What we’ve been doing

pointing hand vintage image graphicsfairy1 flipOoh! It’s been a little while since the last post and we’re now a fair way into the season. So time for catch up!!

Over the May Day Bank Holiday we had the pleasure to dance at the Hastings Jack-in-the-Green Festival. The going was a little damp to start with but some solid dancing was put in by all the sides and we dried out eventually.  A week later saw us doing a small gig in a small orchard which went well enough apart from the inevitable injury to the Herr Doktor sustained by a fall while dancing on rutted grass. A week after that we returned to Brighton Morris men’s fabulous Day of Dance. The sun shone, the gulls cried, the crowds came out and a lovely day was had by all. Fortunately there wasn’t as much walking involved as there had been last year which meant that we weren’t so tired by the end of the day and we managed to keep up and make all the stands we were scheduled for. Huzzah! Late May saw a local evening stand with Screemin’ Banshee Border Morris, a pleasant stand that ended with a rather good music and singing session.

June saw the major stand of the season so far – the National Morris Weekend at Evesham. Unfortunately the Saturday was rather wet although things had brightened up by the evening when we were performing at the ceilidh. Sunday was a different day altogether – the sun came out and after the duck race (yes, the duck race), we spent the day dancing in Evesham and making some new acquaintances. July, so far, has seen us perform at a Steampunk themed wedding reception on a disused light vessel, have a spiffing day at the Joint Morris Organisation’s Day of Dance in Tonbridge (thank you Hartley Morris for organising that one), and have a great picnic and dance at Boughton Monchelsea Morris’ annual Picnic on the Green at West Peckham.Pocket-Watch-GraphicsFairy

Stands coming up soon are: a visit to Seven Champion’s Day of Dance on 26th July at The White Horse, Sandway, Kent, although we may not be dancing a great deal at that (rather depends on our numbers on the day), and the Croydon Night of Dance in August. Beyond August we have the Looe Music Festival and a couple of other stands in the pipeline.


The Darling Buds of May, and all that jazz

pointing hand vintage image graphicsfairy1 flipNothing to do with Pop Larkin, Mariette and Charlie, but May Day and the official start of the Morris dancing year is nearly upon us. So what are those at Steampunk Morris up to this year?

Well we’ve decided to keep things a bit more local than last year when we had a rather splendid weekend in Bovey Tracey, Devon. For 2015 we’re making a return to the old south coast town of Hastings which has, for the last 30 years or so, held its annual Jack-in-the-Green Festival over the Bank Holiday weekend. The side attended Hastings a couple of years back, just after the airship had been launched, so we thought a wee bimble back there, armed with a few more dances, might be in order. However if you want to catch us you’ll have to be smart about it as we’re only doing one day – the Sunday!

Now, the itinerary for Sunday goes something like this:
10:00hrs BST (British Summer Time) – a Festival celebration service at St Clements Church, High Street, Hastings. SPM is very unlikely to be dancing there as we’ll be trying to find some spaces to moor the airship. So dancing will start sometime around…
11:00 MMT (Morris Mean Time) – in the area of George Street. Do note: MMT varies from BST by plus or minus approximately half an hour (or so).Pocket-Watch-GraphicsFairy

14:00 BST – Crowning of the May Queen at Alexandra Park. We may, or may not, be there – more likely we’ll still be down in the town.

So there we have it – a one day excursion to the seaside. Come and join us!


The New Season

pointing hand vintage image graphicsfairy1 flipYes, we’re about there. The 2015 season really gets going this weekend with a two day stint at The Festival of Steam & Transport at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham.  The airship will be delivering the crew to the dockyard around 09:00hrs BST to allow us to get in, get ready and start the entertainment at 09:30hrs.  We’ll then be popping up in various places during both days.

Of course Steampunk Morris doesn’t constitute the only form of entertainment at this splendid extravaganza. Oh no!  There will be other steampunks in the vicinity with their wares and amazing inventions and there will also be a considerable amount of music from local bands to listen to, plus, naturally, a plethora of old vehicles, steam engines etc., etc. A good day out for all.

Moving on from the Easter weekend the side will next be out on Sunday 3rd May at the Hastings Jack in the Green Festival, dancing about the old town. After that it’s another trip to the Sussex coast with a day trip in the charabanc to Brighton on Saturday 16th May for a glorious day of ice cream, prawn sandwiches, and beer with Brighton Morris.ArmillarySphere-GraphicsFairy2

We are still putting the final touches to this year’s programme of events but other dates already finalised can be found on the Events page.


A small indicator of a morris side’s antics

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Ha! The pre-season has started dear readers of this interwebby blog. Yes indeed, Steampunk Morris has danced out at the Pentacle Drummers’ Wassail in dark and deepest Sussex (dark because it was at night, deep because it was a long way down south from where we reside!). And yet there will be more frolics later this month when, on Saturday 21st February, the side once again will descend on New Malden in southwest-ish London for the 4th Surrey Steampunk Convivial.

The event is hosted at the Royal Oak Public House 90 Coombe Road New Malden KY3 4RD (a purveyor of fine ales and pretty good food too!), and also in Christ Church Hall across the road from the aforementioned drinking establishment.

Following from this festival of steampunkery the side will then be appearing on Easter Day (April 5th) and Easter Monday (April 6th) at Chatham Historic Dockyard’s annual Festival of Steam & Transport. So two days  in which to catch our particular brand of morris dancing and on our home turf to boot!

The rest of the year’s events are slowly coming together.  It is hoped that over the May Day Bank Holiday the side will dance in Hastings and later events include the National Morris Weekend in468-astronomy-xliii-fig2-q90-633x549
Evesham, a Joint Morris Organisation’s Day of Dance in Tonbridge, and another trip to that jewel on the south coast of these sainted shores, Brighton!!  Of course we shall keep you updated on dates, venues etcetera by the means of this tome.


It’s been a while!!!

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Oops!! We have had a slight technical hitch! But we’re getting (or have gotten) on top of that dear peruser of this digital tome.  Anyway, we’re back, it is (as they say) the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen, and with the first stand of the New Year down – a little jaunt Wassailing somewhere in deepest Sussex – the Airship Steampunk Morris is back up and running. Huzzah!!  Practice’s have resumed on Monday nights at The George Vaults, Rochester; so if you want to come down and meet us, join us, buy us a pint, then that’s where to find us but give us a call first via email or the Facebook thingey to confirm that we’ll be there as sometime the pub has a booking.  Music practices are a fortnightly event now and not, at present, in Rochester. So if you want to come down and strum, pluck, blow or squeeze your musical organ of choice then do contact us to find out when and where we are actually going to be jammin’.

The next stand out is going to be on Saturday 21st February at the Surrey Steampunk Convivial in Malden. Details and tickets can be obtained from here!  The calendar will be updated as we finalise things.

On the subject of stands, we at Steampunk Morris have had an incredible number of invites to events over the past few months. We are noting them, seeing who from the airship can make them and checking whether we have a viable side that can make an attendance but it does take time to do these things, so if you are an organiser of an event and have invited us, we’re not ignoring you, Pocket-Watch-GraphicsFairywe’re trying to fit you in. Conversely, if you are an organiser of an event and you want us to come along in 2015, then we have very few slots left, but drop us a line to see what the score is.


Just a Quickie… ;-)

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A wee update following our last post. Steampunk Morris has now started practising in earnest and is putting together a calendar of events at which the side will be dancing during 2015.  Already it’s looking to be a busy and varied year! Should you, perchance, wish to join this merrie crew as a dancer then practices are as previously mentioned: at the George Vaults, High Street, Rochester, Kent on Mondays starting at 8pm (or 20:00 hours if one prefers).  It is a good idea to drop us an email or something before you haul yourself into the depths of the Medway Towns on a cold Monday night because occasionally the George Vaults need the Crypt (where we practice) for an event and we have to cancel. So if you want to come along for dance practice it’s Mondays at the GV, drop us a line to let us know you’re coming then, if things change, we can tell you or get back to you and save you the wasted journey.

Now if you’re interested in being a musician things have changed a bit; we’re tending to practice fortnightly at the moment and we’re not using the GV in Rochester as it’s a bit of a long haul for some of the band (especially since they do Monday night too!), and with the festive season bearing down on us like a stagecoach of turkeys, the crypt is being used a bit more frequently for seasonal celebrations .  So send us an email to find out when we’re going to have a practice and where it is going to be.  Quite likely it will be somewhere in the Lenham area, a bit off the A20 between Maidstone and Ashford; we can let you have post codes, grid coordinates etc.


The Last Waltz

pointing hand vintage image graphicsfairy1 flipWell, not exactly, because we at Steampunk Morris don’t do waltzes.  But metaphorically it is because the side has done its last public performance for 2014 (well, that’s unless anyone is offering us up something between now and New Year…).  So the side’s second year of existence is completed and what a year it has been.  We have danced at Morris events (Grimspound’s May weekend, Seven Champions day of Dance, Brighton Morris Day of Dance, Croydon Night of Dance, Boughton’s Annual picnic), we have performed at biker’s events (Teddy Bear Bikers and English Roses), we’ve been to a Space Rock Festival (Sonic Solstice), we have strutted our stuff at Folk Festivals (and what a time we had at our second outing to Lyme Folk Weekend!), and we have morrised our way through a number of steampunk events (Surrey Convivial, Eastbourne, Chatham Dockyard Festival of Steam & Transport, and lastly the first Convivial at Crossness Pumping Station). And what a venue that is!  My last post introduced the pumping station and its history but to really get the idea you have to visit it and see how beautiful the place really is, including those parts that have not (yet?) been restored. Stunningly beautiful painted columns stand alongside their rusting siblings, a lovingly restored steam beam engine sits across the way from its three corroded kin. The location was a fantastic venue for a steampunk event and the old boiler house was an excellent performance space – good floor, good light and a lot of reverb for the music.

Crossness2Apart from ourselves performing the day included the old steampunk favourites of umbrella fencing and tea duelling with quite a few new, and young, participants.  But possibly the most attractive of the goings on, with the exception of Bazalgette’s architecture and engineering prowess, was the demonstration of Tesla coils.  Only in such a large space could these amazing examples of high voltage transformers be set up and switched on emitting amazing bolts of purple light flickering from the coils to the floor and iron columns of the building accompanied by a tremendous roaring sound. Absolutely incredible and something that attracted all those who attended the day (which was a total sell out incidentally).

So what happens now?  Well Steampunk Morris now go back into the true practice season which means that on Monday evenings we’ll be found in the crypt at the George Vault’s on Rochester High Street teaching the dances to those newer dancers that have joined us during the past year, improving the performance of the existing dances – sorting out issues and general tidying up where necessary, probably creating one or two new dances.  On Tuesday evenings, again at the George Vaults, the musicians will get together to practice not just the material they already have but new tunes for any new dances, musical interludes, and also some more traditional, folky-kind-of-stuff for those times when having that kind of material is useful as a morris side’s band.  So, if you’re thinking ‘I wouldn’t mind a crack at this’ or ‘I like this Steampunky-morris malarky and would like to know more’, you know where to find us: The George Vault’s, High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1LN.  We are looking out for new members – dancers and musicians – no previous experience is needed, so why not pop in and see us – we’re in the Crypt!


In the footsteps of Sir Joseph Bazalgette

pointing hand vintage image graphicsfairy1 flipWho?  Certainly dear old Sir Joseph (1819-1891), isn’t one of the most famous of people from our beloved bygone age of steam and Victorian invention, particularly if we’re thinking of IKB, but it transpires that we should thank him for a number of things, the great civil engineer that he was.  Sir Joe did, like IKB, get involved with railways, and we have Sir Joe to thank for the Thames Embankments, for Battersea, Hammersmith and Putney Bridges, and many other of London’s capital projects. So he was quite a guy, someone who has left his mark on our fair capital.  But, dear reader, we have Sir Joseph Bazalgette to thank for solving the issue of… The Great Stink!

Now for those of you who are unaware of this problem, The Great Stink of 1858 (and previous years too), was due to the poor condition of the London sewers.  In the early C19th no fewer than eight authorities had control of (or lack thereof) the London sewage system and the River Thames was, basically, an open sewer for the entire capital (population 1.7 million).  The Thames was also the main water supply for the capital. Quid pro quo, QED etc. – typhoid and cholera were not uncommon in the early to mid 1800’s.  In 1848/9 the number of deaths due to cholera in the lower reaches of the Thames was some four times higher than further upsteam where the water was cleaner.  Rotherhithe was backed up with sewage for up to twenty hours a day depending on the tide.  In 1858 the stink was so great that the situation in the Houses of Parliament at Westminster was so obnoxious that the Government realised that something had to be done.  Enter Sir Joe.

Sir Joseph, as Chief Engineer to the Metropolitan Commission for Sewers, had proposed in 1853 that a system of sewers be developed to channel sewage eastwards to a treatment plant where “deodorized water” would be discharged into the river.  Two main sewers, one north  and the other south of the river, would collect the outfall from the sewers that had previously flowed into the Thames.  These collecting sewers were constructed in brick and housed within what are the Victoria Embankment (to the north) and the Albert Embankment (to the south).  Work had started in 1856 and was completed in 1859 largely urged on following the summer of ’58. Eighty two miles of intercepting sewers were constructed, connecting to 450 miles of main sewers, serving 13,000 mile of local sewers. This had to handle half a million gallons of waste per day!  So where did it go?

The two halves of the Main Drainage Scheme, north and south of the river, are broadly similar, and the principle upon which each is based was very simple. In short, get the sewage to the east of London, store it until high tide, then release it.  The southern system led to Crossness where the effluent was pumped up into a reservoir where it was held until high tide when it was released into the Thames.  This reservoir had to be capable of being emptied within six hours (before the next incoming tide).  To do all the pumping Sir Joseph built The Southern Outfall Works, now called the Crossness Pumping Station.  Steam engines ran the pumps that pulled the sewage in the reservoirs from the sewers. As might have been expected at a time when Victorian Gothic was on the rise (Pugin was building the new Palace of Westminster, Barlow was constructing St Pancras Station…), the pumping station was ornate; built in the Romanesque style it was a cathedral on the marshes of south east London.
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So why are we purveying all this information about London’s stinking past?  Well, firstly the Crossness Pumping Station still exists (in the grounds of a modern sewage treatment plant). Moreover it has been lovingly restored; it’s a Grade I Listed Industrial Building, it has steam pumps that work!!!! And on Sunday 28th September there is a Steampunk Convivial occurring there. And!!!! Steampunk Morris will be performing there!!!!!  So we follow in Sir Joseph’s footsteps, with welly boots on perchance, to strut our stuff within a temple to London’s ancient crap.

PS  This is, unless things change in the meantime, our last public performance of the 2014 morris season.

Information from http://www.crossness.org.uk/index.html


Hopping down in Kent

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Not the kind of hopping normally associated with the county tucked away in the south east of England, but rather another weekend excursion by the motley crew of the Airship Steampunk Morris. This time it’s a smaller affair than the spiffing Lyme Folk Weekend, instead it’s Malcfest!

Malcfest is a small, free music festival at a pub in the small village of Charing located a wee bit west of Ashford and a wee bit more east of Maidstone. More precisely it’s at The Bowl Inn, Egg Hill Road (honest!), Charing. It’s a small festival (did I already say that), there is camping but (because it’s a small festival) it’s tight and rather homely.  But it’s a great little festival if that’s your thing.

Of course things don’t end there.  the following weekend, 13-14 September, the airship arrives back in Eastbourne on fair England’s southern coast for the Eastbourne Steampunk Festival.  Not only are we dancing but we are also running a workshop to teach people a dance and, if you’re lucky and dressed up all steampunky, get a chance to dance with us during the day.  We are informed that there will be a Big Top/Marquee/Tent of someArmillarySphere-GraphicsFairy2 sort on the seafront at the main lawns where the workshop will be held at the unearthly hour of 09:00hrs! Yes gentle folk, we know that’s the time for getting up, second cups of jasmine tea etc., etc. but this is special, this is a steampunk event like no other, so shake a leg, bring along your toast and marmalade, and come strut your stuff with us!! Huzzah!!

 


Gadzooks! What was that?

pointing hand vintage image graphicsfairy1 flipWe are absolutely stunned! Steampunk Morris have had their flabber well and truly ghasted! It is impossible to really put into words the way we are feeling right now following the side’s second visit to the Lyme Folk Weekend. From the outset on Saturday the response from visitors to Lyme, local residents and local traders (Mr Pastyman, thank you sir for the sustenance provided, and Mr Cheesemonger, thank you sir for your support and calls for particular dances), was phenomenal. Members of the airship crew were approached throughout the weekend by people enquiring about next performances, where we come from, and what we are doing, performances ended with calls for encores (this is morris dancing!), and the evening ceilidh spot was unbelievable with the large crowd packed into the marquee singing along with the music as the dancers did their stuff (and there were more calls for encores). Captain Jack Skylark found himself having drinks bought for him by just going into a public house while two of the side’s fairer sex were still being stalked by admirers a day after the event finished while they were in town incognito. The weekend was truly epic.

So, a huge thank you to all those at Lyme Folk Weekend for your invitation and trust. And another huge thank you to everyone who saw us perform, spoke to us, bought us drinks, gave us pasties, sang along with us and gave us encouragement. It really does mean a lot. Thank you!

PS If anyone reading this has a video of the ceilidh spot performance then would you please get in touch.