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Decennial Decadent Dance betwixt the Dead

Decennial Decadent Dance betwixt the Dead

Next year will see the 10th edition of York’s Black Rose Ball, which has been summoning the deliciously dark to this ancient city since 2013. I first attended in 2015 and then again at the one just gone… and now I’m planning on making it a firm fixture in my social calender!

It was such a magical night, unseasonably humid with a thunderstorm threatening in the darkening skies. Beautiful fae and folk in fabulous attire sauntering through the wide grave lined avenues up to the chapel where we all mingled and got merry. As darkness descended the trees were illuminated with an eerie red glow. But it was the occasional flashes of lighting that lit up the distant clouds while song and laughter filled the air – an image that makes my heart happy even now thinking back.


Being older, now with a family and career, clubs don’t quite do it for me like they used to – and our child-free nights need to be limited. Events like these are the perfect escape, and suitable for all ages and all walks of life – as long as you like a bit of glamour! It’s the variety of people I meet at such events, that make for really interesting conversations and tête-à-têtes. And then you can still get your dancefloor fix with your favourite aural delights – of which there seemed to be more than I could keep up with!

And York is a destination in itself. We didn’t have too much time this time round to wonder it’s beautiful streets but did manage to dine in the Guy Fawkes Inn and then wonder back to our “Smart” Airbnb… Nice idea, but when you fall into bed for a much desired sleep in the early hours of the morning and the lights won’t go off and your room starts serenading you… well not sure I was bought into that one. Although showering in the morning to an unheralded rendition of “Free Nelson Mandela” in the morning was actually quite uplifting!

But I digress! I really just wanted to take the opportunity to relive the beautiful night and discover the wonderful woman, Estelle, who made it happen, hear what she has to say below:


How long has the ball been running and what made you first decide to put on such an event?

A friend of mine, Alex, and I had both visited the De Grey Rooms in York and were inspired by the space. We thought it was ideal for an elegant gothic masquerade ball, and we also wanted to raise funds for charity. Essentially, we decided to create an event that we would want to attend ourselves. The first Black Rose Ball took place in September 2013, and has taken place every September since (except 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic).


This was the second year it was at York Cemetery, what made the change of venue, and do you foresee it now staying where it is?

After the pandemic, the De Grey Rooms (which had been the venue for the first seven balls) was still closed, and unavailable to hire. I had always wanted to organize an event in the chapel at the York cemetery (but had thought it too small) and decided to trial it as the ball venue for a one-off event.

Although it does not fit as many attendees as the De Grey rooms, it is a really gorgeous space. Not only can you enjoy great music, look around stalls, go on ghost tours but you can also enjoy the outdoor space of the cemetery grounds at your own leisure. Attendees absolutely love the venue too and the feedback has been overwhelmingly in favour of the new venue; which makes it the ideal new home of the Black Rose Ball. After all, cemeteries and goths are a perfect match!

How has York and the Cemetery management taken to hosting such an event? Have you had issues at all?

They have been really wonderful. I had to put in a proposal, which the cemetery manager, Wendy, presented to the board of trustees, to have approval for this type of event. Wendy, and her team, have been lovely to work with. I also raised money this year (and last year) for the cemetery trust, as it is a charity itself.

The York Cemetery Trust cares for, and maintains, the cemetery. Due to their hard work (and with help from the Friends of York Cemetery & volunteers), this beautiful space is not only a working cemetery but also open to the general public to explore. A place to both mourn those that have passed, but also to reflect, and to enjoy the tranquil and relaxing space.

York Cemetery is grade II* listed, and is one of only two privately owned Victorian cemeteries in the UK. It was founded in 1837, and now encompasses 24 acres of green space, which supports a rich plant and animal life. Unusual trees and plants are home to a diverse range of butterflies, insects, bats, and other animals. The focus is not only on running a cemetery but also to provide conservation and education, and an informal recreation space close to the city centre.

As a result of the cemetery being not only a working cemetery, but also a sanctuary for wildlife, it is very important that the ball sits in harmony with this; and all attendees are encouraged to tread lightly and treat the cemetery with respect, care, and consideration.

Charity seems to be a lovely element to the event, how much have you raised so far?

£ 5,065.58 since 2013. This was raised for three different charities: St Leonard’s Hospice in York, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and the York Cemetery Trust.


You used to put on an evening of bands the night before the ball, would this be something you are planning again?

Alex, my co-founder, used to organise the bands the night before the ball. He took a step back after the 2018 ball due to health reasons. He always attends the ball though, and helps on the day, and is a great support. My passion and strengths lie with the ball itself, and so I have not continued the band nights; but Alex might start them up again one day.

Could you tell me a bit about the ghost tour?

I came across Dorian & Dede Deathly, York’s premier Spookologists, during the pandemic as they hosted ghost tours of York on YouTube. Dorian is a compelling storyteller, and a suitably flamboyant presence to be ideal as a ghost tour guide for ball attendees. I asked them to come and walk the cemetery with me and see if they would like to organize tours during the evening of the ball. They are lovely to work with, and a huge success with attendees.

Over the course of the evening, they lead three tours, with each tour taking a limited number of wanderers down the pathways of the cemetery, stopping a few times along the route to revel in spine-chilling stories, humorous hauntings, and some top-class spooky banter.

If you are in York, do also check out their ghost tours through the city centre – the hugely popular Deathly Dark Tours.

If people wanted to make a weekend of it, what York sights/activities would you recommend?

That is a tough question, as York has so much to offer. You are literally falling over history as you walk around the town. A good place to start, is to walk the walls around the town or take a bus tour. You can walk all of York quite easily, which makes it a lovely place to explore.

For a view of York, you can climb the tower in York Minster, or up to the viewing platform in Clifford’s Tower. Both are worth visiting to read about the history of York.

A visit to the Shambles is key, of course, too. There are some lovely shops on there that cater to those who like the darker aesthetic, for example W Hamond Whitby Jet, The York Ghost Merchants or The Society of Alchemists. Pop into the Hebden Tea Experience (and shop) for tea or stop off in Parlormade Café & Scone House for some of the best scones out there.

For those who like something stronger to drink, York is full of cozy little pubs – and most of them claim to be haunted too.


If money were no object or the realms of possibility held no boundaries, describe the ball outfit of your dreams.

There are so many great choices out there …. Something from the darker collections by Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood or Balenciaga, as all have some stunning dark elegant gowns. I am a minimalist at heart and love clean sculptural lines but with a dash of dark elegant over the top ‘bling’ at the same time. I also have to think practically for my outfit, as event running is not a glamorous job, so it would need to be something voluminous yet light and easy to wear; and comfortable shoes are a must!

What’s the date for next year? I need to get this in my diary – and everyone else should too (watch out for ticket sales announcement – they sell out fast!)

Saturday 14 September 2024. This will be the 10th Black Rose Ball I have organised; and the plan is to celebrate this anniversary by providing something a bit special!

Why not check out the fabulous traders who exhibited this year:

Room Spell:

Obscurium Emporium:

Milton and Martin:


little greentrees hop:

Dorothy May Lingerie:

Doctor Geof:

Adele Karmazyn:

And don’t forget to check out the ball here: Black Rose Ball

This article includes photos by Steve Kenny, Lord Jack Skatington & Soulstealer