Now well established on the Crewe festival scene, the fabulous Steampunk Convivial returns to the Cheshire town this May (26-28th). But what exactly is Steampunk all about?
Put simply, Steampunk is a movement that assaults the visual senses with a joyous celebration of Victorian styling, re-imagined with a modern twist, coupled with a love for crazy inventions and retro-tech.
People dress up, strut through the streets in elegant finery and partake in ridiculous pursuits such as hamster racing, tea duelling, coffee jousting, teapot racing, and playing racy folk-punk tunes with animatronic musicians. Think Flash Gordon with ray guns and googles, just a few more clothes and a hand-crafted walking stick!
What do Steampunkers wear?
For the fashionistas amongst you, there is no formal dress code. There are no rules. The look, however, should you wish to rock the generally accepted styling, is best described as a shabby-chic Victorian-Goth fusion of military uniforms, gowns fit for countesses, and scrubbed up Oliver Twist orphans sporting glorious waistcoats and top hats.
It’s fun, nobody takes themselves too seriously, and Steampunk enthusiasts look magnificent as they promenade down the high street. Get the basics together, like a frilly-collared dress shirt, formal jacket, flamboyant waistcoat or flowing dress, then accessorise like crazy! The more outrageous the better, dark and mysterious, intriguing pieces of jewellery, handkerchiefs and hats aplenty.
When did Steampunk begin?
Steampunk roots can be traced back to the 1950s when futuristic movies like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea hit the silver screen. Lavish sets, steam-powered inventions and a desire to explore the unknown sowed the seeds for subsequent generations.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang should probably fall into the same mad-cap bracket, all light-hearted entertainment.
Steampunk as we now know it has been around for over a decade. Just like most underground movements, it’s taken a while breaking into the mainstream. But now it’s here, even entered into the Oxford English Dictionary a few years ago.
For me, and Crewe, it all started back in January 2016. An idea pitched to Crewe Town Council to bring something very different to the annual calendar was met with ambivalence.
What the heck was it, could it work, would people embrace it, and how would the local economy benefit? They were all perfectly reasonable questions. I liked the idea. It was unusual. It was edgy. It was exhibitionism gone mad. So I backed it.
You can flick back to that original article HERE should you choose, else read on to learn more about what is about to ravage the town in late May 2018.
Steampunk street entertainment, music and cabaret
I loved everything about Steampunk from the moment a Crewe event was muted. It was the perfect fit. Victoriana and steam, Crewe’s raison d’être.
During the daytime over the Bank Holiday weekend there will be plenty of free street entertainment. Events will take place around Crewe’s Cultural Quarter, so pop over to Christ Church lawns for The Time Travelling Tea Tent. That features the renowned Lady Barnes and Captain Davis who tell fantastical tales to anyone prepared to listen. And the tent, wow, it’s glamping on steroids.
Around the streets there will be jugglers and story tellers, fire performers, unicycle riders, musicians and escapologists delighting crowds around the Remembrance Square area.
If you still haven’t ventured into the Crewe Lifestyle Centre, then here’s your big chance. The Steampunk market brings around 30 stalls offering Steampunk fashions, beautiful futuristic accessories, stunning arts and crafts, plus quirky gift ideas for friends and family. It’s one of those markets that deserves a good browse, a prod, poke and a chat with the vendors who will delight in explaining how they produce their wares.
Back in May 2016 (wow, two years ago), I was lucky enough to join the organisers on a beer and curry night out… on the eve of that year’s convivial. Fresh off the aeroplane was Steampunk royalty, none other that Montague Jacques Fromage, a moustachioed and outlandishly eccentric American chap.
He’s quite a character, and that’s putting it mildly. Unique, different, extravagant and unmistakable. He’s all that and more. I penned a piece soon after, called An Evening With Monty. Take a read and make sure you get to meet the urban myth when he returns to the town this May Bank Holiday.
Monty is one of many acts that will take to the stage at The Mals Club (just off the ASDA car park in Crewe town centre). The Saturday and Sunday evenings have ticketed events, and they are well worth the entry fee (around £15). Expect risky Gypsy Punk, some dark cabaret, a hint of piracy, saucy burlesque, raucous dancing and amazing musicianship. There’s a bit of everything.
Steampunk is about having fun, dressing up (if you want to) and enjoying great entertainment delivered by passionate and talented performers. Join the fun. Check it out. Embrace it.