19th May 2018
Words by Demitri Levantis
Photos by Jo Blackened
As the sun arose over the calm and cultured city of London, the city went about its business enjoying the spring weather, but one place alive and well with life (ironically) was Nunhead Cemetery, one of the seven magnificent graveyards of the metropolis.
Southwark Council had organised an annual cemetery open day for the public to come and marvel the historical architecture of this Victorian necropolis – a place where life and death are celebrated equally, for the site is also a nature reserve.
One such group of people, ready to show their appreciation for the cemetery were members of the London Goth scene, brought together by an event organised by the London Vampire Magazine.
Every year, such folk meet up and basque in the macabre glory of the seven famous graveyards, and the spirit was in no way dampened this time. with some of the attractions on show involved a horse-drawn Victorian hearse, which paraded around the grounds attracting the attention of followers.
Parasols, feather fans, lace and leather garments and plenty of dark makeup was made use of as the day wore on and the lovers of the darkness laughed and chatted as they made their ways through the cemetery.
One such attraction involved a tiny sepulchre come art exhibition, showcasing artworks made by local artists to commemorate those lost in war – both in service and in objection.
Several of the most decadent and detailed graves also became photo sites. It is not an uncommon sight to see such folk sitting around the monuments to the glorious dead in these such events and a chance to see how the gravestones are engraved.
As well as the goths making their ways around the graves, there was plenty of local attraction offered like stalls handing out free literature about current events, or charities like Amnesty International taking on new members and a bug hunt for the youngsters.
There was also morris dancing and food stalls, to keep families entertained as well as music from a local choir.
With locally produced sweets, jams, preserves and other such snacks being on sale, there was a fascinating showcase of woodwork and carpentry hidden amongst the trees for people to admire the works of local wood artists.
But the biggest, most popular feature was the chance to visit the catacombs underneath the Anglican Chapel. After purchasing tickets, the London Vampires descended below ground level and were led on a tour of the Victorian resting place that lay below the house of God.
In this damp. pitch black and eerie cavern were remnants of a time when funerals were of big status symbolism. In this small room lay a few lead coffins commissioned by the rich to preserve their god-fearing bodies, and on other walls lay the bodies of paupers and less fortunate ones who had just about enough money to afford a burial.
This was also a fine exhibit of how death was seen as a major part of life and a thing worthy of many celebrations in ages past. A reminder of how the attitudes of such times have changed and how the importance of such a moment might have been lost in translation in recent times.
Overall, this was a day of remembrance.
Remembering those who have passed on, those who made their lives worth celebrating in an extravagant way, remembering how things used to be not so very long ago, and a celebration of all things darkly beautiful.
The London vampires are those who find beauty in what is normally deemed the dark and scary, so it was excellent to have a day where the alternatives and the regulars of society came together to celebrate London’s heritage as a necropolis.