With over 200 members, The League of Bournemouth Steampunks group has seen a surge in interest in local membership thanks to films like ‘Hugo’ and fashion trends like Prada’s Winter 2012 male collection, giving mainstream coverage to the sub-culture in the last few years.
Steampunks have an archaic Victorian-meets-21st Century-technophile look and The League is no stranger to the style, as members regularly meet up dressed in extravagant Victorian inspired costumes. But, with the closing of one of their archaic looking hangout spots – Boscombe Vintage Market in the Royal Arcade – will the group face a tough future?
The monthly Vintage Market was a favourite for The League as members met together in costume and shopped in the sophisticated setting of the Royal Arcade during the day and retreated to the retro Chaplin’s Bar at night.
Two weeks ago, the Vintage Market announced in April that it would not be trading in the Royal Arcade anymore due to a “management decision”.
“Boscombe Vintage Market was not the only local venue used for meets. Our preferences vary so that one location doesn’t go stale” said David Wilson, one of the founding members of The League.
Having such a large user-base would make it difficult for any group to organise excursions but David explains that there are places a bit further afield which provide a perfect backdrop for The League.
“Bournemouth was a popular Victorian seaside resort but unfortunately there are few unspoilt [Victorian and historical] elements still around in [Bournemouth], and that includes the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum which has a collection of Victorian art and souvenirs and events.”
“There are still some Edwardian and Victorian sites in the nearby counties” and indeed The League visited Milestone Museum in Basingstoke for a group outing in April.
How The League started
As the name is an homage to the steampunk, science-fiction graphic novel ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentleman’ by Alan Moore, it is no surprise that the group was also born out of science-fiction.
“Since I was a boy I have loved science fiction; whether in books, film or art. I have also had a long term interest in military history in the wars and technology of the Victorian era” said David.
Four years ago, he was looking for the works of science-fiction writer Jules Verne online when he came across a steampunk forum called Brass Goggles.
“I realised that not only were the forum members interested in the same things as myself, Victoriana, science-fiction, costuming and making things, but my retro-influenced clothing mirrored a lot of what the forum members wore.”
“It appeared that I had been a steampunk for long time but hadn’t had a name for it!”
Dressing the part
David believes that the reason The League is so active is because of Bournemouth’s vibrant arts scene,“Steampunk is a sub-culture that attracts artists and makers.”
Indeed the members are very creative, often arranging clothes together to make a costume or even hand-making their own.
David puts together his own costumes, using collarless shirts, waistcoats and military style peacoats bought from a variety of outlets such as eBay. His more informal costumes have been bought from the high street and he now wears them as part of a ‘normal’ wardrobe.
“It all depends on the look you want to achieve.”
“Add a hat and pocket watch and you have a good steampunk look using clothing that can be used for everyday wear.”
Leanne Fitchett, a member of The League, is a costume design student at Arts University Bournemouth.
She makes her own steampunk clothes, “Bournemouth is a hard place to find alternative clothing, especially steampunk. I find most of mine in charity shops, and then adjust them to suit my needs.”
There are many charity and vintage shops in Boscombe and Leanne recommends Molly’s Den near Wallisdown.
The future is now?
The League is flourishing with new members all the time and a “core” of regular members attending events and meet-ups.
But where will they meet every month from now on? The Vintage Market has revealed earlier this week that due to local demand and petitioning, it will still be held in the months of May and June in the Royal Arcade.
“I’m sure a new venue for the Vintage Market will appear in the not too distant future and we may well use that for meets” said David.
“In the past we have also used Russell-Cotes and we will probably resume meets there in the autumn/winter. Other than that, there is always Chaplins and their Cellar Bar.”