A visit to Sandbach Steampunk Market

Sandbach Steampunk Market visit

April 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of when the word steampunk first appeared in print form in a note to Locus magazine by author KW Jeter. You will have no doubt noticed that to celebrate we’ve been throwing things at readers for the past month. Not content with doing only that, Phoebe has been visiting the huge International Steampunk Symposium. I, on the other hand, decided to do something a little quieter and opted for the very first Sandbach Steampunk Market.

Please click on the links for the people listed here and have a look at their websites or give them a like on social media. After all, steampunk is all about supporting each other so let’s keep it that way.

Sandbach is located in Cheshire, roughly 6 miles north of Crewe and 30 miles south of Manchester. It’s a moderately sized market town with a good night life and interesting historical areas. The market was held on the upper floor of the restored Town Hall. There were plenty of signs from the town centre that ensured I found my way to the market. For a first time, the room was packed with traders. There also seemed to be a wide variety of things to buy as well. The event organiser, David, had done well with a balanced amount of traders.

Historical Haberdashers

Traders at Sandbach

There were a couple of familiar faces in the crowd such as Laurian Gray’s Wardrobe and Stuart at Rock & Goth Enterprises. They’re both regulars in the North and are respected throughout the area. I also met with a number of traders who were relatively new to the scene and are establishing themselves. Take Historical Haberdashers, for example. Flabber Harrison has roots in the re-enactment community and has recently found steampunk. Using his skills from his re-enactment experience, he now produces fantastic pewter buttons – some with moving parts – badges, braces, hand-made waistcoats and his stall was brimming with various bits and bobs to compliment steampunk clothing.

Steampunk Relics

Just across from him was Phil from Albion Artifacts who I’ve met previously at the Barnsley Apothecarium. Next to Phil was Kevin from Steampunk Relics. Kevin has an uncanny knack of finding the nicest toy pistols to modify. Once he’s painted them he varnishes them to ensure that the paint doesn’t come off easily. He also had a number of Cybermen heads that he’d given a steampunk makeover and a number of bespoke canes – most notable were the ones with bone sockets.

Good Fairy, Bad Fairy is a similar stall that also sold hand-made clothing, personalised handkerchiefs, badges and other paraphernalia. Looking on their Etsy page (link to the left), the pricing of the items they sell is very reasonable. For example, you could pick up a Van Helsing style overcoat for just £95.

Hattie jokes

I had a lovely chat with Gail from Ornamentology about… well, pretty much everything actually. She’s lovely to chat to, knows all sorts of information – some of it useful – and makes splendidly decorated hats. From dark, post apocalyptic pith helmets to bright fascinators. She also has an incredible knack of knowing what size head you are just by looking at you. For me she simply remarked “big”. Steamwares made an appearance – thankfully – selling all sorts of interesting things from binoculars to corsets. Part of the fun at Steamwares is to have a good rummage and browse because there’s all sorts of little knick knacks hiding on the stall. I managed to get a good handful of gears and decorative buttons for the hat that will be used in my next shoot for The Hellfire Club. Thanks to Jan Harrop for those. She had a great stall with hundreds of badge designs. Get a Facebook page sorted Jan, I want to show people!

Sandbach Steampunk Market
Prof T Bottom kept us in high spirits via the high alcohol content of his spirits.

Thankfully it wasn’t until the Sunday that I had a chat with Professor T Bottom. He’s the brain behind Prof T Bottom’s Toffee Vodka. This alcoholic beverage is highly potent and I needed my wits about me for the evening entertainment on Saturday. On Sunday I knew I had to drive home which stayed my hand. His drinks are popular among steampunks and I managed to acquire a small bottle of Toffee Vodka, so look out for a review on Steampunk Journal soon. He also had a supply of Orange Gin, but had sold out by the time I got there, sadly. At the front of the table was a bottle of Pasteesh which is a liquorice flavoured spirit. In the Prof’s comedic way, the slogan is “Pastis De Milton Keynes”.

I also had a chat with Tim from Wallhangers. He was displaying a selection of stunning locomotion photographs. There were images of trains and close ups of the cab and crank pin and rods. He’d only recently decided to look at steampunk events and had driven all the way from Telford in Shropshire to stand at Sandbach.

One of the traders who I’m going to look into in more detail in the future is Mark at Gizmobots. He repurposes items that we would normally throw away and creates incredible lamps, statues and robots from them. The tagline for his company is “Found object artworks”. He also conducts workshops one on one or for school classes. Have a look at his website and some of the pictures on this article. It’s fascinating stuff.

A selection of accessories from All Woman Corsets

I also managed to finally catch up with an amazing couple who I’ve been virtual friends with for a few weeks now. Rob and Jill run All Woman corsets. Their website is crammed with incredible designs of corsets, coats, boots and accessories. That’s just to start. After a chat with Rob I could see he’s a man with extraordinary drive and vision. He sent me a corset for review, so keep an eye on Steampunk Journal for that soon.

Entertainment at Sandbach

The night entertainment was held in the Church Hall. Master of Ceremonies was Erwyd Le Fol who gave us comical performances between the acts. His mini shows could easily be described as silly and regularly bordered on absurd. Fantastic stuff. He would do something such as an impression of a motorbike by using a kazoo while juggling, then collapse in fits of laughter. He reminded me of the late, great Tommy Cooper. We were treated to some magic and escapology by Greg Chapman of Condensed Histories. He’s very funny with a smooth act, gruff voice and incredible talent. He, incidentally, has a splendid kickstarter campaign going at the moment that you should all get involved with. Keep an eye out for that.

Paul Snook was excellent

We had some fantastic music from musical supremo Paul Snook. Paul is founder of the Paul Snook Band which has been playing blues, soul, country and funk to crowds since 2014. We were treated to an hour of werll known covers. Paul even got a few people on stage as his Retro Clones act. Four audience members got to play air guitar with plastic templates, which was hilarious.

The dark and theatrical performances of Foxee Stole
Victor and who?

Alongside the music, we also had the chance to watch Welsh based burlesque and theatrical performer Foxee Stole. She provided us with a mixture of displays including dance, pantomime and some deceptive magic tricks. As well as a levitating table which still baffles me as to how she managed it, she also peformed tricks with three metal rings. You see I was stood right next to the stage getting the photographs and I couldn’t see how any of it was done.

Victor sold his soul in exchange for helium filled underpants.

The headline act were steampunk sweethearts Victor & The Bully. Matt and Harry were playing their last gig before flying out to America for the Steampunk World’s Fair. It was another night of comedy and audience participation including getting annoyed when people clapped and having us to join in with choruses. It’s fair to say that the kiss will stay with us for a long time. It was a special moment.

Sandbach to the future

Sandbach Steampunk Market is a biannual event with the next one being held on October 15th & 16th 2017. I do recommend you pop on down there and support the local community. Tickets are reasonably priced for the evening event and it will pump some additional funds into the local economy which, I hasten to add, is extremely friendly. It would be a lovely trip out for local steampunk groups or for a few friends to have a dress up in your finery. There are great little hotels knocking about, but Crewe is a 20 minutes drive away where larger hotel groups are located. I stayed in Sandbach at the East View House. It was £55 for the night (prices may vary) and was an excellent place to stay. For more information about the event, you can visit the Crewe Convivial website which holds details about Sandbach.

My express thanks go to the event organisers and everyone involved for allowing me to access the event and for keeping it running smoothly.

Here’s some more pictures. Feel free to download and share on social media, but please credit Steampunk Journal:

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