By Kasper Hassett

Norwich has a goth scene. That’s not always obvious – but go digging in the Underbelly of The Rumsey Wells on certain Saturdays and you might find yourself caught up with those who move on the city’s darkest dance floor.

Started by Alixandrea and Dvae in Cambridge, Sacrilege is a semi-regular club night showcasing a range of dark music from all eras. In recent years it has moved with them to Norwich, and is now gaining traction as a hub for the East Anglian alternative community to gather and enjoy goth music. I got in touch with Alix and Dvae to discuss Sacrilege, how it came to be and what may be in its future.

‘Cambridge was in desperate need of a decent goth night and an old venue with a lot of nostalgia attached to it had just re-opened, so we took a chance and jumped,’ they say of Sacrilege’s beginning. ‘We stopped running Sacrilege in Cambridge some time before we moved as we started to get really busy with our band, Last July. A few years after we’d moved to Norwich we were bemoaning the fact that there were no events for alternative people to celebrate New Year’s Eve, so we decided to resurrect Sacrilege and ran a very successful event on NYE 2019.’

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the halt of all in-person events just as Sacrilege was finding its feet in its new home of Norwich, but that did not bring it to an end. ‘During lockdown, Nevla suggested we try running an online Sacrilege night and it was so successful that we carried on running every two weeks for a year and a half. We had attendees from all over the country and even as far away as the US and Canada!’

Sacrilege now runs in the Underbelly at The Rumsey Wells and has featured Alix, Dvae and Nevla as DJs. The venue is small, with a capacity of 60, but gets busy. Attendees flock in from across East Anglia and further afield. On Facebook event pages, Sacrilege aspirants excitedly discuss booking hotels and travel to Norwich for the night. The night itself has a strong feel of community, showcasing a variety of gothic styles. In the seating areas, attendees form bonds and share music recommendations.

Promotional image for Sacrilege. Credit: Sacrilege via facebook.

Sometimes, new media shines a light on the goth subculture and causes spikes of interest. In November, ‘Wednesday’ was released on Netflix, prompting many who would not normally have been interested in alternative subcultures to try new music and fashion, and for some, sparking an interest in concepts of the supernatural and strange. This comes amid longer-standing fears that the alternative subcultures of the 1980s have declined in recent years. But overall, Alix and Dvae are confident that, locally, the scene is not undergoing significant change in popularity: ‘We think the scene has remained pretty stable over the years,’ they say. ‘What brings us together is the same as it has always been: an appreciation for the music and the camaraderie of the scene.’

In-person Sacrilege events have become possible again, and this year has seen two. Most recently, they ran a night on the 1st April with guest DJs Simon and Mikki from Chains on Velvet, a quarterly takeover of Void, the upstairs room of Meltdown at the Waterfront. Meanwhile, Sacrilege’s Twitch stream is still active, and the hosts have even projected the video from the livestream onto the wall of the in-person event, complete with chat activity. ‘Some people appreciate going out more,’ say Alix and Dvae, ‘while others have realised how much fun they can have at home listening to alternative radio or Twitch streams, not having to get dressed up for a club night’. 

It’s all very well doing a gig or club night
in a spooky crypt but no good for those
who can’t manage stairs

A hybrid in-person and online club night would have been impossible to imagine three years ago, but seeing people together on a dancefloor enjoying the same DJ set as people in their homes around the world is a sign of the strength of alternative communities. In a scene which attracts those who don’t fit into mainstream society, it makes sense for inclusivity and accessibility to be core principles. Alix and Dvae agree: ‘It would be nice to have more venues that are accessible. It’s all very well doing a gig or club night in a spooky crypt but no good for those who can’t manage stairs, especially if the toilets or bar are on another floor.’ 

‘We’ve always been really lucky in the alternative scene that we accept people who might otherwise be seen as ‘outsiders’,’ Alix and Dvae say. But in the alternative scene more broadly, they acknowledge that there is ‘a racism problem which is completely unacceptable and needs stamping out.’ Racism in the goth scene has been perpetuated by both individuals and fashion brands, affronting goth’s origins in embracing those rejected by mainstream society.

Sacrilege prides itself on being a club night with a small but welcoming feel, with newcomers often becoming repeat visitors. However, running a partially online event can have unique challenges. ‘Gatekeeping is mainly an online “keyboard warrior” thing in our experience. We never actually see these people at real world alternative events.’

Sacrilege fills a gap in the Norwich nightlife, but live performances appealing to the same crowd are scarcer. ‘We’d like to see more live music here,’ Alix and Dvae say. ‘Norwich is great for the metal scene but there’s not that much for those of us of a darker persuasion.’ 

The music played satisfies a wide range of alternative tastes. From ‘80s classics like The Cure and Depeche Mode to modern goth rock like She Past Away, EBM such as Spark! and synthpop bands like Empathy Test, Sacrilege caters for a sorely needed niche. They also take song requests on the night. 

It may be too soon to forecast Sacrilege’s future, but this year it is gaining popularity. Their next event is scheduled to celebrate both Alix and Dvae’s birthdays. ‘Come along for a great night and some cake!’ 

The next Sacrilege will be on the 3rd of June at The Rumsey Wells. More information about Sacrilege is available on their Facebook page or their Twitch, where events are streamed. Alix and Dvae also make music as Last July, which can be found here.

Featured image credit: Sacrilege via facebook

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