Asylum Steampunk Festival

Welcome to the Asylum

The Airship from The Imaginarium by Gary Nicholls

A few years ago, I happened across an art exhibition by Chris Skillicorn-Aston at The Barn

The Barn a cultural centre in Farnham, literally a barn, hidden down a courtyard. Sadly The Barn is no more.

futuristic guns at art exhibition by Chris Skillicorn-Aston at The Barn

He had these very futuristic guns, like something from H G Wells or Iain M Banks.

What I did not realise at the time, and maybe not he, my first encounter with the genre Steampunks.

Imagine Victorian intertwined with the futuristic world of H G Well in a Victorian setting.

My first encounter with Steampunks, wandering around outside Lincoln Cathedral looking for Lincoln Knights, which sadly have now been removed from the streets.

It was Friday, day one of Asylum Steampunk Festival, a four day Steampunk Festival over the August Bank Holiday Weekend.

Steampunks first met in Lincoln over a weekend in 2009. It was billed as Weekend at the Asylum.

In Lincoln, there is a former Asylum, The Lawn, with stunning views over Lincoln. It is now home to Stokes, coffee and tea merchants, a fourth generation family business.

Some 450 steampunks gathered for Weekend at The Asylum.

Now an international event, the numbers attending the four day Bank Holiday Weekend, Asylum Steampunk Weekend, numbered tens of thousands.

Steampunks may have started as a science fiction genre, it has subsequently evolved into a creative community, living art.

For the next three days, four days in total, I joined the Steampunks and their festivities. Claimed to be the largest and longest running steampunk festival in the world.

I met many interesting people one of who was Gary Nicholls, who in a corner of a marquee in Lincoln Castle had established The Imaginarium, signed limited edition fine art prints on sheet metal and a signed limited edition leather-bound book weighing 2.5 kilos, volume I of which tells the story of Eva.

Next year will be the tenth anniversary. I have suggested that as it all started at The Lawn, a theatrical performance of The Imaginarium could be staged in the theatre.

Saturday was my second day.

It was nigh impossible to move around Lincoln Cathedral, Castle Hill, Bailgate, for stalls and tens of thousand of Steampunks.

It was insanity traffic was allowed through Minster Yard and Bailgate. Even worse buses. Area thronged with steampunks, market stalls, and yet motorised traffic allowed through.

These areas should be pedestrianised, local access and emergency vehicles only, and should have been closed to traffic for the Bank Holiday Weekend when it was known there was going to not only be large numbers of people but also market stalls in the street.

Lincolnite said 100,000 steampunks. Somewhat exaggerated, but there was tens of thousands of people.

Castle Hill was akin to a medieval market.

A church or church hall in Bailgate had steampunks workshops, but not possible to gain access without having paid for yellow wristband.

It was annoying could not walk through Lincoln Castle, as this was possible on Friday. At least not without paying in excess of a tenner to gain access.

Public money paid for the massive rennovation, and public should be allowed access, especially as is the norm during the week. There is though a charge for the walls and a few other areas.

Denial of access affected businesses the other side of Lincoln Castle.

Being denied access, did at least force me to walk all the way around the outside. By doing so, I discovered more Lincoln Knights, and that the Steampunks had established a street food market in the grounds of a school.

Unlike Saturday, when I spent most of the day in Minster Yard, Castle Hill and Bailgate, Sunday I paid and entered the Castle grounds.

More stalls, very interesting exhibition on The Imaginarium, books, artwork and steampunk items.

As I had paid, a walk around the Castle walls.

Worth checking out, an art shop in Bailgate.

On leaving Lincoln Castle, I met and chatted with four charming steampunks from Lithuania, indicating the international nature of the gathering. I also later learnt, though not then, that they are characters in The Imaginarium.

August Bank Holiday Monday was the fourth and final day of a most amazing festival.

Up The Strait, Steep Hill, to Castle Hill.

Pizza washed down with a Asylum Ale. Neither great. Followed by a cappuccino from Gourmet Coffee. The coffee scalding hot, chocolate dumped on top.

What was bad, with the noticeable exception of the veggie stall, the use of polystyrene boxes and plates. The steampunk organisers must tighten up, no stall granted a concession unless everything can be recycled or composted.

What makes this especially bad, a steampunk philosophy is recycling, upcycling, care for the environment.

Later I walked to Stokes Lawn Cafe to get a decent cappuccino.