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My Night Partying with Steampunks

They have parties in museums.
Simon Childs
London, GB

The thing that really bugged me about the Jubilee, more than everyone getting carried away with the idea that the Windsors are somehow more qualified to lead us than a binbag full of dog shit with a paper crown on top, was the same-y-ness of it all.

Desperate for something different, I headed to an “alternative” Diamond Jubilee party in a museum. What was alternative about it? Everyone at the party was a steampunk.


For the benefit of the uninitiated (where have you been?), I asked a steampunk to explain exactly what it is/ they are.

Leana, 25, on the right, who works for the government but is also an artist and author, described steampunk as “an artistic and aesthetic movement that takes inspiration from the 1700s through the Victorian period all the way up to the 1930s – similar to the pre-Raphaelite movement.

“A lot of people don’t know they’re steampunk until they realise there’s a name for it,” she explained. “I was calling myself a 'neo-historian' for years until I found out that I was actually a steampunk.”

Gawd, imagine if you'd never had that epiphany. So what makes being a steampunk fun?

“It helps that steampunk men are very attractive. They all sport incredibly wonderful moustaches.”

This is David. He told me that he got into steampunk after seeing the brilliant Will Smith film Wild Wild West. When I asked him if he was excited about the Jubilee, he said: “Queen Victoria is an amazing monarch and she should be celebrated."

I know what you're thinking – 'Queen Victoria?! But I thought this was Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee ;('

Well dry your eyes, royal subject, because the bitch is back. Just a shame she couldn't drag her husband along with her.

Though if I had to guess, I would say that there were a fair few Prince Alberts knocking about the place anyway.

This is Rachael, a steampunk fiction writer from Canada. While not advocating it herself, she told me that I should check out steampunk politics. I think I will, I've always felt that what's lacking from modern political discourse is a fixation on redundant, imaginary technology.


Obviously there was a burlesque show. The programme promised “authentic and alluring Victorian routines”. Did they have tin foil in Victorian times?

Did people shine torches on their nipples in Victorian times?

While reeling from cultural disorientation, I bumped into Julia and Jo. Jo said he got into steampunk because “my brother writes steampunk music. It’s often about fantastical vistas of flying ships and monsters from the sky.”

I wasn’t sure yet if I should buy into the steampunk dream, so I was eager to hear some steampunk music. I was in luck. “You gotta check out Professor Elemental,” they assured me. “We’ve been trying to see him perform for ages.”

Enter Professor Elemental, “as he serves up some of his unique and splendid Victorian style ‘chap-hop.’”

:( :( :( :( :(

It was a pretty complex joke, but let me break it down for you: Hip-hop (or "rap music") usually deals with themes relating to the working-class lives of inner city people, who are often, though not always, black. What Professor Elemental did, was FLIP IT ON ITS HEAD and make hip-hop in a posh accent, about whacky, vintage-y white people stuff. Like Victorian safaris and tea. Or something. He has been doing this for SEVEN FUCKING YEARS.

Here’s Professor Elemental after the show. Apparently he’s getting a TV series out of his act. And to think some people get pissy about paying their license fee.

Then I met a real punk in the gift shop, and took the opportunity to ask him, as someone who's experienced a similar cultural bereavement, if steampunk will ever die.


“No. It’s a growing trend. Punk has never died," What? "Anyone who says punk has died doesn’t know punk. I doubt steampunk will ever die.”

Steve was on a cultural exchange from Belfast and complained that there’s not much to do in “legendary London”. He also said it’s hard to find anything: “There’s shops with one type of juice and no milk. You have to go to several shops to find the essentials. It’s weird, because London’s supposed to be the most modern city on the planet.” Naturally he was annoyed about the £4 pints too – “and youse don’t accept Northern Irish notes either, you ball bags!”

Maybe you'd be able to get around that problem if they let you in banks.

I was pondering Steve’s comments about London being “the most modern city on the planet” when I came across 173-year-old Dr Swift.

That thing he’s holding is exactly what you think it is. He claims to be a qualified doctor, capable of curing ailments by inducing “hysterical paroxysm”. Basically, he’s a professional finger-blaster. Ladies, if you would like this man to “administer hand manipulation” (finger you), you’ll have to stump up £120. £160 would coax this little tease to stick the thing he’s holding there inside of you and crank it. He’s also got steam (£180) and electric-powered (£300) implements for the moneyed lonely lady. Srrrrsly.

This man makes his living putting old dildos inside people, OK? Jeez, do I have to explain everything?

Oh, and he does the whole thing in character, BTW. Nothing I said to this man would make him talk to me out of character. He’s not worried about the Olympics making public transport crowded because, “We have our own transport. We have our own steam-powered equipment so we can move in and out quite easily.” I suppose “steampunk sex doctor” is a more imaginative euphemism than “escort service” or “exotic massage”.

I left and made for home on a boring electric underground train, wondering whether I would be having more fun if I was chugging along on a steam train. I think I probably would, but I’m still not sure how a steam-powered dildo would work. Where would the coal go?

Follow Simon on Twitter: @simonchilds13