Steampunk enthusiasts introduce "science fiction of Victorian period" to Federal Hill

Published on Saturday, 27 August 2022 22:57
Written by Dean Wright


BRISTOL – In a celebration of industry, history and fiction, area museums, residents and steampunk enthusiasts gathered on the Federal Hill Green for the Victorian Summer Fantasy in the Park Saturday.

Put on by Silk City Steampunk, Oddball Newt Productions along with Terryville resident and Silk City Steampunk member Scott Lyons, the event held a Victorian-themed picnic as well as ragtime music, a swap shop for steampunk crafters, tea as refreshments, demonstrations and lessons from the American Clock & Watch Museum, New England Carousel Museum, Bristol Historical Society and more.

“I think I’ve been running with the group for about three years now,” said Lyons. “I’m driving around all the time and I see these beautiful homes and this green and I’m thinking I would love to bring my steampunk people to see this city. Then I started learning how significant a place this was in the industrial revolution.”

From there, Lyons and Silk City Steampunk began to interact with area museums and nonprofits interested in encouraging the discovery of historical industry, culture and more in Bristol.

Lyons described steampunk as the “science fiction of the Victorian period” and “Star Trek for people who like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells better than Gene Rodenberry.”

At these events, Lyons assumes the persona of the character James Worthington, the head of the engineering department at the fictional Worthington Hartford Industrial Steam Technology Company. A motorcycle mechanic, he said he enjoys building with scrap and metals.

David Carlson, organizer with Silk City Steampunk and head of Oddball Newt Productions, noted the day’s event was a passion project for Lyons. Silk City Steampunk is based out of Manchester. The group was founded in 2018 but Carlson put on his first steampunk ball in 2014. It slowly began gathering steam as others joined Carlson’s events.

“We started doing so many, I said we could just do like 12 months of steampunk where there’s a different event every month,” he said. “That really caught on. The first one we did was a teahouse crawl, like a pub crawl, but with tea, then Victorian ice skating. Those sort of things really took off.”

Carlson noted the group would soon be embarking on its eighth Stupid Cupid Steampunk Ball, which will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cromwell, February 3 through February 5, 2023.

“It’s a nice day and I got to experience something I didn’t really know about,” said area resident Andrew Collins. “I figured I’d come out and see what was going on and I had a good time.”

Collins competed in what is called tea dueling.

“Tea dueling, you dip a cookie into a cup of tea and then you have to hold it up,” he said. “The tea will degrade the cookie and whoever in the duel eats the whole thing last without it falling on the table wins. It’s a fun activity. Everyone gets to do something that I’m sure most of us had never done before. It didn’t matter if you were five or 50, everyone played a game and we had a good time.”

Bridgette Rodrigues is a tea dueling champion and part of Silk City Steampunk. She’s worked with Carlson for around five years in putting on events.

“I’ve always loved the Victorian aesthetic. I’ve always loved the parasols, the lace and I’m all about fancy,” she said. “I love to dress up and put costumes together. I don’t sew a lot but I like to find pieces and try different outfits.”

Rodrigues said one of steampunk’s strongest draws was that it was an all-inclusive community.

Carissa Dojan, a newer steampunk enthusiast, said she had found the community to be welcoming and she hadn’t experienced anyone telling her she wasn’t “steampunk” enough when exploring the fan movement.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Forestville on Saturday, 27 August 2022 22:57. Updated: Saturday, 27 August 2022 23:00.