February 15th, 2020, Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum, Germany
The fair in Bochum is actually a two-week-long festival of antique and retro funfair machinery, carousels, music boxes and more. However, what it’s mostly known for is its Steampunk day. Traditionally, the steampunk themed Saturday is the first day of the event, as it opens its doors to all the public. You do not have to be dressed to theme if you prefer to spend a nice day at the site casually, however be prepared to be surrounded by many who are! And the theme alone makes it for a wonderful adventurous day that feels like a time travel in the past that never happened.
Steampunk is a sub-genre of a larger subculture, circulating around an idea of technological and futurism advances set in the Victorian era. The time of industrial revolution, brave adventurers, mad inventors galore and general scientific progress of the time, meeting elegant fashions of the Belle Époque. Somehow we instantly think of English fashions and traditions, however, Steampunk as a genre and an adjective can be applied and interpreted anywhere and to anything. That’s the beauty, it encourages endless creativity and inventiveness, some of which can be seen and admired in this instance in Bochum during the themed day at the fair. Paradoxically, even today no one can define Steampunk finally, yet it gained major popularity all over the world and stepped well over the alternative lifestyle boundaries into the mainstream. Not everyone would know what an ethereal goth is, yet almost anyone understands when you describe something as steampunk. Also needful to mention that this style is a brother of dieselpunk and cyberpunk, and all these and many of their possibly interpretations can be seen at that day in Bochum!
The fair itself is an impressive collection of fully functioning machinery from the bygone past. There’s a large travelling music box from the early-19th century, there’s a fun house with gigantic paper maché figurines at the entrance, there’s a comedy hall with curved mirrors and hidden laughter. A great adventure for modern day children and a chilly throwback for adults who recently watched IT and American Horror Story the Carnival.
The carousels and the rides themselves are worth the short waiting lines, which can take between 2 and 10 minutes. Many rides are accompanied by live music that adds a lot of the vintage flair and this much excitement. Oh my, the ride goes so fast that uncontrollably, your partner is pushed tighter against you! And then – what’s this?! – at the Caterpillar ride, the funnest of them all, at one point the emerald green velvet marquise comes over the fast-travelling cabins for two and allows your that precious minute of unsanctioned ankle-flashing! Even though the rides are antiques, all are perfectly safe. However, they do go surprisingly fast, so those of us in costume has to really hold on to our bonnets and bustles in order to avoid a public mishap to blush even the Lady Violet Crawley of Downton Abbey herself.
Other rides include traditional carousels with the most beautifully painted creatures, horses and carries. There’s one carousel especially suited for smaller of the audiences, with swan cradles and ponies.
And whilst you take a tasty break at one of the food stalls, the pathways between all stands are often passed by the most curious moving robotics and inventions! We’ve seen a fully animatronic Steampunk R2D2, a pennyfarthing with a mad aviator cycling it, a mechanical dragon/motorcycle as well as many smaller creations like pet dogs and steam-emitting top hats.
Such events are often not without a costume contests. The prizes are symbolic, yet the participation and a chance to walk your (often self-made) outfits one the event’s main catwalk is most memorable to many. Steampunk outfits require high attention to detail. Some see it as decorative, where you’ll notice peculiar prints on the fabric, manipulation with textures and materials, re-purposing of gadgets and accessories. For others steampunk stands for functionality, so there are many of moving parts, steam-emitting engines, clockwork backpacks, fantasy weaponry, robotic pets and even steampunk prosthetics! This is truly a fest for creativity and imagination.
If you came casually to visit in day-wear and suddenly discovered that you urgently need to join this magical world of steam and punks, there are a few stalls of ready-to-wear clothes and accessories at affordable prices. If you’re a more experienced attendee, there are stalls with excellent raw materials for your future creations. There’s something for everyone and such events are not to be missed! Well worth the 20€ entry, which some might argue steep, but it includes all the rides and the most unforgettable time-travel you’d not get on anywhere else.
Journalist – Marina Minkler
Photos – Kira Hagen www.kirahagen.com