Steampunks invade Chch

STEAM'S UP: Christchurch steampunks Mike Lester and Paula Garcia pose with the steam train at Ferrymead Heritage Park.
STEAM'S UP: Christchurch steampunks Mike Lester and Paula Garcia pose with the steam train at Ferrymead Heritage Park.

There's a new quirky community about to take over in Christchurch - the steampunks.

Despite the name, the city is not about to be invaded by punk rockers. Instead, Christchurch steampunk enthusiast Neave R Willoughby said, the phenomenon is "a genre of science fiction created in the 70s and 80s about an alternate future imagined by the Victorians".

That future was based around steam power, airships, fantastical inventions, crazy weapons and mad scientists.

"The Victorians saw a very adventurous future," Willoughby said.

"Electricity has not been invented, or plastic, so everything is about natural materials and steam."

Willoughby, who runs a web company, said he grew up reading steampunk comics but it "didn't click" for him until he discovered the community online.

"I'd been making computers and things but it wasn't until I found steampunks online that I realised there were other similar people out there. Then I went to London and ran into a steampunk gathering and it made sense what I'd been doing the whole time."

Enthusiasts dress up in costume, socialise, and pose for photographs at steampunk events. "It's a chance to get about wearing hats and goggles, corsets and parasols, waistcoats, fob watches, and carrying fantastical weaponry."

Willoughby's own steampunk character was a photographer.

"I've constructed my own Victorian camera out of wood with a real digital camera inside."

Oamaru has labelled itself the "New Zealand capital" for the steampunk community, holding regular gatherings.

The Christchurch chapter was only just getting started, Willoughby said.

"It was just taking off here when the earthquake happened and we're really only just getting going again now."

He hoped a steampunk event organised for December would change that. Ferrymead Historic Park will provide a fitting backdrop for the costumes, tall stories and imagined weaponry when the group gathers on December 2.

Stalls would be selling all sorts of steampunk clothing, jewellery and accessories. There would also be a raygun-making activity for children and a fashion show outside the park's railway.

The event was being held on one of the parks "steaming days" - when the steam train is operating - which would allow the group plenty of photo opportunities.

To encourage full participation, those wearing steampunk costume will pay a reduced entry fee.

Sunday Star Times