Goth Photography Banned From St Marys Church Graveyard

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Goth Photography Banned From St Marys Church Graveyard

Article first published October 6th 2011 – View all our goth pictures here

Whitby Goths Banned From St Marys Graveyard

Whitby Goths Banned From St Marys Graveyard

Gothic rock fans flock to Whitby’s historic St Mary’s Church in North Yorkshire during Whitby Goth Weekend to be snapped by photographers in the graveyard.

The cemetary is the place Dracula takes his victim Lucy Westernra during the night in Bram Stoker’s classic novel, overlooked by the imposing abbey.

But now photoraphy is being banned around graves at St Mary’s Church because they say is disrespectful to the dead who are buried there.

Signs have appeared since the last Goth Weekend prohibiting photography on and near gravestones.

John Hemson, the church’s warden said: “The reason the rector did it was I had become unbearable. I sat there one day and in half an hour nine photographers walked past me.

“The Goths stand, sit or even lie on the table graves. there are people in Whitby who had families there even though it closed in 1861 and they object to it very much.

“The rector is very strong on this. It is a mark of respect, it is a holy place like all cemeteries and some of the gravestones we have had to lay on the ground.”

Amateur photographer Chris Oakes, from York, says it could spell the end of the festival, which has recently split between two dates each year.

He said: “It needs to be said Whitby is on the verge of losing its weekend soon. What with the split and this, I think that will be the end.

“What’s wrong with the church being used for two days? Everyone is enjoying themselves.

“If anything the families of the deceased should be the ones to complain, what do they say?

“It’s like Whitby is on self-destruct.”

Local resident Lynne Lawrence added: “Restricting photography is a false economy. The more photographs there are to “share” the more publicity is generated therefore more revenue.

“I think “keep off the daffs” and “it is an offence to touch the gravestones” would be more effective in that case.”

Thousands of Goths and punks congregate in the fishing town for the weekend, which began in 1994.

Learn more about Whitby Goth Weekend By Clicking Here


By |2014-11-04T17:32:56+00:00November 4th, 2014|Categories: Events, Meetings Etc, Goth Weekend, Letters|Tags: , |36 Comments

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Website Admin for the Real Whitby Website. All authors of the Real Whitby Website have access to publish on the website. Individual authors will usually sign off their articles with their own names.


  1. admin October 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Does anyone know if the ban applies to all photography or just the goths. Also what has been banned ? 1. Goths ?? 2.Photography ?? or both ? What will happen to anyone caught taking photos over the forthcoming weekend ?

    • Tasha October 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm - Reply

      Only photography… I am not sure if this is just people… and I mean any people or all pictures including landscapes or the like
      I would imagine it is just of up close shots of the tombs and headstones.
      I am sure St Mary’s will wecome Goth and non goth to come into the church and to enjoy it’s beautiful surroundings, just in a respectable fashion

      • admin October 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm - Reply

        I have spoken to the volunteers at the church as there was some ambiguity about the signs which suggest that photography is banned in the graveyard – full stop. The nice ladies in the church say that they are happy for you to take photographs in the graveyard, of the graves and of the church at anytime across the year and they have no problem with that. Infact they said you can even take pictures inside the church. What they say they do object to is photographs of people laid on gravestones etc, this being goths or anyone else for that matter. They also said that the problems came to a head at the goth festival last spring when all the daffodils were flattened, a gravestone was damaged and 2 goths were seen hanging from a cross in the graveyard. The ladies said they had nothing at all against goths and that they are all welcome into the graveyard and indeed into the church. They also said they had no problems of photographs of people and or goths around the church so long as people stick to the paths and do not damage the graveyard.

  2. Andrew Bowman October 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Its not before time. Goths should be banned from Whitby full stop. Nothing but trouble and most of them are involved in witchcraft and the occult.

    • deb November 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm - Reply

      obviously clueless lol

  3. Chris Winspear October 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I highly recommend you listen to the those concerned in this interview from the Jeremy Vine show on Radio Two.

    Transmitted 04/10/11 – available on iPlayer for seven days.

    The section is about 1h30 in.

  4. Al Roberts October 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    As much as I enjoy coming over for the goth weekends I have always felt a little uneasy about the gravestone pics, it does seem a little disrespectful to those who are interred at St Mary’s.
    However the ban sounds like an opening for an enterprising person to make 2/3 imitation gravestones from polystyrene, or similar material, and hire them out to the minority that want to have their pictures taken on them, choosing whatever background they wish.
    The Rector would be happy.
    Chris Oakes would be happy
    Lynne Lawrence would be happy.
    And the model would be happy to have a warmer perch.
    Indeed if SBC are happy to spend £6-8m on Scarborough Spa to encourage tourism, then perhaps they would be willing to provide the facility for the same reason.
    Hang on though, Scarboro Spa lost £500.000 this season, mebbe better not involve them eh?

  5. Paul Cooper October 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Wasn’t Adolf Hitler into the Occult?

    Oi Bowman, you look a bit like a Witch with with that haircut!!!

  6. Richard Ineson October 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    There is a tendency for all visitors to Whitby to forget that people still live in those quaint, old fashioned houses, with the small doors. I live on the very narrowest part of upper Church Street and I sometimes even get people coming into my house becuase they think that it is just another shop.

    I also suffer from people pressing their noses up against the front window and bunches of people congregating outside on the street, blocking out all of the light. When I go out and ask them, politley, to move to one side, they say things like, “Sorry mate, we didn’t realise anybody lived in these houses” and then you overhear people saying things like, “You couldn’t live in a house like that these days could you? or “They used to live in these houses in the olden days” or “Do you live in there then?”
    Amazing but true.
    The east side of Whitby has just become a theme park and the grave yard and St.Mary’s are part of it, except that these are sacred places and people, even the much valued holidaymakers/visitors/day trippers should respect them.
    Let the Goths have their photographs taken in the grave yard by all means but in return we must expect them to treat the area in a proper manner, it is a Church and a grave yard, not Disneyland.

    • David Greenwood April 22, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

      you cant have it both ways, tourism and privacy, if you want Whitby to flourish and remain prosperous, or you could have a ghost Town like my Town with boarded up shops and houses, drug addicts and dealers on the street corners no jobs or industry to speak of.

      If having a nice vibrant profitable Town is something you find difficult to blend into, then move house and stop whining!!

  7. Francis L. Chalmers October 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    @ Richard:

    “Let the Goths have their photographs taken in the grave yard by all means but in return we must expect them to treat the area in a proper manner, it is a Church and a grave yard, not Disneyland. ”


    Perhaps charging a small admissions fee to the graveyard of a couple of pounds per person, would pay for someone to oversee the site at these times of the year, and better than that it would help quash the idea of people abusing the site, because someone is “on hand”.

    Before anyone runs off at the mouth about it being disrespectful to make profits from a graveyard; additional “profits” could be ploughed back into preserving and maintaining the site… That would ensure that future generations can enjoy the site, and the relatives of those buried there could be assured that the grave site is being properly looked after.

    But perhaps it’s a solution that could be too controversial.

  8. Paul Cooper October 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    When I Drop dead, just shove me in a skip, wonder if those Goths would want their picture leaning on a skip

  9. marge hobberstad October 5, 2011 at 8:55 am - Reply

    This piece confuses fans of gothic rock music, most of whom come to enjoy live bands at the spa, possibly do a spot of shopping, eat and drink in the town’s many welcoming hostelries, and generally see little point in posing and preening for photographers and the more recent influx of people who appear to concentrate solely on dressing up and parading about for the entertainment of various day crimpers and the also more recent influx of photographers who, as with the writers here, appear unable to differentiate between music and fashion.

    • marge October 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      That should say “day trippers” not “day crimpers” – my phone has some sort of gothic spellcheck invoked.

      As I tried to say, don’t blame the music fans for the actions of posers. There’s more than one kind of “gothic” at play, and misconstruction of terms leads to the confusion of the article.

  10. Trizia Norris October 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Actually, the next goth weekend in Whitby is over the Hallowe’en weekend, with another on the Guy Fawkes’ weekend.

  11. tasha October 8, 2011 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Trizia
    You need you check your facts there
    Whitby Gothic Weekend is the name of the event run by Topmum, it is the event held in the spa.. the name of the music event
    The Halloween weekend is the Stoker weekend / Alt weekend and is NOT a goth weekend at all it is a Vamp fiction / Alternative persons weekend where goth may attend but it is not THE goth weekend

  12. Trizia Norris October 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    I beg to differ, Tasha. Going to!/event.php?eid=143213465748305 will show you the name of the event at Hallowe’en and it quite clearly states ‘Gothic’. It is A goth weekend, just as the WGW is A goth weekend.
    And if you look at the line up of events the goth stuff far outweighs the vampire stuff.

    I’ve been going to Whitby for the goth fest since 1997, but haven’t bothered with a ticket for the Spa for the last few years because it wasn’t value for money and have always found plenty to do in the evenings for a lot less; I think you’ll find a lot of people go without Spa tickets these days because a)they are too dear; b)there isn’t a band they want to see; c; the other events interest them more.

    Real Whitby prides itself on stating the facts, so it seems only fair that it includes reference to the Whitby Goth Alt Fest at Hallowe’en.

    • tasha October 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm - Reply

      Yes but Dark Daisy who run many of what were the fringe events to WGW call theirs “Whitby Alt Festival” as Jo who runs Topmum, calls hers “Whitby Gothic Weekend” and it is a TM of Topmum …
      No one is disputing that BOTH events are accessible to Goth and non goth.
      Calling the Stoke / Dark Daisy weekend “Whitby Goth Weekend” just causes confusion. Hence DD calling theirs Alt Fest.
      I am not having a dig but calling both weekends “Whitby Goth Weekend” could lead people to attend the wrong one (which ever one that may be) and cause disappointment.
      Personally I have been attending just as long and have only missed one year at the Spa and I thought it sucked… but I attend the Spa to see my Mates.
      If the Stoker Weekend or DD have a problem with Real Whitby only advertising WGW then why don’t they ask them to promote their event too, I am sure they would be only too happy to oblige.

  13. sienne deaddoll October 11, 2011 at 9:28 am - Reply

    “Perhaps charging a small admissions fee to the graveyard of a couple of pounds per person, would pay for someone to oversee the site at these times of the year, and better than that it would help quash the idea of people abusing the site, because someone is “on hand”.”

    The problem with this is I, like many, only walk through the graveyard to attend the Abbey. I am not in the slightest bit interested in having my picture taken and tend to go up to the Abbey early on Sunday morning in jeans and t-shirt to make this obvious.

    “I beg to differ, Tasha. Going to!/event.php? eid=143213465748305 will show you the name of the event at Hallowe’en and it quite clearly states ‘Gothic’. It is A goth weekend, just as the WGW is A goth weekend.” Posted by Trizia Norris.

    Yes because its on Fb makes it correct. No I’m sorry Tasha is correct, the weekend before Whitby Gothic Weekend if the Bram Stokers Film Festival which has the tag along of Whitby Alt Fest.

    As for photography involving disrespectful models and photographers that encourage or don’t stop them from climbing on the graves. I am in full support of the churches decision.

    • David Greenwood April 22, 2012 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Yeh charge a fee thats sounds like Coalition policy

  14. Hugo Stiglitz October 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Yes, Andrew Bowman, Goths are nothing but trouble and most are into witchcraft and the occult, just like chavs are all good little boys and girls who never loiter in public places whilst drinking White Lightning, screaming abuse at passersby, and beating girls like Sophie Lancaster to death for wearing black…

  15. marge October 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Can we just go back to the misleading wording and headline of the original article?

    Goths aren’t banned from the graveyard, photographing anyone draped over gravestones is banned.

    Gothic rock fans tend to flock to gigs, gothic/”alt” models, people in fancy dress of a sometimes “Victorian/gothic” nature, tourists, goth spotters and photographers tend to flock to the churchyard and abbey or promenade along the riverside for photo opportunities, the Gothic rock/goth music fans tend to be asleep, possibly pootling around the stalls or along the beach or in the pub/having a nice spot of breakfast/dinner/tea during the daylight hours!

    Until Rhombus, the Last Cry, Vendemmian, The Last Dance, Devilish Presley or some other bands decide to actually play in the churchyard rather than in the Spa, there’s little reason for music fans to flock up there where hangovers will be greatly disturbed by the squawks of gulls and the snapping of over-eager cameramen… :’D

    …even though, goths aren’t actually banned from the churchyard!!!

  16. Anthony Littlewood October 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    Do I detect an air of displeasure for anyone who has their photograph taken. Does wanting to be photographed detract from your validity as a goth. Ive looked at the pictures on this site and have to say they are superb. Goths make perfect subjects for photographers.

  17. tasha October 12, 2011 at 7:41 am - Reply

    No, I don’t have a problem with other having their picture taken, it’s their decision. Personally I would not mind half as much I was asked first at least I would have a chance to decline if I wanted to, most times I have been asked I oblige.
    Problem is that some Togs / Tourists don’t ask and when one does and you agree about 10 others take your picture.

    It all boils down to the question of manners doesn’t it

  18. DarklyInclined October 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Grr, I’m a Goth, and quite stereotypically, I like graveyards. My partner (also a Goth) and I like wandering around them, and taking photographs, but we adhere to a few basic courtesies; we don’t clamber on graves, do anything that might damage the stones, flowers or other markers, and we don’t take photographs of the markers themselves, only of statues, the churches, the overall graveyard, animals we spot in the graveyard, etc. and we don’t use them as places to pose. They are places of remembrance, they are meant to be quiet, reflective places. Goths who clamber about without consideration are doing the graveyard a disservice, themselves a disservice and are doing a disservice to the subculture they ascribe to, as we’re supposed to be the ones with a respect for the dead, the ones who appreciate graveyards, not the ones doing something disrespectful and damaging.

    • marge October 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      Anthony: some people might not want their photos taken “willy nilly” without any idea in what context they might be used in the future. Also, some might not feel they “look their best” or they might feel they’re having a certain amount of privacy intruded upon.

      Also, as Tasha says, when one photographer asks, some others around assume it’s open season to snap away at the person posing, and again, who really knows where the pictures might end up in the future!

      Darkly: I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment, enjoying and appreciating graveyards is one thing, and nothing to be ashamed of, but using it as a shoot location and disrespecting the sacred ground is what’s led to the ban on photography. That disrespect comes both from models and photographers alike, it’s not purely goths to blame, a lot of the blame must also lie with those who assume that goths and others in Whitby are there for the visual and photographic pleasure of tourists and photographers, rather than to enjoy a weekend of music, shopping, socialising, sightseeing, relaxing, eating and drinking and some lovely surroundings.

      Those who are most outraged by any ban on photography and by any complaints by individuals about privacy and respect appear to be, in my experience and from what’s written here and on facebook groups, non-goths who are unable to understand that the primary aim of most of the goths attending is to enjoy themselves, not to be documented and gawped at like zoo exhibits.

  19. Ronnie Ford-Kennedy October 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I have been going to Whitby for a few years now and am a Goth; I have been all my adult life. Can I just say from what I have seen on most WGW it is the part time posers and the ones who only dress up for the weekend just to have a picture taken whom I always seem to see laying on gravestones and surrounded by Cameras in the church yard.

    Most of the real Goths are still in bed from the fab nights out in Whitby, I very rarely say yes to having my picture taken unless I see that they are a couple on holiday or tourists, if they are festooned with cameras etc I say no.

    I visit Whitby as often as I can get there and not just for the WGW’s the town of Whitby is very lucky to have this kind of trade and a boost to local economy. For the record I am a Christian and most of my fellows Goth’s are also.

    My Mother recently had her letter posted in the Daily Mail, she said she was very proud of me for being a Goth, I look different to all others and am proud to wear make-up, long hair and piercings etc, behind the make-up there is an ex serviceman who was injured whilst on a 2nd tour of Iraq.

    Looking forward to being in Whitby this weekend, I really hope all there will have a fantastic and trouble free time.

  20. simon- sam eastwood October 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    why now,after yrs,there is no harm dooe or intended

  21. admin March 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    This is where paparazzi come in – celebrities and public figures have had to give up their right to a certain degree of privacy and become “public property” even in their down times. Now I ask this, have Goths now been forced to do the same?

  22. Terri Groves March 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    intersting article there and from when i’ve seen photographers around i see many of them ignoring the first ‘rule’ he suggests of “1 Before you take a photograph of anyone, please ask first.” as may just seem to think they can walk infront of them and just demand they stop.

    but as for the goths having there photographs taken in the graveyard i can fully undetstand why they would wan to as it is such a provactive area but i cant help feeling just a little uneasy when they lounge on the tombstones

    perhaps theres a opertunity for someone to make some good looking fakes for them to use as a place to sit or lay down with the real ones in the background?

  23. Dave Heselton March 31, 2012 at 11:05 am - Reply

    There is just one remaining headstone marking the grave of an ancestor in St Marys churchyard – Joseph Heselton who died in 1818, and just before Christmas I took several photographs of the gravestone.

    I couldent give a toss about the Church s rules, and if I wish to take photographs, I will do so, with or without their permission, but what I will never do is stand on the headstones or do anything which may damage them, and neither should anyone else.

  24. David Greenwood April 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    The Coalition do more harm than Goths, and nobody bans them?

  25. David Greenwood April 22, 2012 at 10:30 am - Reply

    In England, although there may once have been a presumption of perpetuity, plots are now effectively bought on leasehold for between 25 and 100 years. Graves or their graveyards may therefore be resold 100 years after the last burial and cleared of graves. On the European continent, long leases are unusual; some may be as short as 5 years, or more typically 25 years. This enables a regular income to be achieved by the owner.

    In essence if the last burial in St Marys was conducted over 100 years ago then the place could be sold to Tesco, or used for affordable housing?

  26. erafury February 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    well I never knew some people could be so damn right stupid to make fuss over something that we Goths actually
    respect and just to go saying oh Goths are nothing but trouble makes you look like right hypocrite second of all I like to walk in the abbey take pictures of church and scenery unlike you people criticizing us why don’t you people take moment to think before you accuse us yes there maybe others that dressed up like us not respecting it but that doesn’t give you the right say all others do it just because some immature ones disrespecting the abbey does not mean all Goths do if you ask me that is being really stereotypical of who ever made this complaint plus its apart Whitby so maybe gives us a break quit moaning no one likes tattle tail plus lots people come to admire the whole town because its part of it if you don’t like it seethe to yourself but you leave us Goths alone some us do have respect for dead thank you very much stop giving us this agro and leave us alone you be surprised if you talked to one of us we are just like everybody else what you people complaining about is load horsebollocks you know it quit accusing and use your eyes instead of your brain you see what I mean thank you

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  28. Lynne November 11, 2014 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    We have been coming to Whitby Goth weekend for many years now and have never been up to the abbey mainly as my son is wheelchair bound.

    I certainly don’t agree with pics taken on tombstones some of the pics I’ve seen are beyond tasteless.

    I also try to respect the locals when their town is being invaded.I wonder how many of these people would like pictures of complete strangers draped all over their relatives graves not many I suspect.

    The Goth weekend no doubt brings in much needed revenue for the town so i for one would hate to see it go but i really think there needs to be respect given to locals and the Churchyard maybe if there was an entrance fee in place there would be more money going in to the town and the church could restrict photos on graves.

    Just to add I’ve been a goth for over 40 yrs now and am certainly not into satanic rituals or witchcraft lol

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