The Second Surrey Steampunk Convivial, Reviewed by Caitlin Smith

The Second Surrey Steampunk Convivial, 23rd February 2013, Royal Oak, New Malden.

Shuffling behind a human snail that was decked in a sleeping bag, fluffy bobbles on springs and a wire cage wrapped in fairy lights, I was whisked into a world of cogs, steam and mechanical obsession.
With events on the agenda such as teacup dueling, mechanical snail racing and wacky racers, I think it’s safe to say that this was no ordinary gathering…

The Royal Oak was not the most obvious place for a steampunk fair.
A sports bar centered in the residential are of New Malden, the bar was filled with inquisitive residents who didn’t seem to know where to look. Upstairs was a tiny pair of rooms bustling with both stalls and people.
Although no dress code was enforced, the room was filled with giant skirts, tiny corsets and waistcoats, and of course, any self-respecting gentleman or lady was armed with air-ship goggles and top hat.

The stalls contained a menagerie of goods, with all sorts of treasures that could be found for the keen rummager. Everything from pocket watches, night vision goggles to gentlemen’s pipes were on sale for the enthusiastic steam fan, as well as plenty of cog-laden jewelry and even books.

One downside to the stalls was that they made the usable space in the room very tight.
Many stalls were spilling out off their tables, and combined with the displays in the center and the popularity of the event, it made manoeuvring difficult and really put me off browsing the stalls.

A crazy schedule of original entertainment was put together for the day, and there were a number of events to suit everybody’s tastes. Hat making, shadow puppets and wandering minstrel Ziazan who serenaded people throughout the day made up the permanent activities. While every half hour, talks, displays and races took place in the center of the room as enthusiastic audiences wrestled for the best view.

The competitive souls among the crowd had plenty of choice, with teacup dueling, snail racing, the best cake in the world competition and the wacky races. The cake competition unfortunately only had one entry, but that was all it needed. It was a fondant mechanical masterpiece with a taste to match. The entrant, Lady M, provided a two-tier Gin and tonic and rum and raison cake, a tasty treat for the afternoon.

One of two races that day, the mechanical snail racing, was especially entertaining with a number of different heats to determine the best clockwork snail. The participants, however, had a blatant disregard for the rules. The snails didn’t appear to ever run in a straight line, cutting across tracks and escaping into the crowd at will.

The wacky races were never going to go well. With only a few radio frequencies and so many cars entering the race, pandemonium was sure to follow. With most of the cars lined up it looked to be a standard remote control car race, until Herr Doktor turned up with what looked like a giant mechanical spider. With a few stretches of its legs, the spider was all set and the race was about to begin. As the flag falls the cars shoot off in all the wrong directions, creating chaos on the track. Unfortunately the spider chose this point to run out of battery and some front line surgery had to be conducted. The cars crash their way through the few meters of track before, finally, 3 cars make it across the line and the winners are declared.

Having run out of both energy and money, I decided it was time to call it night. It was a shame to miss the bands later on but with such a long day of events, it seemed impossible to catch them all. The steampunk convivial is a unique and exciting event; with some of the most original pieces of entertainment
I have had the pleasure to witness. I hope this continues to grow – although, perhaps with a little more seating next time!