Lincoln's annual Steampunk festival has been hailed as the 'most splendid festival in the world' and is Europe's largest gathering, but what exactly is Steampunk?

The term ‘Steampunk’ is somewhat of a mystery so Major Thadeus Tinker (aka John Naylor), Chair of the Victorian Steampunk Society, has shed some light on the phenomenon for us.

Steampunks are generally polite, friendly, care about the environment, the past and the future, and creativity & individuality.  Steampunk started as a label for a science fiction genre but it is now a label or signpost to a community.

This is a community which  has its own fashions, music & tastes and enjoys socialising, often dressing in distinctive Steampunk fashions. You may see Steampunks visiting historical sites as well as enjoying music gigs and performances.

Steampunks often make or modify everyday objects to fit the neo victorian aesthetic. This could be making a wood and brass cabinet for your PC or a mock raygun suitable for an adventure with Jules Verne.

The DIY ethic is very strong in Steampunk and with creativity being the main common denominator this is hardly surprising. It also fits in with the philosophies on sustainability, durability and craftsmanship. It is after all more environmentally friendly to take an object and repurpose it giving it a whole new lease of life than it is to recycle it.

Steampunk has now developed into an extended network which encompasses a wide variety of input from a highly creative and artistic community. It includes writers, musicians, dancers, sculptors, model makers, costume makers and a host of other disciplines and skills. Steampunks try to take some of the very best parts of the past and make them part of a bright future.

Steampunks value good manners and polite conduct and try to encourage this by setting an example for others. They think things should be made to a high quality and to last thus helping the environment. They value and encourage creativity and indeed have been asked to collaborate in educational and arts projects across the globe.

Whilst things are set in a pseudo historical world which harks back to our Victorian heritage, Steampunks do not promote any of the inequalities of that past. Indeed theirs is deliberately an all inclusive community. You will find Steampunks of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds and abilities. They also come from all walks of life from students to academics and from comedians to solicitors.

In a recent exercise to “explain Steampunk in a sentence” a group from across the world came up with: “Steampunk is a creative social movement that draws inspiration from Victorian and pre-war history in an anachronistic mix of science fiction, modern values and a sense of fun.”

It should be very swiftly pointed out that this statement, nor indeed this article, acts to define Steampunk. This has proven to be an impossible task. Steampunk is a very personal thing and everyone’s idea of what it should be is individual to them.

The sign of a Steampunk who is confident in the community is that they are prepared to acknowledge that there is no definition and no boundaries to Steampunk other than the imagination of the individual.

There is however one rule: BE NICE TO ONE ANOTHER.


Lincoln’s annual Steampunk Festival usually takes place over the August Bank Holiday, and consists of a range of markets, activities, parades and spectacles. 

Here is an example of what the festival’s highlights include:

  • Steampunk Market
    The Bazaar Eclectica will bring a Steampunk market of weird and wonderful items to the historic Castle Hill. 
  • Asylum Costume Competition and Parade
    A Steampunk military parade, will take place in Lincoln Castle – the perfect place to deck out in your most splendid and eye catching outfit.
  • The Asylum’s Most Splendid Promenade
    An opportunity for groups, banners, costumes and contraptions to take to the streets of Lincoln for an official city carnival promenade from Bailgate Methodist Church.
  • Steampunk Campus
    Ground Zero for steampunks at the Asylum and the focal point of the entire festival – including markets, exhibitions, entertainment, food and drink, lectures, and event control. 
  • The Illicit Market
    A secret market and role-playing game – all items of Steampunk wares must be hidden until the market opens and hidden again if “the authorities” arrive..
  • Jet Pack Race
    Steampunk jet packs do not help pilots fly, so the race is a 60m one, on foot. Any pieces of jetpack that fall off must be collected to finish the course.
  • Tea Duelling
    The Asylum Championship and World Championship. With a biscuit as a weapon, contestants must dunk into hot tea and perform a ‘clean Nom’ to be the victor.
  • The Great Exhibition
    Steampunks will exhibit their own artwork, including 3D objects, 2D pictures, and steambears. Awards will be given to the work on display.
  • The Wacky Racers and Pararacers
    A perennial favourite at The Asylum, the wacky racers must drive their home-made, (wo)man powered vehicle, wearing helmets and goggles in a 120m race to the finish. Expect crazy fun and creativity!