If you’re a steampunk of any level of interest, you must have heard the word “Asylum” bandied around recently. Unless you live under a rock. Or under a big pile of socks which happen to provide superb sound proofing. Or if you’ve been on a trip to Pluto to collect vital rock samples and regrettably didn’t return until after the August bank Holiday.
An event attended by thousands of steampunks and non-steampunks alike, this year reached around the 120,000 mark over the course of the extended weekend. The drive in to Lincoln is a pleasant one of rolling hills that get flatter as you move deeper into Lincolnshire. This was a deceptive move by the English countryside however. You see Lincoln is home to one of the most depressingly steep hills that I’ve ever encountered. And I live in a city built on seven hills. It is in fact so steep that when naming it they didn’t even bother trying to mask it. They literally just called it Steep Hill.
Obviously my accomodation was located at the base of the hill. The fun all started on the Thursday, but I couldn’t arrive until the Friday evening. Not wanting to miss a minute longer, I headed straight out. I was curious to discover what was available for the steampunks who don’t go to the organised evening events. I started on Bailgate, just past Steep Hill in Widow Cullen’s Well. The atmosphere of the small, narrow pub is great. If it was a bit darker with straw on the floor it would have the ambience of an Inn from a fantasy novel. The lager is very cheap at less than £3 for a pint. It’s relatively low alcohol, but after the climb of the hill it was welcome on a parched throat.
I’d met with friends in the Well and after a while we moved on. At the top of the hill is the Magna Carta which has arguably the most strategic point for the weekend event. Sat conveniently between the Castle and Cathedral it’s a very popular pub for steampunks and non-steampunks alike. As we got there a number of people were creating their own version of a horse race sprint using hobby horses and running to the Castle gates. There were dozens of people there all chatting and drinking with friends.
We moved on to the Lion and Snake which is located along Bailgate on the way to the Assembly Rooms. It’s an entertaining and pleasant pub with a lively atmosphere. The interior is similar to how you’d expect a typical modern day pub to be with wooden floors and a pale colour scheme. We opted to sit outside because of the warm night and there’s plenty of seating space.
From there we made our way down Westgate and onto Union Road where The Victoria is located. Live music had been provided in the form of blues band Blues Boy Kings. They put on an excellent performance and I have to give extra credit to Sam on Bass Guitar. She clearly loves what she does and had the biggest smile which didn’t waver once throughout the night. We finished the night at The Victoria and it was a great night to stay there. The pub backs onto the West Gate entrance of the Castle grounds behind the Courthouse.
There are lots of places to find somewhere to eat or drink in the town if you’ve not managed to buy tickets or you simply didn’t want to for whatever reason.
Weekend at The Asylum 9 – Daytime
A weekend wristband costs £36.00. For that you get entrance into the various parts of the festival. These include Steampunk Campus at Bishop Grossteste University (BGU), Westgate Academy, The Food Court, The Assembly Rooms, The Castle grounds, The Cathedral Centre and Bailgate Methodist Church Hall.
Given that a day entrance to the Castle grounds costs £11, over the course of the festival (Thursday to Monday) that alone would cost you £55. Saving you £19. The wristband doesn’t give you access to the battlements or the tours.
While touring around it occured to me that I couldn’t think of any other festival where people are charged to go into the shopping areas. Yes there’s stalls available on Castle Hill, Exchequer Gate and around the Minster Yard facing the Cathedral. However, Westgate and the Food Court are only accessible for wristband holders. This means that the stall holders there are potentially losing out to custom from people who don’t have a ticket, which seems odd. Saying that when I visited I simply walked in and had a look around without anyone looking at my wristband. There was nobody on the door at the time. The Assembly Rooms were manned at all times but there were no stalls in there. It held events instead such as the Fashion Show and the Illicit Market.
I think I’m a clone now
Asylum gets bigger every year and there’s always something going on somewhere. In fact it’s impossible to see absolutely everything without firing up the old coal powered perpetual human replication apparatus. Over the course of the weekend we nicknamed it the Disney Land of Steampunk. The flamboyance and energy that goes into the larger features, such as the Whacky Races, the Jet Pack race, the Illicit Market or the Costume Parade only lends more weight to the nick name.
It is entirely possible to go to Asylum without spending a fortune on entertainment and still enjoy yourself. Over the course of time more articles will be added here covering various aspects of Asylum such as the Empire Ball and supporting nights out.
For this year though, I fully recommend that even if you don’t intend to go to any of the evening entertainment events, you should at least buy a weekend wristband. Just for the unlimited access to the Castle Grounds alone it’s worth it.
Here are some pictures from my time there I’d like to thank everyone who posed for me. Feel free to download and use these images as you wish, but please mention Steampunk Journal when sharing on social media.