A Year in the Life: Adventures in British Subcultures

By Lucy Leonelli

An A to Z of British subcultures

Friday, 1 November 2019


Me again, wonderful pledgers.

We are now 42% of the way along the road to being fully funded and edging closer and closer to the top of the 50% hump!

Please continue to pester your friends and family to jump on board as backers so we can get FOMO in the book stores and in your hands as soon as possible. In the meantime, in light of the occasion, here is the opening excerpt from one of the SPOOKIEST chapters.

Happy Hallowe'en ...


V is for... Vampires

“Exchanging blood within a loving relationship is sacred. It is the most intimate thing you can do. People who trivialise this as food can go fuck themselves”

Although they can be killed with a stake through the heart, because that would kill anybody, modern-day vampires are not averse to garlic, have a visible reflection and are not allergic to silver… But they do drink blood. Well, some of them do.

I make my debut in the community at a Gothic Boat Party, hosted by the London Vampire MeetUp Group, on the River Thames. I study myself in the mirror next to my front door. Had I got the dress code right? I don’t want to stick out, but I also don’t want to overdo it and offend anybody. What on earth do vampires wear? I settle on a black silk shirt, purple jeans, and far too much eyeliner.

After a long, self-conscious walk through East London, I arrive at the Liberty Bounds pub near Tower Bridge. My nostrils are assaulted with a bouquet of dust and stale beer as I take in the dramatic scene. Clothing is period in style; jackets are stiff and shirts are ruffled. The men wear top hats and carry canes, and the women spill from tight corsets, their elaborate hairstyles thatched with animal skulls.

A familiar out-of-my-depth nausea brews in the pit of my stomach.

I meet my first vampire on board the ship. He is pale with long black hair that clings to his face in the heat of the evening. Dressed in Victorian clothing, a tight suit with frilly cuffs and a lace collar, he smiles to reveal perfectly formed fangs.

“Hello,” I approach him, blushing at the idiocy of what I am about to ask. “Are you a vampire?”

After an untrusting once-over with his eyes, he fixes his gaze on mine.

“Yeeees,” he purrs.

“How big is the community in the UK?” I seize the opportunity.

“Well, it’s growing,” he says, taking a step back from me as if to regain control. “We have a few families, and the London vampire community is pretty strong, but we’re not as organised as they are in the US”.

I remember reading about this on the London Vampire Forum; it explained that unlike their American cousins, who are ‘coming out of the coffin’ in their droves, many UK vamps remain hidden in today's society, a clandestine community yet to reveal their ‘true nature’ to their family and friends.

Happy that my vampire is now talking, I relay the memory to him. He thinks for a while, fiddling with the lace at his wrists. “I think that’s probably true,” he says. “England is a much more cynical place than America, so people are embarrassed about coming out as a vampire. They are happy to hang out with other vampires and dress like them, but they still don’t want to admit that they are actual vampires”.

He looks pleased with his answer and, without breaking eye contact, takes a big swig from whatever is in his wooden tankard. A thick red ribbon hangs from the handle.

‘Do you drink blood?’ The question falls out of me.

He furrows his brow and looks at me sideways. I worry I have pushed him too far.

“No,” he says, a smile reforming as he seemingly enjoys my question. “There aren’t many sanguines left now, not since the eighties. A lot of people think it’s too dangerous,” he waves his hand as if swatting something away, “HIV and all that. So they switched to energy and became psychic vampires,” he curls his lip into a half-smile, “like me.”

The party continues into the early hours, my rum consumption taking me swiftly past confidence and deep into the alcoves of memory loss. I spend the following afternoon nursing a throbbing head as I pore over Internet forums and articles, building my vampire knowledge piece by piece.

I discover that modern-day vamps fall into two general categories; those who have a passion for vampire literature, film, folklore and fashion - known as ‘life-stylers’, who make up the vast majority - and those who genuinely believe they are vampires, with ancient souls that require supplementary life-force. The latter group divide themselves depending on how they choose to ‘feed’ in order to remain healthy:

Sanguine vampires believe that they need to take energy through ingesting human blood, typically from a willing donor.

Living vampyres (spelt with a ‘y’ to distinguish themselves from folklore) live by a philosophy that enables them to take energy through living a certain type of life, more on this later.

Psychic vampires (psy vamps) need to take energy or ‘life force,’ typically from other human beings, in order to maintain a healthy energetic balance.

I am especially interested in the idea of psychic vampirism, so I decide to follow the advice of InCarnatus, my vampire forum friend, and read The Vampire Codex, a psy vamp handbook written by the famous vampire, Michelle Belanger. According to her website, Michelle, a prominent member and spokesperson of the global vampire community, had always felt different as a child. This might have been because she was born intersex and had immediate gender assignment surgery, but she puts it down to a combination of ‘genetics, environment and fate’ that made her more sensitive to psychic experience. During her teens she ‘identified and came to terms with’ psychic vampirism, that is, the need to take energy from others in order to maintain optimum physical and mental well-being.

Michelle spent the next few years deepening her understanding of what it was to be a psychic vampire, framing the concept as a natural cycle of energy exchange, separating it from the negative, predatory stereotypes surrounding the traditional archetype of the vampire. She came to understand the need for psy vamps to take energy as a necessary element of a universal energy cycle:

‘There are many people who naturally produce too much energy than they require to sustain themselves. Many of these are called to be healers… For every person who has a natural abundance of energy to give away, there is another person who has a natural need to take energy in, and so the energy of the Universe remains in a constant and vital flow’.

For me, the idea of energy exchange is a palatable access point into this world. I accept that human beings emanate energy - you can call this ‘life force’ if you like, it makes no difference - and I think we all know someone who tends to sap the energy from any room they are in, just as we all know someone who seems to inject it. So it doesn't feel like a radical leap to go one step further and say that some people are energy deficient, and some have too much.

Michelle goes on to explain that most vampires live by a code of conduct called the Red Veils, co-written by herself and another protagonist of the vampire community. This involves feeding only on willing partners who understand the process and are willing to be fed from, except in the case of ‘surface feeding’ (taking from the ‘outer layers’ of someone’s energy field without invading their aura) or ‘ambient feeding’ (taking the energy collectively generated by a crowd of people).

Feeding on an unwilling victim is classified as assault by the majority of the vampire community, and is deeply frowned upon.

Donors exist, and you can find lists online of vampires looking for willing donors, and vice-versa. I was fascinated to stumble onto a list of over 300 people volunteering to offer up their red stuff to a hungry vamp.

Who are these people?!

I read on. The Vampire Codex teaches the newly awaken psy vamp how to feed;

To ‘ambient feed’, you simply go to a crowded place, such as a gig or a busy city centre, and let the energy flow into you naturally. You can also visualise a net around you, that catches the energy and bring it back into you.

To ‘surface feed’, you ‘select a target from the crowd and concentrate on him or her. While focusing on the target, extend a tendril of your energy towards this person… With this tendril, you can gently latch onto the outer layers of your target’s energy. Once the connection is made, you then focus on the person through the tendril and start pulling the energy from him or her to you’. This is typically not harmful to the target, ‘…at most, he or she will develop a headache or suddenly become very sleepy’.

‘Deep feeding’ is the most invasive feeding method, going into another persons Chakra and taking energy at the deepest level. It is complex and can be very dangerous for those who do not know what they are doing.

I mindlessly rub my throat, swallow hard and shut the book.


Some time passes. I am sitting on a high stool in a macabre tattoo shop on the Holloway Road.

“By the power of Bach” a tall man with a long chestnut ponytail molds my thumb and two middle fingers into the universal rock-sign (or ‘devil horns’) and motions for me to repeat him.

“By the power of Bach” I say.

“I will not eat with my fangs in”.

“I will not eat with my fangs in”.

“By the power of Bach”.

“By the power of Bach”.

“I will not sleep with my fangs in”.

“I will not sleep with my fangs in”.

There is a break while he tries to remember the next bit.

“Oh yeah I like this bit”, he wriggles on his seat. “By the Power of Bach”.

“By the power of Bach”.

“I will drink far too much Jack Daniels with my fangs in” he says, with a grin.

“I will drink far too much Jack Daniels with my fangs in” I say, smiling back.

“By the power of Bach”.

“By the power of Bach”.

“I will have crazy, amazing sex with my fangs in,” he smirks.

“By the Power of Bach,” he goes on, denying me the chance to repeat the best one. “I will not look in the mirror until Bach says it’s ok.”

I figure we are done with the whole repeating thing, so I look back at him, and wait. 

He looks stern.

“Well?” he says.

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “By the Power of Bach, I will not look in the mirror until Bach says it’s ok”.

“That’s the most important bit!” he says, motioning for me to open my mouth and hold up my lips with my devil horn pinkies.

I am going through my ‘rite of transformation,’ my awakening as an ‘Elan Vampyre’. The ceremony involves having fangs made by Bach, a professional Fangsmith (apparently that’s a thing) and another protagonist of the modern-day vampire movement. 

Going through the ceremony qualifies you for entry into the Elan Clan, a global vampyre community first engineered by Bach in the early 90’s. It involves taking the ‘Oath,’ as outlined above, and the ‘Oracle’ - picking a page you are drawn to from the Red Veils and reading it aloud.

A shrewd businessman, Bach’s rule is that he only gives interviews to fang clients. To this end, he has made fangs for reporters from The New York Times, CBN, Bloomberg and News Week. Originally from New York, but now living in Paris, Bach has made over 22,000 pairs of fangs in his lifetime, which, at around £100 a pair, isn’t bad business. The process is a heavily guarded secret, although he did teach one other guy to make them, who then taught four more people and was swiftly excommunicated.

The fangs are made from professional dental acrylic and molded around the teeth so they can be slipped on and off like a loose cap. I am not allowed to close my mouth during my own fitting session, resulting in a stream of dribble that cascades down my neck and into my cleavage.

“Why do people like them so much?” I ask, attempting to dam the flood with my shirtsleeve.

He tilts his head and winks. “They make great sex toys,’ he says.

I release the dam and move my hands back to my lips; re-exposing my gums for Bach to insert the caps he has just finished sandpapering.

I don’t feel very sexy.

The final stage of the ceremony is the Rite of the Mirror, ‘opening your vampyre eyes for the first time’. Bach spins me around twice and instructs me to take-in my reflection. I open my mouth into a sinister grin to see perfectly shaped white fangs protruding from my canine teeth.

I run my tongue over them and open my lips into a sinister smile.

Now I feel sexy.


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