Lace-up boots, jewellery and makeup: 10 facts about Leipzig’s Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival.
The relaxed atmosphere, chilled-out visitors and open-minded Leipzig residents make the festival a four-day event for the whole city.
1. For 24 years, Leipzig has shown how colourful black can be at Whitsun.
This weekend, Leipzig is hosting numerous devotees of the dark music scene for the 24th time. The entire city will bid welcome to imaginatively dressed young people, grown-up goths and even whole families. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on the city. The festival’s organisers estimate 20,000, while scene insiders predict 35,000 to 40,000.
2. Globally unique: one city – one festival.
The first Wave-Gotik-Treffen was held in 1992 and it has now become firmly established as the most popular festival in the world for gothic and dark music. As press officer Cornelius Brach says: “It’s the only festival in the world that combines music, culture and history and embraces an entire city.” Visitors come from all over the world. “Some of them save for years so they can travel all the way from Asia or Australia at least once to experience the WGT in Saxony,” says Brach.
3. Live concerts, readings, exhibitions, medieval markets and parties.
Some 200 bands play all variations of dark music at around 50 venues throughout the city. There is also a diverse arts and cultural programme devoted to the dark scene, and entry to many of Leipzig’s museums is free with a WGT wristband. The local office of the government department responsible for administering Stasi documentation is showing an exhibition entitled “Children of the Night – Unassimilated and Under Observation. The Dark Scene in the GDR.” Leipzig’s largest cemetery is putting on special tours on the trail of owls and bats. And the annual service held in St Peter’s church for fans of the scene is always well attended, demonstrating that dark culture and Christian beliefs do go together.
4. Bizarre, relaxed, peaceful – as varied as Leipziger Allerlei.
Steampunks, cybergoths, doom metalheads and neo-Victorian romantics mix with dark, electro, medieval and fetish fans – anything goes at the festival. The residents of Leipzig love the assortment of black-clad visitors; they mingle with the crowds and take lots of photos. Many shops decorate their Whitsun window displays in a gothic style and some companies even offer WGT versions of their products. Saxony-based contact lens supplier Lensspirit, for example, sells a wide selection of coloured and themed lenses, along with a dedicated Dark Spirit care product range. Shop manager Swetlana Reiche says the idea for the WGT-themed lenses was prompted by some of her employees who belonged to the goth scene, and she has also had enquiries from customers.
5. New: Viona’s Victorian Village in the Panometer.
The inventors of the Victorian picnic in Clara Zetkin Park are inviting visitors to come to Viona’s Victorian Village this year for the first time. It will be held in the arena at the Panometer, a former gasometer built at the beginning of the 20th century. The Victorian marketplace features stalls, dancing classes, dance performances, a tea party, music and a costume contest. Its organisers, Viona and Dirk, come from Belgium. They wanted to try out something new this year, now that the Victorian picnic in Clara Zetkin Park has gained cult status.
6. The WGT: a family festival.
Many goths have grown up with the festival and now bring their own children along. Accordingly, the WGT has a crèche, where each child can be looked after for three hours by trained and experienced carers. The WGT crèche on the festival site (near agra exhibition hall 2) is open from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
7. Gothic shopping.
From tailor-made vampire teeth to corsets: the Black Market on the agra festival site is the perfect place to shop in a huge hall of stalls. At the WGT shopping fair in agra hall 1, there is a nail studio selling professional artificial nails in various colours and in every shape and length imaginable. Flea market fans can rummage to their heart’s content at the second-hand market held at Scheibenholz racecourse on Saturday 23 May.
8. Travelling by “goth tram”.
The WGT has its own special tram line (line 31), affectionately called the “goth tram” by visitors and Leipzig residents, which connects Leipzig city centre with the agra site to the south. Leipzig’s public transport authority (LVB) has published transport information for festival goers on a special page for the WGT. Visitors can use all public transport free of charge with a festival wristband. However, those who want to be different might like to take a taxi. The strangely-dressed passengers are popular with the taxi drivers, who say: “they don’t drink much, they’re not rowdy and they tip properly”.
9. From five-star hotels to camp sites.
A comfortable bed in a five-star hotel is just as popular among WGT festival goers as a tent, hostel or B&B. The important thing is to have enough space to get dressed and put on makeup. More accommodation tips here.
10. Dogs welcome.
Boarding kennels are also well prepared for extra guests at Whitsun. Festival goers who have no one to look after their dog at home and want to bring them along can find the last available vacancies here or here.