Colour Lord and Lady Crumpet (picture courtesy Gary Jeavons Photography)

The Asylum Steampunk Festival 2015

From our Trans-Temporal Correspondent Shellie Horst
Somewhere in the witching hours of Thursday evening, 27th August 2015, Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter was caught in the temporal disturbances of a local time machine. By the time the sun glittered in the leaded windows of Bailgate, you could be forgiven for thinking you were exploring a Jules Verne novel or trapped in the latest curious events surrounding Mr Holmes.  Reality was suspended for the Seventh Asylum Steampunk Festival.

It’s not the first time the residents of Lincoln have woken, bemused, to see gentlemen escorting ladies in their finery through the streets, or attempting to launch their jetpacks from the castle grounds, nor will it be the last. The city lends itself well to the imaginations and creativity of the Steampunk mind; alleyways and under-crofts merely add to the potential number of scheming inventors, cunning street urchins and bawdy traders hawking their wares.

Lord and Lady Crumpet (picture courtesy Gary Jeavons Photography)
Lord and Lady Crumpet (picture courtesy Gary Jeavons Photography)

Just like the genre, the event has grown from the sepia stereotype of Victorian England, shades of browns and blacks compete with glint of polished copper and brass. The taffeta teals and blaze of peacock feathers offer an eye-catching alternative to the impressive gatherings of lace and bustle in the Castle Market. The Asylum is a perfect representation of what Steampunk is: Splendid. It is something different to everyone.

It’s easy to assume that Steampunk as a genre is one focused upon one empirical perspective of history, excluding gender or life choices. Yet it was an inclusive event, offering full engagement to those in wheel chairs or mobility scooters, and the youngsters as much as the wiser generations. No one, nowhere, and nothing was spared from adaptation, and the words “Well, sir, that just isn’t steampunk…” were not uttered.

Steampunk Superheroes (picture courtesy  Gary Jeavons Photography)
Steampunk Superheroes (picture courtesy Gary Jeavons Photography)

Lincoln become an alternate world of superheroes, Daleks, inventors, self-winding automatons, captains, pilots, wings, fae, dangerously potent potions, complex contraptions and of course …goggles. Even Loki and Cthulhu (both of the knitted and the walking variety) graced the event.T

Guests from around the world could enjoy a constitutional through the impressive Castle grounds, browse the traders or take part in such pastimes as the Steam InvadersJet Pack Races, Wacky Races, and witness the Flying Display. Should those things be too tiring, one could savour the musical delights of any number of talented artists and bands, including the opportunity to purchase recordings of their delightful work, or even partake in a Maker’s Surgery with Herr Döktor.

A Steampunk Invader (picture courtesy Mark Clayton Photography)
A Steampunk Invader (picture courtesy Mark Clayton Photography)

A stroll over the setts and uphill past shop windows touched by the time displacement, (trying not to be too distracted by the impressive SFF offerings in Lindum Books an independent bookshop snuggled in the midst of it) to what would be the grand ball room for the Empire Ball. For many this was the pinnacle of the weekend. Of an evening one could witness what would surely be next year’s fashion at the sold out Lady Elise’s Fashion Gala, but during daylight hours guests could explore the Great Exhibition, or in the same space partake in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the perfect opportunity to make new friends, and catch up with old ones.

Just a short walk away, in an academy for great minds, authors and gaming fans claimed their own section, where students of the written art form could learn by attending workshops and listening to panels. In a divine moment of superior understanding, organisers imported a gin bar and ensnared purveyors of fine foods to keep the authors and their visitors well fuelled so they were able exchange pleasantries with Raven Dane, Jonathan Green, Sam Stone, Clockwork Watch, David Wake, Rob Harkness and numerous other wordsmiths and artists. Alternatively, one could try their hand at building a scale model ironclad, or participate any number of table top games.

This exclusive academy is also home to the annual writing competition; rumour has it the winner of last year’s writing competition landed a publishing contract.

A veritable Troll of the non-interweb variety (picture courtesy Mark Clayton Photography)
A veritable Troll of the non-interweb variety (picture courtesy Mark Clayton Photography)

No matter how hard you try to see all the fabulous outfits, witness all the amazing things, and enjoy all the shows, someone always manages to sneak past (such as the splendidly sinister troll, above). More enjoyment is found by looking and engaging with people than trying to capture everything through the lens of your photographic device. Though there were attempts to address this issue in the most eye-catching hat.

There is one thing which every attendee and visitor alike wears: a smile, and on occasion an expression of awe. It is a gift given by the volunteer organisers which is treasured with equal measure as the friendships made and the trinkets purchased over the weekend.

They say Steampunk has had its moment. This massive gathering came about because of the love of the novels that continue to inspire generations of writers and creators and will do for many years to come. This year it’s said to have been the largest Steampunk event in the world with an estimated 10,000 people taking part, and people traveling from all over the globe to catch a glimpse of the wonder.

If you were in Lincoln this August Bank Holiday Weekend, you know this article has barely dented the surface of what was on offer and I’m sure you’ll agree that the genre has life for many years to come. That said, I hope to see you again next year.

Shellie Horst

Contraptions... (picture courtesy Martyn Leaning Photography)
Contraptions… (picture courtesy Martyn Leaning Photography)

Our grateful thanks to the kind photographers whose splendid images are reproduced here:

Martyn Leaning Photography

Mark Clayton Photography

Gary Jeavons Photography

For more information about The Asylum Steampunk Festival:

To visit Shellie Horst’s Blog:

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