A Splendid Day Out October: Smaller But Perfectly Formed was pretty much exactly what it said on the tin. Although, of course, it was a Splendid weekend rather than just a day. University timetables meant that I didn’t manage to make the Friday evening event and screening of the BBC feature in June’s event, but Saturday and Sunday were full on and full of lovely people and lovely things. And a phrase I never thought I’d say once, let alone multiple times over the course of a weekend: ‘oh no, I’m stuck to my sugar tongs!’
When I finally made it to Morecambe on Friday night (after two trains and far too long in Crewe train station, as with pretty much every time I go up north from Cardiff) I sat down with a cup of tea to watch the BBC north west feature. After the short article posted with the teaser clip called Steampunk a ‘cult’, I will admit to being concerned about what light they were going to portray us in, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a positive piece, showing Steampunk and a creative and slightly barmy group of people having fun – and bringing a spark of its Victorian heyday back to Morecambe. I featured on screen for a couple of seconds and the clip spawned something of a meme in the Northern Steampunk community in the form of a quote from Rob, one of the organisers. He described Steampunks as people who like manners, “being splendid and faintly ridiculous”. The quote was part of a short clip posted online on Friday morning, and almost immediately the cogs started turning – by Saturday, badged and jewellery bearing the slogan were available to buy in the ASDO artisan market. (Of course, I bought one).
Saturday morning dawned and I arrived at the old Morecambe Central train station (now The Platform) knowing I’d volunteered my services to help out again but unsure exactly what I’d be doing. A quick succession of reunions and several cups of tea later, I was well installed helping out in the tea room – doing the same job I’d usually be doing on a Saturday morning but in a completely different environment. (Patrons and fellow employees of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, I generally thoroughly enjoy working with you so please do not take this as a slight, but until everyone’s in fabulous Steampunk attire it can’t quite compare).
My day was filled with tea, coffee and social experiments with cake (people tend to go for the middle one; unless it’s Red Velvet), interspersed with browsing the stalls and talking to so many people I can’t remember them all. I had a great discussion with Rob about my dissertation and the nature of Steampunk and assured him that his now famous quote would be appearing in my essay. I also got a lot of lovely compliments on my Alice in Wonderland dress, which admittedly did seem appropriate attire for someone serving countless cups of tea.
I completed the tea nature of my day with my somewhat extravagant purchase of the weekend (there has to be one, doesn’t there?). I’d been eyeing up a particular piece of leatherware on every stall browsing break I’d had, so at the end of the day I decided to take the plunge and bought a fabulous ‘Tea Medic’ supply kit – a handmade leather sash complete with pouches for tea, sugar and milk, and storage for a teacup and saucer. Massive shout-out to Adam McSkelly of McSkelly Leathers for some beautiful craftsmanship and great conversation about taking swords on trains and teapots onto battlefields. This is also where the sugar tongs come in – as any good Tea Medic’s supplies should, the kit also includes a teaspoon and a fabulous set of sugar tongs which look like little claws. They’re also surprisingly sharp and seemed to like catching hold of any material they get near.
Saturday night was another musical extravaganza at the Hot House (thankfully, it being October, it wasn’t quite so stiflingly hot this time around). Local band Dead of Night were a standout for me – frontwoman Briony has an amazing voice and puts on a great show, including a beautiful pair of giant black feathered wings (“I just nipped back there and had a red bull – look what happened!”). As expected, Professor Elemental got everyone up and dancing at the end of the night, celebrating everything from the EU to a frankly amazing octopus hat. It was a hell of a lot of fun, and once his set was over I once again got to enjoy the delights of small-venue gigs and chat to him and some of the other performers at the bar. I bought an album and my sister took a great series of photos (we didn’t know if she’d taken the photo yet or not and looked over to check, it turned out she was taking several, so the final one is both of us dissolving into giggles as we realised). The initial intention was to ask for an autograph on the album cover, however, that plan evaporated when I got irrationally excited at the discovery that the Prof was an awkward leftie like me. Watching him sign things at an awkward angle trying not to smudge it hit very close to home, and I couldn’t quite bear to ask. I explained my reasoning to him, his response: a grin and “oh yeah, I can definitely smudge something for you”. Another reason I don’t ever want to be in a position where people want my autograph, I will admit.
Sunday was a more chilled out affair, as many of us were feeling slightly fragile from the night before. I went in the side door to help set up the tea and coffee again, but when the doors opened to the public my mum was the first in – recognisable even from a distance in her bright pink jacket. It was a really nice day, popping between the kitchen and browsing the stalls and chatting to the traders with my mum. The TV feature was the first proper understanding my parents had got of the whole Steampunk thing, and it was fun to show it all off to her first hand. I think she was impressed by the array of things people were doing and making, and we both left with our wallets significantly lighter. I bought a beautiful necklace made by Alternative Finch, whose work I had been admiring on Facebook for a while before the event, and two adorable dragon statues, one of which was a birthday present for my flatmate and is now gracing the top of his synth keyboard.
All too soon it had to be over, as I had to dash off to catch my train back to Cardiff and the real, much less splendid world. It was an interesting train journey in full Steampunk costume, though, and I spent some of the time sat next to a girl in a Sherlock coat who looked up at me as I was walking down the train looking for a seat, grinned, and complimented my outfit. All in all a brilliant weekend, and I’m already looking forward to June to do it all again.