Steampunk Solstice at the Grand Pavilion.

Friday, July 5th, 2013

I love a good marketplace. No matter where we drop anchor – be it in the bright, dusty chaos of Monastiraki or the fog-wreathed darkness of Portobello Lane, with its rook-haunted air dock – there’s a feeling of adventure, of discovery. There are people to watch, and deals to be made, and artisans in crowded niches, bent over small, private works of wonder. The air is a soup of sound, spiced with music, in which bob the croutons of laughter and the suspicious green flecks of clandestine negotiation. Before I stretch this metaphor too far (and some might say that time has long since passed), let me tell you of our latest stop.


The Grand Pavilion is a scuffed and faded gem nestled in a limestone gorge in the green heart of the Derbyshire Dales. Time has not been kind to the place, but for a few days this June it was brought to life by the Second Annual Steampunk Solstice event, a combined market and musical festival.

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Two hot, rather close days saw a parade of elegant folk; military gentlemen, devastating damsels, scientists, pirates, aviators, thrill-seekers, scamps and vamps all put on their finest and negotiated the stairs beneath the grey dome to the marketplace. Sadly, Iolanthe was indisposed, but I called in a favour and Higgs was kind enough to step in and take care of our stall while I went to investigate some of the bounty on offer.
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Iolanthe will happily confirm that I have the attention span of an excitable infant, so it will be of no surprise to you that I buzzed from stall to stall, examining everything and talking to the stallholders, who were, every one of them, friendly, enthusiastic and generous with their time. Let me show you just a few…

Mother’s Ruin Millinery, as you might guess from the name, specialise in a range of bespoke hats, from unique fascinators, miniature pith helmets and top hats, to large and extravagant ‘statement’ hats. At their market appearances, they also stock woollen dreads – colourful artificial locks of hair guaranteed to turn heads – and medals of all kinds, from the dashing to the downright daring.

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I particularly like the one of the nude with the bicycle, although I’m a little unnerved to think someone has been following me around with a camera.

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There are times, as I’m sure you’ll agree, when what you really need is a miniature self-build dirigible. Or some precision cut cogs, moustaches, rocketship parts or other iconic shapes. Fortunately, Cog ‘O’ Two are on hand to satisfy all of your desires. Well, not all of them. Steady on.

Cog ‘O’ Two provide a custom service, laser cutting, engraving, casting and much more. I confess; I bought a little dirigible kit. Assembled, it will be some seven inches in length, so I doubt I’ll be travelling far in it, but it will be terribly economical to park.

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If you don’t think your pith helmet is quite patriotic enough, don’t despair. Dragonswann Designs can help. They can also offer embroidered hip-flask covers, lace goggles for the delicate adventurer, and…how can I put it? Garments of an intimate nature. Oh, go and see for yourself.

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But enough of that! Here are two Small Great Old Ones.

Now stop looking at the bloomers.
Northern Steam Docks in their own words, sell “Replica Diesel war and Royal Flyerist era weapons and accessories as well as fancy things for ladies and gents”. It’s not often that one can pick up an original Murph Naverick “Jolly Hamster” gun and a selection of fine teas to cure female weaknesses and male discomforts (such as collected diseases of the Empire) in the same place, but Northern Steam Docks aim to satisfy.

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I particularly like the keys on their little chains. There’s something about a key – it hints at the start of an adventure. Possibly the curative teas come in handy after one has finished being adventurous.
steampunkengineeringusbSpeaking of adventure, who couldn’t fail to be excited by this gleaming little delight? A miniature data cabinet for the modern thinking engine, this is a creation from Captain Shipton Bellinger’s Steampunk Engineering and, as I’ve always felt most things are improved immeasurably by the addition of a smokestack, I’m particularly fond of this design. You’ll be glad to hear that the smokestack folds down to avoid mishaps, and the higher capacity data cabinets also feature such details as moving pistons and drive-wheels. Truly a little marvel.

The good captain accepts commissions, and should certainly be sought out at market events for his range of jewellery and pocket watches which, as you can see from the pictures, is extensive.
I could go on; I haven’t told you of the leather creations of Jacklyn Hyde, or the theatrical accoutrements of the Rapscallion Collective. I could show you the hand-crafted goggles of Baron Von Krakenhunter, or the metallic marvels of Chris Harris of Scrap Mental Designs. But I shall save those for another day. You can have too much of a good thing, you know.
Higgs and I left before the evening’s diversions, although we did stay long enough to hear DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show, an irreverent, foot-tapping, washboard-scraping  musical troupe. If their performance was anything to go by, the evening show (which included such notables as BBBlackDog and
Monty and the Steampunkfunk Bizarre) was set to raise the roof.
Given the state of the building, I’m surprised there was any roof left.

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