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Inside Whitby’s Goth Weekend – how a sleepy North Yorkshire town turns into an alternative festival for three days


Whitby is a quiet seaside town on the Yorkshire coast, the perfect place for a restful family weekend… or is it?

Twice a year there is a considerable chill in the air, and the mood turns decidedly darker when hordes of black-robbed disciples of the dead descend on the resort.    

The town transforms into a scene from a gothic novel and almost doubles in size when thousands of goths rock up for the biannual Goth weekend.

Founded in 1994, the festival has grown to become one of the world’s premier Goth events.

As a celebration of non-conformity, culture, fashion and music, goths from around the world gather in the picturesque town that inspired Bram Stoker’s iconic Dracula.

Dressed in extravagant and striking costumes, a sea of people shrouded in black will descend upon Whitby this weekend for it's bi annual Goth weekend

Dressed in extravagant and striking costumes, a sea of people shrouded in black will descend upon Whitby this weekend for it’s bi annual Goth weekend

The weird and wonderful festival lasts for three days – the first round of 2023 was April 28 to April 30 and the second installment is in full swing this weekend.

Yesterday (Friday October 27) marked the first day and it will run until tomorrow, Sunday October 29.

The distinctive festival began in 1994 when it was founded by Jo Hampshire, as a result of 40 pen pal goths meeting at the Elsinore Pub in Whitby. 

Now, it’s morphed into one of the world’s biggest goth festivals and The Little Angel pub is still a central meeting point.

Whitby was supposedly chosen due to it’s links to arguably literature’s most famous gothic novel.

The author visited the seaside town in 1890 and was inspired by the ruins of Whitby Abbey and the views from the coastline and St Mary’s church and graveyard.

It’s also where he came up with the idea for his blood-thirsty main character, after spending time in the library and finding a book about Vlad Tepes, more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Dracula – a 15th century Romanian prince who impaled his enemies with wooden stakes.  

If that’s not enough proof, Whitby is actually featured by name in the novel and is famously visited by Dracula himself as he lures character Lucy into his grasp, resulting in her death. 

The weird and wonderful festival takes place twice a year and lasts for three days - the first round of 2023 was April 28th to 30th and the second installment is in full swing this weekend

The weird and wonderful festival takes place twice a year and lasts for three days – the first round of 2023 was April 28th to 30th and the second installment is in full swing this weekend

Whitby was supposedly chosen due to it's links to arguably literature's most famous gothic novel, Bram Stoker's Dracula

Whitby was supposedly chosen due to it’s links to arguably literature’s most famous gothic novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Thousands now visit the town each year in one of the largest and most well-known gothic gatherings in the world

Thousands now visit the town each year in one of the largest and most well-known gothic gatherings in the world

The horror author visited the seaside town in 1890 and was inspired by the ruins of Whitby Abbey and the views from the coastline and St Mary's church and graveyard

The horror author visited the seaside town in 1890 and was inspired by the ruins of Whitby Abbey and the views from the coastline and St Mary’s church and graveyard

As a celebration of non conformity, culture, fashion and music, goths from around the world gather in the picturesque town that inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula

As a celebration of non conformity, culture, fashion and music, goths from around the world gather in the picturesque town that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula

From head-to-toe Victorian dress to handcrafted masks, the people who attend this festival aren't afraid to express themselves

From head-to-toe Victorian dress to handcrafted masks, the people who attend this festival aren’t afraid to express themselves

The distinctive festival began in 1994 when it was founded by Jo Hampshire, as a result of 40 pen pal goths meeting at the Elsinore Pub in Whitby

The distinctive festival began in 1994 when it was founded by Jo Hampshire, as a result of 40 pen pal goths meeting at the Elsinore Pub in Whitby

Although the most popular colour choice was of course black, lots of visitors also opt for splashes of purple and red

Although the most popular colour choice was of course black, lots of visitors also opt for splashes of purple and red

The event is billed as family and pet friendly, so children and dogs can also enjoy the festivities

The event is billed as family and pet friendly, so children and dogs can also enjoy the festivities

As well as featuring in the novel, Whitby was also one of the filming locations for the 2020 BBC One mini TV series ‘Dracula’.

Claes Bang, who played the iconic vampire, was pictured in the abbey ruins, overlooking the sea.

The blood-soaked adaptation of the classic was so scary that some viewers questioned whether they would be able to sleep after it ended. 

However, the original ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ movie from 1992 was filmed in America, rather than the UK seaside town.

Each year on Goth Weekend there is no shortage of visitors inspired by the supernatural story, with vampire dress a popular fashion choice. 

From head-to-toe Victorian dress to handcrafted masks, the people who attend this festival aren’t afraid to express themselves in extravagant outfits inspired by Steampunk, Cybergoth, Romanticism and Victoriana.

Although the most popular colour choice was of course black, lots of visitors also opt for splashes of purple and red.

Home to over 100 indoor stalls, the Bizarre Bazaar Alternative market is the weekend’s main attraction, where visitors can buy gothic homeware, jewellery, books, collectable items and clothing.

It also hosts two nights of live music and a number of well known bands and singers have graced it’s staged, including The Damned and Toyah.

The event is billed as family and pet friendly, so children and dogs can also enjoy the festivities. 



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