Gothic young

Sat. 24th Aug., 2002

Old Eldon Square plays host to a weekly meeting of teenage and late adolescent identity building as the Goths descend for their Saturday gathering.

Goths were a Germanic tribe that invaded the eastern and western Empires between the 3rd and the 5th centuries and founded kingdoms in Italy, France, and Spain. They were noted for their barbarism, rudeness and neglect of artistic values. For some years the word was used for an uncivilised or ignorant person.

Today's teenage Goths are a more placid crowd, more interested in image and identity within their peer group than blundering barbarism.

This is not disrespect for war dead
The invasion begind
Eye catching haute coiture

The square was originally laid out by Grainger and designed by John Dobson and Thomas Oliver. Its stately houses, built to a uniform design, were completed in 1831 and attracted considerable attention. The central green portion was originally fenced and for the use of the residents.

The central area was dedicated to the City and the war memorial, designed by Charles Hartwell, was erected in 1923 and unveiled by Earl Haig.

The Council has recently replanted the familiar trees, and surrounded the monument with railings.

The weekly gathering of young folk has been a feature of Saturday life for about six months, and as usual older people see this as a huge threat and hooligans running riot.

In truth, the middle aged passion for fearing the gathering of youth is not new. It is the source of the "generation gap", a false and artificially constructed barrier of non understanding and deliberate difficulty.

I suspect that the frightened objectors either cannot remember their own youth, or can and are embarrassed by how such an august and sober person as themselves can possibly have been youthful and carefree.

It is an irony that the square is named after Lord Eldon, once Lord Chancellor of England, the epitome of conservative stuffiness. However, in his youth in 1772 he whisked 18 year old Bessie Surtees away against her parent's wishes for a clandestine elopement and marriage.

Got to get my little pricks organised
This sandwich makes me look really butch

During the 1970s three sides of the square were demolished to make way for the huge shopping mall, now called Eldon Square. The original square was unofficially renamed "Old Eldon Square" when its name was used for the shops.

A similar name stealing and devaluation happened to nearby Grey's Monument. During 1981 the PTE Metro light rail transit system opened a major city centre station, constructed underneath Grey's Monument. The station was given the name "Monument", thus denying Earl Grey his recognition.

To assume that these youngsters gathering today are in some way wasting the sum of human knowledge by their flagrant dress misses the point.

I spoke with one young man, still at school, and entering his A level studies in September, and mentioned my own reckless youth. He said that his father was a "Rocker" in the 1960s, a wild motorcycle rider with an appetite for running "Mods" and their scooters off the road. He is now a successful businessman and family man.

Youth is a time for testing the limits and discovering one's identity. It has to be said that an individual's makeup and character are formed much earlier in life when the brain cells aggregate and the neural networks are formed during the first three years of life.

Human personality formation is a mysterious process, the wonder to me is that how the overwhelming majority of us manage it without catastrophe.

Let's play happy families
This make me look really great, doesn't it?

The more flamboyant and potentially disruptive individuals I saw in this group were the girls.

It was they who did more of the smoking, provoking, and strutting behaviour. These "butter wouldn't melt" darlings at home turn into screaming harpies executing siren squirms to lure the lads and awaken envy. Ah me! So it was when I was young, and was probably the case in Ancient Egypt and before.

The magic lies in that it is happening now, and as far as these young people are concerned, for the first time in the history of the universe!

The Goths do not have any defined leader, but share a passion for 1970s style Punk music, and Heavy Metal Rock.

However, in the nature of tribal behaviour, local leaders or wise ones do emerge. They often hold court for the lesser ones to attend and benefit from their mystery utterances and knowing gaps in sentences. They crave recognition and ultimately adoration. Provided they can continue to pepper their utterances with arcane couplets that would confuse Nostradamus they will attract a following of eager acolytes.

Some of these may become astrologers, but I suspect that most will end up as salesmen, minor politicians, or confidence tricksters.

Wise one and bus driver hold court
Getting in a tangle is hair raising

Not all of the youngsters sport the drab clothes and outrageous hairstyles of the Goth. About a third of the people at the meets are the usual mix of teenage togs. That convict style no-hair cut is becoming rather passé and more attractive hairstyles for men are now making their appearance.

Once male grooming was seen as sissy and the sure sign that a lad was turning gay. Today's young men are more prepared to take a pride in their appearance and spend a bit of time to look good.

Young boys today are more likely to express their tender side than were lads when I was a teenager.

The fashion statements are an expression of the desire to belong to a group. The symbolism of the deathly pale face paint with panda black eyes, traffic light red lips, and long black hair are secondary to the uniform aspect.

There is no common momentum or movement, but a reactive attachment to the recognisable style, just as football followers can spot a similar soul streets away by the color of the shirt stripes.

The common activity is growing up and sharing basic sets of ideas and eagerly seeking the newest snippet of gossip, information or adornment.

A touch more black would be great
Does this look angst ridden enough?

as you can see, the buildings on the eastern side of the square are undergoing a facelift, and the Council will shortly start a pedestrian only scheme here. This little leftover from the original square has been a road to nowhere since 1976 and nearby Blackett Street has been forbidden to through car traffic for over twenty years.

This final bit of pedestrianisation will be most welcome. I can foresee small cafés spilling out into the space with the little tables and brollies popping up like Technicolor mushrooms.

This little section is currently a main walkway between areas in the retail areas nearby. Eldon Square has always been used for a stop during a shopping expedition, and the many seats around are much used. Its location and aspect has always been a summertime sun trap and this was not lost on today's visitors.

The Goth youths bring snacks and hold picnics on the grass, and are not wildly untidy, clearing up after them. Without a conscious effort they respect this place.

In contrast to this I had to pick up a carelessly cast away plastic bag deliberately dropped by a forty something couple who hurried by, muttering dark disapproval of unkempt yobs.

Skateboarders om the edge
Stop go boys

I am not trying to vouch for the good behaviour of all young people, but to put it at is most basic, whilst they are gathering here for a natter and a picnic, they are not breaking into your house, vandalising your car, stealing your money or raping your womenfolk!

The fear of the young is borne by a lack of understanding on both sides. The older ones might see teen issues rather childish and the young react dismissively to being told that it will change when they grow up.

I have found that if young people are treated with respect and with a sense of equality links of appreciation and communication can be formed. I understand that this can be extremely difficult for parents as this is a time for wing spreading in preparation for flight from the nest, and as we all know, breaking up is so hard to do.

Visit the Goth site set up for visitors and regulars to the Green, Eldon Square, the Saturday Newcastle Gothmeet. See the lively characters, join in the banter, find friends, and links to other resources. Check out the random people caught on camera; Local Gig list; or Message Board. Amanda, the site creator, tries to keep us up to date with important news and welcomes contributions.

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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