After spending two days at Weekend at the Asylum, I’ve returned the grey bleakness of rain. I only attended for two days, but that time was an exhausting, yet exhilarating time. The seventh installment was even bigger than the previous version with a lot more to do and a lot more people involved.After leaving my car, I approached the area that Asylum was being held from around the back of the Cathedral. It took several minutes before I even saw anyone attached to the event, but rounding the corner, I found myself approaching the Castle from the Cathedral. A moment later and I was in the middle of throngs of people as they milled around the market stalls.
The first thing I noticed was the sheer amount of photographers there. It was a bit of a shock to see so many, however there are a couple of changes this year to last year’s events. The event was held on August Bank Holiday, so the city naturally be busier. It was a glorious day on Saturday, so a lot more people will have been about because of that as well. On top of that and the VSS have really gone to town this year with so much to do, I couldn’t decide which bits I wanted to see the most.
Let’s get the criticisms out of the way first because they’re only small and more of a hint on something to look out for in future than an actual fault. When I arrived, I went straight to the Assembly Rooms to get my wristband, except they weren’t there this year. Now this may have been communicated in advance on leaflets or emails, but I didn’t see it. I understand that’s not the fault of the organisers, but if I missed it then a hundred others also missed it. After I’d picked up my wristband, I knew I wanted to participate in the Costume Parade and had to submit my details by 12pm. I couldn’t arrive earlier than 11.30am and had got to the tent by 11.40. I left the tent and headed directly to the Assembly Rooms as per the instructions on the program and website. I was told that it was to be submitted at the tent where I got my wristband – the place I’d just been to – and that the program and website had last year’s information on it. All I can ask as an improvement is that communication is made that little bit clearer and it will be better. Still, nothing really to worry about too much.
I noticed that there were one or two differences this year: The smaller market that was in Westgate had been removed and was more focused on events, talks and workshops. I didn’t attend anything in the Assembly Rooms aside from the Droids and Daleks exhibition in the back. I didn’t want to attend the Illicit Market (because it doesn’t happen) but unfortunately, I had to leave for home before it began.
It may just be me but the market area seemed to have fewer stalls. There were plenty, though and being someone who used to work on markets in my younger days when early mornings weren’t dealt by the Devil, fewer stalls generally means more revenue. Especially at an event such as this where people will go with an intention of looking around and buying something. The talks and workshops I managed to attend were the “The Art of Distressing and Weathering” by Major Q. Thankfully the only things that got distressed were the plastic guns. After a look at the amazing outfits on display and a chat with friends, I changed into Steampunk Freddy and had some pictures taken before the Costume Parade.
Sunday was more milling about but as I was with family I got the opportunity to look around more – especially as some were first timers. I still managed to catch a talk on “The Anarchists Armoury” which was an interesting discussion about real weapons used by the anarchists in the Victorian era. It covered how the word “anarchy” had been corrupted from its original meaning and we even got to learn about how the anarchists had much more fire power than the Police of the day. We then raced over to the Castle to catch the back end of the Queen’s Parade. After some lunch and a last meander round it was my time to leave.
I enjoyed my time a lot more this year than I did last year. I still didn’t get involved with the evening entertainment – I was too slow getting the tickets this time – but I felt much more a part of the festivities. This could be down to the larger spread of activities or the fact that I actually went and watched talks and workshops. It could be because I dressed as Steampunk Freddy and had my picture taken. I like to think that last year – being my first – I simply wandered around trying to take everything in without actually integrating. There was so much to see, but a year on and a year wiser and I did a lot more. I also noticed a lot more this year. I went about it differently. I spent all Saturday just in the Castle grounds. I did it on purpose to make sure I saw everything without the distraction of the Castle Square, Assembly Rooms or Westgate.
A lot of people on social media have commented on the amount of photographers there and also some people have had negative interactions with them. I felt the same way, especially when I was elbowed out of the way by a photographer racing round Amy Smart to get a picture of her stunning outfit. I hope it’s not the same problem that Whitby Goth Weekend started to get a few years ago with intrusive and rude photographers.
If you’re a photographer, please take care at these types of events. We’re not your free models for you to do as you wish. You don’t own the person you’re photographing or the space around you and them. I know what it’s like, I’ve had my own photography business for nearly a decade now. I understand the passion and desire to get the best shot or that unique image that no-one else has, but not at the cost of the person who has given up their personal time for you – for next to nothing in return – or the other people who have paid to go and enjoy the place where you’re currently knocking them out of the way.