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The Collective Ageing of a Goth Festival

Hodkinson P, (2012) The Collective Ageing of a Goth Festival In: Ageing and Youth Cultures: Music, Style and Identity. Berg Publishers, London. ISBN 1847888356

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Some of the work featured in this book focuses on longstanding participants who form a significant but smallish older minority within music and/or style communities which remain somewhat dominated by younger people. In these examples, we might argue that the scenes or communities themselves remain fairly clearly within the category of youth cultures in the traditional sense. In spite of their overall longevity, the membership of such groups has a substantial age-related turnover, through the falling off of many participants during their twenties and their replacement by waves of younger recruits. As many studies within this volume and elsewhere have shown, the continuing participation of a minority in their 30s, 40s and beyond within such longstanding youth cultures provokes important research questions and conclusions. As the first of three chapters on the subject of ageing scenes, however, this chapter considers a related but distinct scenario, one in which whole scenes or subcultures gradually become older. In this situation, ‘continuing scenes’, as Smith puts it, remain, at least to an extent, populated by ‘the same body of continuing participants’ (Smith 2009: 428). Here the tendency for participants to fall away during their twenties is less marked, with substantial numbers remaining involved well into adulthood and towards middle-age. In some cases this may combine with a reduction or arrest in the recruitment of new teenage participants. Rather than finding themselves in a small minority within primarily adolescent cultures, an adult critical mass of participants may find themselves growing up together. This chapter explores a case study of such a scenario in the form of the goth scene and, more specifically, a particular twice yearly goth festival which has been taking place in the seaside town of Whitbyi in the North East of the UK for approximately fifteen years. The goth scene emerged in the early 1980s and has, during its three decades, been centred consistently on distinctive and recognisable forms of dark, macabre music and fashion – most obviously in the form of black hair and clothing. Notwithstanding apparently similar yet somewhat separate recent adolescent developments such as emo, the established goth scene has undergone a substantial increase in its average age, especially since the late 1990s when I first conducted research on the subculture (Hodkinson 2002). This broader change has manifested itself in a particularly concentrated fashion at the Whitby Gothic Weekend (or WGW), a festival oriented to the scene which tended particularly to appeal to older and longer-term participants. Drawing on participant observation and interview research carried out at the festival in 2010, I briefly explore participants’ changing experience of the event as they became older. I show how developments in the personal life trajectories of individuals were closely connected to a broader evolvement in the feel, ambiance and character of the festival itself. And while many such changes were somewhat informal, some had become institutionalised, not least in the format and content of organised events and activities and the nature of the clothes, accessories and other consumables being sold by subcultural retailers.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Date : 2 October 2012
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Additional Information : This is an electronic version of a book chapter published as Hodkinson P The Collective Ageing of a Goth Festival In Ageing and Youth Cultures: Music, Style and Identity. Editors: Hodkinson P, Bennett A. Berg Publishers, London. Available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 25 Jul 2013 14:08
Last Modified : 09 Jun 2014 13:15

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