Leipzig Events: Catch WGT fever

Did you know the world’s biggest gothic festival takes place in Leipzig? Each year, thousands of members of the goth subculture, of various professions, age groups and nationalities – besides the local contingent – come to the city for a slew of gothic-inspired events. The variety of often elaborate outfits and all-out costumes they wear around town (from Victorian-style dresses to punk-style hair, leather and fishnets) attests to the diversity of expressions of such a subculture. It’s the Wave-Gotik-Treffen, taking place this year from May 22-25. The media is all over it (i.e. MDR online special). The festival will feature 169 artists performing at different Leipzig venues. Participating locations (most with special events and some granting free entry to festival participants) include churches and cemeteries, museums and art galleries, music venues, theaters, cinemas, and cafés and restaurants.

The next open mic of Leipzig Writers will adopt this gothic vibe, carried by this irresistible “dark” wave. It will take place the opening night of Wave-Gotik-Treffen – Friday, May 22 at 8 p.m. It will be, as usual, at Poniatowski, the regular meeting place for the writers’ group and related literary events (Kreuzstraße 15). Come read your own work, dressed in dark clothes preferably, and you get a free drink. Or just come listen and hang out.

A question I’ve often asked myself while witnessing the crowds of gothic fans take over, adding some (dark) color and diversity to the streets and parks here is, why Leipzig? The ever-dependable Wikipedia tells me that the festival’s first try was in Potsdam in 1988, but while it managed to attract 150 people, it was shut down by the police in the former GDR. The second attempt at what is now the Wave-Gotik-Treffen happened after Germany’s reunification; they found a venue in Leipzig to host the event, Conne Island, and got 2000 attendants. The festival has since greatly expanded and grown tenfold to some 20,000 people each year. Majhon Phillips has written an interesting article (regardless of whatever political stance it takes) on why the gothic subculture has exerted such an attraction in East Germany (although I don’t agree that it should be simplified as a “depressed sub-culture”):

“Why did the modern Gothicism begin in Germany? With over 60,000 members, called Grufties, the German Goth movement is huge. Compared to the history of other European countries in the late twentieth century, it is no surprise that this depressed sub-culture started here. Unlike other communistic cultures and war-stricken countries, East Germany went through the Weimar Republic, Nazism, and Communism in less than 100 years. (…) Gothicism offered a cynical freedom from the confusion. It allowed thoughts and ideas, not just propaganda. In 1989, there were 600 Grufties in the German Democratic Republic [GDR]. These Gothic people were very visible, and made a very clear stance against communism. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germans had the freedom to choose any music available. Ironically, many of them continued down the Gothic path. And today, East Germany accounts for two-thirds of the Grufties in Germany.”

Even if you have nothing to do with the gothic subculture, this festival is worth checking out both for its cultural and historical dimensions – besides the entertainment value, of course. Not that you will have much of a choice if you’re passing through pretty much anywhere in Leipzig next weekend. You will see them.

A Global Studies doctoral degree holder and former newspaper reporter, avid eater, pseudo-philosopher and poet, occasion-propelled singer, semi-professional socializer, movie addict, Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, with special attention to social issues.

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