Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival. We didn’t dress up ourselves, but we did go to a few of the events. I think what was most fun though was just seeing all the costumed people wandering around the streets.
I wasn’t brave enough to actually ask people to pose for a photo very often – most of the photos I just took without asking (not that anyone seemed to mind when the did notice I was taking a photo – I think walking around in costume pretty much comes with the assumption that people will take your photo). I should have asked more often, though, because those photos are definitely the ones that came out best. Although some of the unposed ones did make for fun juxtapositions.
There was a Steampunk Market on the Saturday, with some amazing costumes on both customers and stall-holders:
Also on Saturday we went to a talk about the science of Scott’s Antarctic expedition (the speaker arguing that the expedition was far from the incompetent “boy’s own adventure” it has been portrayed as in the popular media, but rather was a serious scientific expedition, with many of the “bad” decisions Scott made being explained by the fact that he was more concerned with collecting good data than with his own or his team’s safety.
Then later in the afternoon was a dramatised reading of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, performed by a group from Wellington, accompanied by much audience participation in the form of flag-waving and shouts of “Huzzah!” at appropriate moments. The performers led us on a walk around Oamaru, stopping at various points to perform another Fit of the poem.
Most of the audience were just as decorative as the performers:
On Sunday we saw even more elaborate costumes at the fashion show. The contestants were judged not only on their costumes, but also on the backstories they’d come up with for their characters. Some of them were very clever (and a couple were just incomprehensible…). There was an audience choice section, and it was very difficult to choose who to vote for, because there were so many amazing costumes and stories.
I didn’t get many photos at the show, because we were sitting a few rows back, so I had the choice of either getting lots of audience heads in my photos, or standing up and annoying the people behind me. So I didn’t take any photos during the competition itself, but did manage to grab a few during the photo shoot session they had while waiting for the judges to return.
This woman’s costume was amazing (she was Absinthe, The Green Fairy), but obviously it was also amazingly heavy, because she had so much trouble walking in it that she needed the help of her kilted companion (who I gathered was her partner, who didn’t normally participate in steampunk events, but had dressed up so he could accompany her on stage) to stop from falling over as she walked the catwalk, and her smile had more than a hint of grimace of pain to it.
[Edit: I’ve been informed that I was mistaken in my assumption that the Green Fairy was suffering under the weight of her wings. In fact, her wings are very lightweight, but due to an accident she has difficulty walking and climbing stairs, and having spent most of the day on her feet while rehearsing for the show, was in a lot of pain, hence the need for her companion to assist her. Makes her achievement in participating in the show all the more impressive!]
Although the MC tried to coordinate the photoshoot, asking the contestants to all face to one side of the runway or the other, he had limited success, because they all kept turning the wrong way to wave to friends in the audience. Because of where I was sitting, I couldn’t get everyone in frame anyway (and never did manage to get a photo of the people at the far end of the runway), so this is the closest I got to a group shot of all the costumes.
The woman with the multi-coloured parasol and her green-suited partner (who featured earlier in the Hunting of the Snark cast) were who I ended up voting for, mainly because their story was very clever (it involved a safari to hunt tea-krakkens).
Oamaru is definitely embracing its new steampunk identity, with a lot of businesses cashing in on the trend (with varying degrees of successs – probably because it’s pretty obvious which ones are only doing it to try and attract tourist dollars). This sculpture outside a car dealership was pretty cool, though:
And of course, in the midst of the Victorian quarter is Steampunk HQ itself, a very strange place that’s a cross between a junkyard and an art installation, and definitely an entertaining place to explore.
There’s a steampunk-themed playground, too, with elaborately-carved old trees decorating its boundary:
It wasn’t all steampunk though. We did take an early-morning walk around the waterfront (and later, rode the old train back round the same route – I think the train’s supposed to be for kids, but we still had fun 🙂 )
We also visited an art gallery, which (among other things) had a WW1 commemoration that was very well done. If you’ve been to Oamaru, you might have noticed the avenue of trees going up the hill, each of which was planted in memory of a local man killed in the war, and each of which bears a brass plaque with his name. Over the years, many of the trees have had to be cut down for various reasons (mostly because they were dying), so the plaques were preserved. The exhibition displayed all of the removed plaques, turning them into temporary artworks. (Only one sneaky photo, because I wasn’t sure if photography was allowed inside the gallery).
And on Sunday morning we took an early-morning walk through the botanic gardens, which were shivering under a very heavy frost (there was even a decent layer of ice on one of the ponds):