A few of my recent posts have generated interest in what we are up to at the moment so I thought it might be time to tell you more about it.
For many years I have been organising and participating in living history camps with some of the major re-enactment societies that recreate Viking life. I have also worked with Iron Age, Roman, Medieval and Civil War groups as well. Sadly, because I now require glasses, that chapter of my life is starting to close.
As a result, I have shifted my attention to the world of Steampunk where many of my skills and equipment are transferable and there are no stitch counters to tell me I am doing it all wrong.
The only drawback is that many Steampunks seem almost unaware of the pleasures of camping.
The Steam Tent Co-operative is on a mission to change that.
We are collecting together a group of individuals that share an interest in camping and outdoor life with a historical/old school/Steampunk twist. This might suit anyone interested in Re-enactment, Historical, Victorian, Western, Mountain Man, WWI/WWII, fantasy LARP style camping or just someone who loves doing things in a different way with lovely old fashioned kit.
For anyone that does not know, Steampunk is a very broad church. Imagine an alternative world where for some reason steam technology had not been superseded by electronics and plastic. Perhaps the Martian Invasion described by H.G.Wells had actually happened or Dr Frankenstien had really reanimated his creation and the World had moved in a different direction. This is the world of Captain Nemo, Sherlock Homes and the Time Machine. It's old fashioned but slightly bonkers. Mad science combined with Victorian values.
That doesn't mean we all have to be "characters" from a fantasy novel, although you are welcome to do that if you like. It is the aesthetic that most Steampunks enjoy. For many this involves anything from top hats to flat caps, waistcoats to safari jackets, military uniforms to lab coats. A quick image search for Steampunk on Google or Pinterest will show you that there are almost no creative limits. The only real "rule" that most Steampunks profess to is "Be splendid to everyone".
Building upon the skills and much of the equipment many of us already have, the idea is to build alternative style encampments. We are aiming for that Steampunk aesthetic where wood, canvas, steel and brass replace the cheap synthetics of the modern age. Many of us would just describe it as "Old School" and you are free to go as far down that path as you like but you may also discover some fantastical Heath Robinson contraption around the corner and that is fine too.
Bell and Baker tents, cast iron and old Primus. Hurricane and candle lamps, Tin plates and cups. If that is the kind of gear you like, this might very well be the type of camp you would enjoy.
To be clear, we are not aiming for a public display, we are doing this for our own enjoyment. The events that I have lined up at the moment are private camps in places where we have the logistical facilities we need but we are relatively free to do things the way we want.
There may be craft workshops at some of the events, others might be entirely sociable. All are welcome, within the limits of site rules of course, to participate in the camps in the manner they please. The only thing we ask is that people get into the spirit of it and do their best to build and maintain the aesthetic.
That might mean transferring your food to a tin plate in the privacy of your tent instead of unpacking it by the cooking fire. Making sure that any modern gear is covered by a blanket if your tent door is open. Decanting your evening tipple into a tankard or old fashioned bottle before settling down around the communal fire in the evening. Things like that.
This is a co-operative enterprise so no one is aiming to make a profit, we just have to cover our collective costs such as site fees and firewood. Those costs will be divided equitably between all those attending. The only thing we ask is that people make an effort to create, maintain and enhance the atmosphere for everyone's enjoyment.
The Steam Tent Co-operative is currently being organised as a FaceBook group but I am willing to act as a bridge through here for anyone not into FB.
I know this will not appeal to everyone here, many of you I am sure, will think we are quite mad. But if like me, you would like to live a life less ordinary, you might just find this a bit of fun.
We are planning a couple of "out of season" photo shoots, like the one these pictures came from, but our first organised event with full facilities is set for the 2018 Early May Bank Holiday at Rough Close camp site near Coventry. Those facilities also include access to a Scout hut for running craft workshops or retreating from inclement weather if needed.