VIDEO: Full Steampunk ahead - get ready for real costume drama

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Men parading the streets in top hats, ladies sporting weird and wonderful costumes, amazing contraptions, fantasy worlds, music and arts - something very strange and very curious is about to unfold in Doncaster.

It might sound like the plot of the latest episode of Doctor Who but for two whole days this weekend, the town centre is set to come alive to the sights and sounds of something known as steampunk.

You’re probably thinking of some kind of crazed mash-up where the Flying Scotsman meets the Sex Pistols - but forget thunderous locomotives and angry, buzzing guitars, its actually a lot more refined and genteel than that.

Steampunk Doncaster will be a weekend of tea and biscuits, polite chatter, “promenading” and courtesy, all served up with a large helping of fun, mixed with a just a dash of the bizarre.

Organisers Candice Foers-Bates and Tony Bates are behind the first ever steampunk festival in Doncaster which will bring together artists, musicians, writers and many others at a variety of locations across the town.

So just what exactly is steampunk then?
“Trying to define it is a bit like trying to nail a jelly to a wall,” said Candice. “Its a movement based around the Victorian era, the Great Exhibition, Jules Verne - those kind of things. But its impossible to narrow it down to exact terms.

“But the ultimate ethos of steampunk is to be polite, swan around in extravagant clothing, make things - and drink tea.”

Tea is something that seems to crop up time and time again in steampunk circles - and anyone daring to dip a toe in this weekend must be prepared to do battle, in the fierce and combative world of “tea duelling.”

“Its a bit like Russian roulette with tea,” explains Candice. “Two people sit dunking their biscuits in their tea - a bit like playing chicken, with the first to crumble losing. That’s about as confrontational as it gets.”

But beyond the cups of rosy lee, the rest of the packed programme will be steeped in Victorian Values - and Candice believes Doncaster is the ideal place to host the town’s very first gathering of steampunks.

“You just have to look around the town centre to see all the amazing Victorian buildings,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of wonderful Victorian architecture in our town and that’s something worth celebrating.”

The town’s railway heritage too was instrumental in choosing Doncaster as a location. “Everyone knows about the Mallard and Flying Scotsman,” she added.
“Amazing machines that have helped to put the town on the map. Its about celebrating that heritage and recognising the incredible era of Victoriana.”

The main focus of events throughout the two days will be Doncaster College for the Deaf on Leger Way which will be hosting an “exposition” which will include film shows, literary discussions, book stalls, photography workshops.

Guests will include Ruud de Korte, who will be coming all the way from Holland to host a workshop for photographers on how to shoot a steampunk model, while a string of acclaimed steampunk authors including Craig Hallam, Jonathan Green and Paul Marlowe will also be discussing their works among the moustache sporting brigade.

There will be more fun and frolics and of course tea, with a tea dance at the Mansion House on Sunday as well as a “promenading of the parish” event when enthusiasts will pull on their finest clothes for a ramble around the town centre to inspect the town’s architectural heritage.

Added Candice: “It is all about having fun and a really good time. Steampunks are very creative and inventive people and this is something that Doncaster needs. It is filling a gap in the market and will get the creative juices flowing for a lots of people.”

The centrepiece of the entertainments will be Cask Corner on both Saturday and Sunday night when the Cleveland Street bar hosts two evenings of entertainment - although the ubiquitous tea may well give way to beer at the real ale enthusiasts’ bar.

Saturday will see music from BB Blackdog and MC Montague Jacques Fromage from 8.30, while on Sunday, there will be a huge music hall variety show from 5.30pm. And if you fancy having a go, you can.

There will be slots available of ten minutes or less for jugglers, singers, dancers, acrobats - any talent at all - to get up on stage and showcase themselves to the steampunk fraternity.

And if all that sounds a little too boisterious, upstairs more refined customers will be able to try their hand at jackstraws, tiddlywinks, chess, checkers, backgammon, marbles and Risk.
Added Candice: “We are all ready and raring to go and we hope the people of Doncaster will come out and support us. We’d like to make this an annual event so its down to everyone to get behind it!”

For further details about the variety show, contact Julie on 01302 366277 and for a full line-up of events for this weekend’s festival, visit www.steampunkdoncaster.org/index.html