“Someone brought a megaphone so ever since we’ve had megaphone hymns”
For 12 years over 100 goths have met at The Rochester Castle pub in Stoke Newington for their annual Bleak Christmas gathering.
Whatever your tradition may be, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
From the Museum of London
Chris: The Rochester Castle (pub) used to be a LOT shabbier. There was a sign saying ‘why not book your Christmas party here?’ and we were like ‘oh right, wouldn’t that be like the bleakest thing ever!’ And then we were like, ‘hang on a minute!’. It was back in the early days of social media. We went on LiveJournal and ended up with a hundred people.
Andy: So we printed out a bunch of carol sheets at work and managed to trick the bar staff into letting us sing our hymns through a megaphone.
Chris: We always felt really bad about the whole ‘Bleak Christmas’ thing, then we noticed a few years ago that they’d actually started calling it that themselves. The pub really embraced it. We’ve always said we want this to be radically inclusive, absolutely everyone and anyone can come. It’s been going solid like that for 12 years now.
Andy: Originally the locals got kind of annoyed by it. I think we told them we were a group called Junkies For Jesus. Year on year, the locals have warmed to it and even gotten involved themselves. Every year there’ll be people there that I’ve never seen before in my life. It just keeps getting bigger.
Chris: We always start with (singing a bleak rendition of) Happy Birthday Jesus from (the film) ‘Full Metal Jacket’. It’s all basically stemmed from the London Goth scene, and in particular, Slimelight. We’re mostly made up of people who used to go to Slimelight or still go. Slimelight is the longest running alternative club in Europe. It’s just celebrated its 30th birthday. It’s a bit of an institution.
Andy: Apparently the Christmas mains are going to much better this year!
Chris: Oh yeah, because there was a big scandal last year where they got rid of roasts in Wetherspoons pubs and there was going to be no Christmas dinner. They did a turkey pie but it was ughhh. But this year they’ve kind of brought it back a bit and they’ve got like a stuffed turkey roll and pigs in blankets so everyone is very excited! For anyone that’s thinking of coming this year, definitely do!
Andy: But be prepared to sing!
Chris: And you don’t have to eat Christmas pudding if you don’t want to. But, everyone gets it, and everyone pays for it so just shut up and deal with it!
Andy: One of the biggest administrative tasks is the meat/veg split. We have a big spreadsheet and we add to it via email with the people who want meat or veg. And some people are like ‘ooh can I have fish?’ and we’re like ‘NO YOU GET MEAT OR VEG.’
Chris: It’s radically inclusive but it’s not a democracy! It doesn’t matter if I hate you, you can still come but you can’t have fish, and you’re paying for Christmas pudding!
Andy: You’ve captured it perfectly!
Chris: We’ll be doing this forever!
Andy: As long as the Roch’ is there! Even if I moved out of London I’d still come.It’s in the Roch’! It’s always in the Roch’. It’s only ever in the Roch’! It could never be in another pub.