Event Spotlight: The Black Rose Ball [De Grey Ballroom, York] September 7, 2013

The Black Rose Ball is a new event, but it really captures gothworld’s imagination, much to the organisers’ delight. Three months in advance, tickets have already sold out, rendering the […]

The Black Rose Ball is a new event, but it really captures gothworld’s imagination, much to the organisers’ delight. Three months in advance, tickets have already sold out, rendering the intended sorties to advertise across the country superfluous. The country is already descending upon York, to dress up to the nines (or thirteens), don masks and spend an evening dancing their pointy boots off. Various Londoners have seen fit to break free from the capital’s extra-strong gravitational pull and one lady is coming down from Inverness for the night. But can the event live up to expectations? Oh yes!

Black Rose Ball

The venue, the De Grey Ballroom, contributes generously to the atmosphere, with its crystal chandeliers and ornate mantelpieces, but the organisers leave nothing to chance. Black roses fill vases; petals are strewn across the candlelit tables; and skulls glow from the mixing desk. A guest brings hangings painted with black roses to adorn the bar, where the staff are masked and happy. It’s possible to have a graduation-style photo taken of you in all your finery, and the tombola offers an astonishing array of donated prizes, including CDs, clothing, accessories, artwork and generous offers from various companies catering to the dark-souled.

The dress code – “formal masquerade and gothic / alternative” – with prizes on offer for the best dressed, brings out the big black dresses, complete with bustles and trains, and the dancefloor is sufficiently spacious for some mesmerising flouncing – and a spot of poi. Meanwhile, other guests successfully work white and neon into the remit, or regard wearing a mask as a prime opportunity to plump for an alien, robotic, skeletal, bestial or piratical look. Masks aren’t entirely comfortable, and, in a closely-knit scene, identities aren’t in much doubt, so a lot of people see fit to reveal their faces partway through. But it’s fascinating to see so many stylish, inspired and hand-made variations of a little-worn accessory.

Four popular local DJs – Mad Alex, Andy C, Batastrophe and De’ath – are manning the decks this evening, playing a thorough mix of goth, industrial, darkwave, EBM, mittelalter and neo-folk. As a one-off, this isn’t an event to be plying the audience with anything new or obscure, but the setlist keeps away from the most obvious anthems until the appropriate hour, and we find plenty of cause for the “What is this?”, “It sounds a bit like band X, but . . .” “Well, I like it” conversation. The venue’s a bit of a difficult shape to achieve a perfect sound, but it improves as the evening progresses, and the hordes flock onto the dancefloor regardless.

An enormous £1,092 is raised to be donated to St Leonard’s Hospice, a local charity, which is fitting since the ballroom’s right next to the former site of the ancient St Leonard’s Hospital. The second Black Rose Ball will take place on Saturday, September 13, 2014. Buy your tickets early because we’re sure everyone present this year wants to go again!

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C.Z. Warnes

About C.Z. Warnes

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