Leeds nostalgia: why the Goths are preparing for a 30-year reunion

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Times Past is used to dealing with events which occurred 50 or 100 years ago but, of course, the waters of history are forever flowing and what seems relatively recent one minute can, before you know it, become ‘historical’, writes Samantha Hepworth.

So it is with the subject of this week’s column, which looks at the counter-cultural movement known as the Goths, which, believe it or not, is more than 30 years old, achieving its height in the 1980s.

Sam Hepworth was among those who regularly crimped their hair, pulled on no small amount of black clothing and probably went a bit too far with the petunia oil.

It conjures up images of The Wendy House in Leeds, which closed its doors for the last time this year, of the Squash Club in Dewsbury and the Xclusiv in Batley. Anyone who went to any of those nights would have heard the industrial grind of songs churned out by the likes of The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Killing Joke, the Cult and The Cramps. It was a lifestyle embraced by many.

Now, 30 years on, there are plans for a grand reunion at one of the main haunts: the Squash Club in Dewsbury.

The Goth movement was an antidote to the electronic pop bands such as Soft Cell and Human League who dominated the charts.

Goths and post punks would flock to the Warehouse or Phono nightclubs in Leeds, but many would also venture to a little manufacturing town which was more famous for the Batley Variety Club than alternative music and now there are plans to celebrate this unique moment in history.

The Xclusiv nightclub in Batley was set up as an alternative night to the Frontier, rather than to compete with the famous club.

Gill Hepworth, 47, from East Hardwick, described the area back then: “It was so different and very dark, with old mills and lots of unemployment.”

While inside, the club was furnished in red velvet – extremely dirty with the smell of stale smoke and spilt beer.

But everyone was dressed up – big hair, lots of make-up and laden filled with buckles – and that was just the men.

Girls were dressed in vintage clothing, velvet and hair colours were all different shades of the rainbow. Every Saturday night ‘The X’ (as it was known) was the spiritual home of Goths.

Gill said: “The thrill of rebellion in the air as we danced and chased after boys. I don’t care how silly I looked. I was a teen and that was my job.”

Karen Stansfield, 45, from Batley, remembers getting ready for a typical Saturday night out.

“The thing I remember most was the crimpers being on and all that hairspray. Boots home brand was extra strong, it was sticky and smelt terrible but worked brilliantly.

Until June this year goths and alternative music lovers could still go once a month to the club night Wendy House and listen to Marilyn Manson and old favourites. It had been based at the University of Leeds since 1998, but has since taken its last bow.

Now Ken Senior, 52, from Earlsheaton in Dewsbury has set up a special event for those who want to celebrate an evening of alternative 80s music, with songs which would have graced the decks of the Xclusiv back then.

“A friend of mind was wanting an Xclusiv reunion,” Ken says. “But didn’t really commit to doing it and I thought if it doesn’t happen soon it will never happen.”

Ken had thought about using the old nightclub, but the only room available was painted inappropriately white and with no bar, with the rest of the building being converted into apartments.

Ken went to the X circa 1986 – 87, but says: “The main period we wanted to concentrate on is about 1984 – 1985, when the alternative scene was at its height.”

“I remember the club was very dark, you couldn’t see anything and it was very hectic,” he adds.

And former goths are now getting excited on their own facebook page - Xclusiv Revival Night 2014 - and although the reunion is a one-off, he hopes interest for the club will continue there.

“People have been putting pictures of what they looked like then and what they look like now,” he says.

The musician also believes the reunion is not just for people who went during the 80s but adds: “I think there will also be newer people that are into the music that was played at the Xclusiv. And also people who went to the Phono back then.”

The reunion will take place on October 4, at Dewsbury Squash Club from 8pm and if you come before 10pm admission is free, with the mammoth evening finishing at 4.30am.

8th June 1972  Women's Circle cooking team.  Denise Creamer on the left.  Anne Wilkinson weilding the big wooden spoon.  Wendy Rix, standing by with the milk jug.

Leeds nostalgia: YEP Women’s Circle in the kitchen in 1972