Some parts of the city gleam and shine like a 1930’s dream of the future. However there are other places, where the relics of the industrial age can still be found, which feel like the setting for a steampunk adventure.
If you’ve not heard the term before, it refers to a genre of Science Fiction in which technology has remained dependent on steam power. Often it occurs in an alternative version of the 19th Century, with everything made of brass, iron and plush velvet. Starting as a literary movement – JW Jetter’s hugely enjoyable novel Morlock Night is an early example – its influence can now be felt in film, TV, comics, games and fashion. Steampunk couture generally involves goggles, basques, top hats and long coats that wouldn’t look out of place in a Hammer Dracula movie.
Art influences experience, so some places – themselves the products of the industrial era – now seem like they were designed for new steampunk games and stories.
Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds is just such a location. It’s an atmospheric but sometimes overlooked tourist spot, hidden away outside of the city centre. When it plays host – as it did this weekend – to a Steampunk Market, all those huge old machines take on a new meaning. Suddenly they feel like engines of alternative histories peopled by characters in wonderful outfits.
And when Jack, the museum’s 1898 engine hisses into life, you can really feel the wonder of steam power.