be good people.”

The repercussions of harmful and untrue stereotypes of gothic culture can be seen in the tragic case of Sophie Lancaster, a 20-year-old girl who was murdered in 2007 due to her gothic appearance. This therefore, highlights the great importance of festivals like Leeds Festival of Gothica where the wider community can experience and have a glimpse into goth culture, and realise that their previous misconceptions may not be true.

Deb Hazeldine, who runs The Purple Creative, another stall at the market speaks on these misconceptions and explains why they exist: “People have negative opinions about goth culture because they don’t know. What you don’t understand, you don’t like.” As a result, “Markets like these are important because you get a lot of people visiting who aren’t goth or alternative, and they can see how harmless and friendly we are.”