Things get heavy for the goths

CALLING all goths: don your eyeliner, grab your trenchcoats and get ready to hit the streets of Dewsbury and Mirfield.

That's the plea from goths who told the Reporter that rude comments and threats of violence have driven the alternative sub-culture underground.

Two weeks ago, the Reporter exclusively revealed that Thornhill Goths Dani Graves and Tasha Maltby had submitted a complaint to Arriva alleging a Dewsbury bus driver refused them service.

Mr Graves, 25, said the driver objected to their style of dress and the fact that he leads fiancee Miss Maltby, 19, around on a leash.

He said: "He shoved me off the bus. He called us freaks and he called Tasha a dog. He said: 'We don't let freaks and dogs like you on.'"

The story made headlines worldwide, with Miss Maltby revealing that she wears a leash because she classes herself as a pet.

Fellow goth Susan Walker, of Marshall Street, Mirfield, said rude comments from people eventually made her give up her usual choice of dress in public.

But she said as a mark of solidarity with Mr Graves and Miss Maltby, she would start to dress like a goth again.

Mrs Walker, 54, said: "I moved here four years ago after getting wed to a local guy, and had quite a culture shock. I am originally from Whitby, the spiritual home of all goths worldwide. Nobody bats an eyelid when you are seen in the Co-op shopping, fully 'gothed-up', it is an everyday occurrence."

Mrs Walker said after moving to Mirfield, she was shocked to hear people calling her a devil-worshipper. She said she tried to set up a social club for goths in Mirfield but it was disbanded because members were getting hassled too much at meetings.

And she eventually got so sick of people's rude reactions to her appearance that she started to dress more conventionally.

She said: "After six months of living here, I too suffered black looks and nasty comments and so stopped wearing my goth clothes in order to fit in.

"This will happen no longer. From this day forth, I will be seen in my normal clothes – goth – in support of Dani and Tasha. I ask any other 'closet' goths to do the same."

She said a typical outfit she now wears to the shops includes purple Doc Marten boots decorated with cobwebs, a skirt which is long at the back and short at the front, and black or purple tights.

She said: "No way are we freaks or dogs. We are ordinary people who just wish to be individuals and not follow the sheep."

A family of goths from Savile Town said many people they know have stopped going out in the typical black clothing and striking make-up because they are sick of people being rude to them.

Mary Watts, 46, and her three adult sons are all goths.

Mrs Watts said: "They've grown up around heavy metal music and as they got grew up they got into their own kinds of music."

Son Edwin, 23, said he doesn't like to label himself as a goth any longer but is often called one as he wears dark clothing and listens to heavy metal music.

In 2005, the Reporter revealed that Edwin and brother Peter, now 20, had been chased home by teenagers with bats because of how they looked.

He said: "Things got better after the article. We still get some flak but there's always going to be ignorant people.

"I do find it's more accepted in Leeds. People look the odd time but they don't make comments."

Edwin said the goth, or 'alternate', scene in Dewsbury had been driven underground as a result of people's reactions.

He said: "It's very underground in Dewsbury. They don't want to come out as much as they're really worried about what people are going to say."

But Edwin urged anyone who wanted to dress differently to have the courage to do so.

But he was worried that the media frenzy over Mr Graves and Miss Maltby's lifestyle could prejudice people further against the goth lifestyle.

He said: "If they want to do that, that's their choice, but part of me doesn't want all other goths to be pigeon-holed by the idea that we all have our girlfriends on a leash."

An Arriva staff member has now visited Mr Graves and Miss Maltby to apologise for any distress caused.

A spokeswoman said: "Arriva has a diverse workforce which reflects our wide customer base. We want all passengers to feel welcome and comfortable while using our services and want all our employees to have the awareness and sensitivity to enable that. Diversity awareness is a key part of our training programme.

"If the couple feel they were discriminated against for the way they look we apologise for that and will endeavour to ensure such a situation does not re-occur. We have met with Mr Graves and Miss Maltby to apologise for any distress caused by the way this matter was handled."