Moving from Aberdeen city centre to settle on the Isle of Lewis might come as a culture shock to many people – but for Spectra Vox (aka Dr Claire Gerrard), a software developer, artist and singer who came to live on Lewis with her partner and young daughter two years ago, the fact she embraces the Goth subculture brought further uncertainty that this was a good move to make.
“When I first moved to Lewis I was at the height of feeling homesick and out of place,” said Spectra.
“Apart from the usual difficulties an outsider might feel when they move to a new place, I also felt extremely out of place in both appearance and in culture. I felt even more apprehensive because of the way I chose to dress and my tastes in music and art being of a more gothic persuasion and might be viewed negatively in Lewis.
“A Goth suddenly turning up on rugged outstretches of croft land surrounded by heather and sheep was the image that came to mind. This image was compounded by seeing a single black sheep out on a limb but in the same field with the white ones. I thought – that’s me!”
Now Spectra is celebrating the differences as she recently launched the ‘Goth on the Croft’ 2018 calendar – a fundraising project in support of The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Prejudice against the Goth subculture came to prominence nationally in 2007 following the murder of 20 year old Sophie Lancaster, who was attacked with her boyfriend while walking in a park in Lancashire. The couple both identified with the Goth subculture, and police believe this is what motivated the violent attack.
“There are many times I have had to deal with prejudice throughout my life. It normally takes the form of indirect prejudice behaviour where people avoid you and don’t involve you in things while involving others who ‘look normal’; but it has also taken the form of direct verbal abuse and occasional threats of violence.
“It is sad that it is the case that expressing yourself, standing out, creating new things or anything else that makes you stand out can be greeted with intolerance,” she continued.
“Although I have never experienced direct intolerance on Lewis, I think there is occasionally a more subtle element where people are just more stand-offish; they aren’t sure what to make of me so tend not to be quite as willing to approach me. But there are also quite a lot of open-minded artistic types here who appreciate a friendly Goth buddy!”
With dark clothing, interests in Gothic art, literature and music, the Goth subculture has diversified since the 1980s post-punk era of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus, and now including Cybergoths, Steampunks, Trad Goths, Pastel Goths, Glitter Goths and more.
For Spectra, whose interest first began in primary school, there is an underlying current to all different branches of the Goth – an appreciation of the darker aspects of art, music, clothing, feelings, literature and humour; in a very similar manner to the way society appreciates and celebrates Halloween.
“We like dressing up and embrace these darker elements like most people do at Halloween, we just do it every day,” she said.
“I didn’t decide ‘to be’ a Goth. Basically as I was growing up I was naturally attracted to darker clothes, music, literature and art, and my appearance became unintentionally typical of that subculture. So before I even knew about the Goth subculture, people were calling me a Goth.
“To me it’s a lot about the freedom and confidence to express yourself, but it’s also about art. That’s important – it should never be confused with being evil, it’s about art. We are some of the most non-violent and peaceful types you could ever meet!”
And as well as raising funds for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, Spectra hopes to break-down some taboos about the Goth subculture through the Goth on the Croft calendar which features friends and fellow Goths from across the UK.
“I wanted to capture instances of people being incongruous with their surroundings, but also to use it to raise awareness and promote tolerance of people who find themselves out of place and different for whatever reason,” she said.
“The end result is tremendous! It was a lot of work organising, making costumes, editing and the running of it, but it’s paid off. I’m pleased with the pictures and the overall look of the calendar – each picture has its own concept and the calendar looks and feels professional.
“The response has been brilliant. It’s so pleasing,” Spectra continued, adding: “We are all different and if we are free to express our ideas, style and be ourselves, we have a much richer, diverse culture and move society forward in all kinds of positive ways.”
Further information and updates about Goth on the Croft, visit the ‘Goth on the Croft 2018’ Facebook page, and the Goth on the Croft wall calendar (priced £8.99) can also be purchased online via Etsy at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GothOnTheCroft