And so onto part two of my ‘A Splendid Day Out 2016’ blog. If you haven’t read Part One it would probably be a good idea to go and read that first. Or not, it’s your choice I suppose.
Saturday was another incredibly hot day – Morecambe actually looked something akin to pretty in that kind of sunshine. I arrived a little late but still early enough to help with the set-up. For me, set up was sorting out the information tent. I was introduced to my co-volunteer for the day, Sarah, and together we got our table, leaflets and billboards set up in time for people to start arriving. We were also joined by Tamsin and her friend, whose name I feel awful for not being able to remember.
After much discussion on Facebook prior to the event, it was decided that volunteers should be identifiable in some way. Someone kindly put together a bunch of ASDO-orange sashes, which made lovely bright additions to everyone’s Steampunk attire.
Here we are in all our orange-sash glory, melting slightly in all of our layers and hats and things.
Team information tent, and all the other volunteers, coordinated by Rose, Rob and Ian again exceeded my expectations of fabulousness, and I was honoured to be a part of it. Throughout most of the day, I enjoyed the sunshine, handed out programmes, drank tea, watched the outdoor entertainment (drummers, Steampunk morris dancers, a fire-eater…) and explained what the hell was going on to confused people who had just gone out to enjoy our old seaside town in the uncharacteristically lovely weather.
Lunch was a short trip to the KFC around the corner of the Platform, and a little reminder that even a couple of hundred metres away people were still living in the real world. I got some funny looks going to buy chips, but it was quite funny.
I also met a lot of lovely people with some amazing costumes, from toddlers to elderly couples, and everyone in between. Some of my particular favourites were a gentleman in military garb complete with a ‘GOTH’ name tag, apparantly actually his family name and was an army tag passed down from older relatives and a ‘Steamtrooper’, also known as Peter, whom I completely respect for wearing his helmet for so much of the weekend. He must have been cooking in there!
Saturday was also an exciting day for everyone, because not only were the guys from the local radio station, The Bay, around to cover the event and take part in some tea duelling, but the BBC was also there! Filming for Inside Out North West took place throughout the day, but the main event was once the market had closed up for the day.
After making our way down from the Platform in dribs and drabs (confusing the locals again, of course), everyone congregated around the Eric Morecambe statue a little way down the prom. It was a rather awesome sight: a congregation of around 200 fabulously dressed people, all milling around chatting and wondering what exactly was going to happen next.
We soon found out, as Rob explained the plan and prepared to lead the troops. We were to continue our promenade as intended, from the Eric Morecambe statue to the relatively recently re-rennovated art deco Midland Hotel, opposite the Platform. However once we reached the lifeboat station near the hotel, where the BBC had situated themselves, we would be making a turn and walking back again some of the way… rinse and repeat to a total of three times parading past the camera (not looking at it!). There was a lot of joking about how many people would be left by the third round, what with the sun beating down on us and the cool shade of the pub and a cold pint looking more inviting by the minute. Most people made it, in the end.
It was great fun to turn back the clock some hundred-odd years and imagine we were all seaside visitors from Morecambe’s heyday, and generally a very happy experience to see the seafront so colourful and full of life. I walked most of the way with Tamsin, and got talking to Ash Mandrake, a musician who had performed earlier in the day, but not at a point where I could get to see him. He described his set as ‘completely bonkers’, which definitely sounded like my thing, so I promised to make sure to see him play again the next day. I’m friends with him on Facebook now, too. (A refrain I may as well be repeating for almost everyone I mention – for all of our retrofuturistic fantasies, modern technology is great for keeping in contact with people. However, I have to say that going to events like this and actually talking to people is so important. I talked to so many people I would have never talked to in a million years without this weird common interest, and it’s great to make those links with people from all over the country).
I could try and describe exactly what it was like, but seeing as people were filming/photographing the whole thing and, as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, here’s a clip of A Splendid Promenade:
And Finally, Retail Therapy
Sunday was a much more chilled out day for me. I dragged my sister along to look at the market stalls inside the platform, had a cup of tea and another chat with Ash, introduced my sister to a few of the people I’d met the day before, and did some shopping.
First on my shopping list (and admittedly, despite everything else I bought, the only thing I actually went with an intention to buy) was a birthday present for one of my best friends. I think she’s reading this blog, however, and it’s not her birthday yet, so what it is I cannot disclose. Rest assured, it is fab and I’m sure she’ll love it.
I bought some postcard sized prints from two illustrators whose styles I absolutely loved – one of the guys I chatted to for a bit, and it turned out he’d only been drawing properly for about a year! His wife was a professional artist but had seen some of his doodles and encouraged him to actually do something with it. So he had a series of about 17 whimsical illustrations on a variety of sized prints and cards, including a battle tortoise that I just had to have to put on my wall. (To be honest, I really wanted to buy the larger framed print, but I didn’t have much money and I definitely had no way to get it back to Cardiff on the train, so I had to settle for a postcard).
My next purchase was something I also didn’t really have a way of getting home on the train, but it wasn’t something I could pass up. I was attracted to an umbrella stand full of various stage/costume looking weapons by a large axe-type thing, jokingly telling my sister “oh my god I want it”. Taking a closer look, however, it was something more unassuming that caught my eye. And, to cut a long story short, when some of your main interests are swords and Victorian/Edwardian martial arts… a 19th Century fencing foil for £20 isn’t something you can really pass up. So, I didn’t.
I got it home on the train in a relatively uneventful manner, strapped to the back of my rucksack in its sheath, along with my cane.
And finally, last but not least, we came across a stall which had a box of crocheted octopi. Things with tentacles are also something of an obsession of mine (stop thinking about those weird Japanese illustrations, not in that way!) so of course, I stopped to have a look. Each one was a slightly different colour with slightly different button eyes – adorable, not in a creepy Coraline way. There was also a kind of menu next to the box… I’d stumbled across a tiny Steampunk build-a-bear, where you could customise your own tentacled friend, and in my usual slightly impulsive manner I couldn’t resist. I chose a hat, moustache and pipe for my octopus, and handed them over with my money for him to be sewn together. Fifteen minutes and a cup of tea later, and Mycroftipus (I know, an awful pun that I made as a joke, and then stuck) was all stitched up and ready to go.
After all this excitement we were pretty worn out, so (via the ice cream van, obviously), we set off home walking along the prom, giggling at the increasing number of odd looks I was getting as we got further away from the Platform.
All in all, a splendid weekend with some splendid people, and I can’t wait to do it again in October (university permitting, of course).
I’ll leave you with another video, with Ian Roberts talking about the festival – featuring me laughing at something. I can’t remember what.