Home to the original gothic novelists Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker and later gothic rock spawning from punk in the late 1970s (for more info about goth check out our article on the story of the subculture here) the UK inevitably gave rise to a number of iconic Gothcentric venues . Here are our top 8 most iconic goth clubs and venues , with their influence on the subculture profound.
1. Pips, Manchester
What usually springs to mind when thinking about Manchester’s venues tends to be those associated with the acid house culture of the 90s, with venues such as the Hacienda championing the Madchester spirit. However, the city has a rich history of goth subculture including Pips, Manchester’s first goth club. Pips’ opening in 1972 was timely with the fading of punk in the 1970s, making way for glam, disco and electronica. Pips hosted club nights and post-punk artists including a local band called Warsaw, who later changed their name to Joy Division and were later credited as a founding band of the subculture of goth. Pips was also the birthplace of Dave Booth and Alan Maskell’s legendary DJ careers who pioneered gothic nightlife.
2. The Batcave, London
The Batcave was a weekly club night launched in 1982 which was highly regarded as the birthplace of the Southern English goth subculture. Originally running at the Gargoyle Club in Soho, with regulars including Nick Cave, Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and the members of Bauhaus. Films, club nights and bands (including Alien Sex Fiend, Specimen and Sex Gang Children) all featured at the Batcave, celebrating the image, fashions and sounds of goth. Despite only lasting 3 years, its impact on gothic culture was profound.
3. Kit Kat Club, London
London invented goth and the Kit Kat Club was the pinnacle of vampiric fashions, dry ice and spooky imaginaries. The Kit-Kat was a weekly party at Fouberts, just off Carnaby street, open until the unearthly hour of 6am. The last array of pictures from a party in 1984 at the KitKat Club in London shows the drama of the new wave/trad goth parties where outsider imaginations could run wild.
4. The Banshee, Manchester
Following the closure of Cloud 9, an essential part of Manchester’s goth nightlife, the Banshee opened shortly after, in 1987. The Banshee was Manchester’s answer to the Batcave playing pure goth music including Bauhaus, the Sisters of Mercy, Sex Gang Children and Spear of Destiny. Quintessential goth fashions were rife: backcombed dark and colourful hair, PVC, latex, white facepaint and dark makeup. The Banshee remains Manchester’s definitive Goth club lasting into the mid-90s surviving several venue changes.
5. Le Phonographique, Leeds
Yorkshire was not left out of all the joys of the gothic subculture, with Leeds’ Le Phonographique as a key spot for local post-punkers and New Romantics. These subcultures collided and celebrated their commonalities, in the earliest phase of goth subculture. Le Phonographique was the first goth club in the world, playing a key part in the openings of other influential goth clubs including the Batcave. Opening in 1979 following a rebrand of the WigWam Club, Leeds’ favourite dark alternative club, lasted over 25 years with of exhibitions of wondrous freaks in all their forms.
6. Blitz Club, London
London’s legendary Blitz Club is known for its extraordinary fashions, and was strongly associated with London’s New Romantics as well as gothic subculture. The Blitz Kids, as they were known, were frequenters of the Tuesday club-night in Covent Garden and were credited for the birth of the New Romantic movement which was strongly associated with goth. The Blitz club importantly lay between two art colleges (St Martin’s School and Central School) where creative students and designers could let their wildest and darkest imaginations run wild. The club operated under a strict dress code whereby if you didn’t look extraordinary you weren’t coming in.
7. Slimelight, London
Over to the modern venues now with the iconic Slimelight. Championing the darker club scene since 1984, Slimelight is where the legendary Kit Kat Club began. Slimelight is the longest-running goth nightclub with over 10,000 members. Bands often appear as special acts during the club nights that feature gothic rock, industrial, EBM, darkwave, cyber-synth and trad non-stop until 7:30am, just in time for the first tube home. It has 3 floors, a maze of staircases and feels like a neon labyrinth with food, films, bars and different types of music on different floors.
8. Satans Hollow, Manchester
Although sadly few goth venues remain, Manchester’s celebration of subculture and darker music can be found at Satans Hollow. Established in 2000, the venue is dedicated to rock and alternative music, including goth, from its interior, music and drinks.
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Underground presents an ongoing series of reports on venues past and present that have played a part in supporting the underground music scene, with a special emphasis on those venues supporting diversity in music, women in music, independent labels and the local music scene.
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