Monday 26 September 2011

In the Asylum with Wilf’ Lunn

It was that time again, time to return to Lincoln for the third annual Victorian Steampunk Society get together. Having attended in 2009 and 2010 and attended the Waltz on the Wye back in May, Beth and I were about due for another dose of steampunk intake. But first we had to stop off in Huddersfield to pick up the event’s special guest, childhood hero, inspiration and friend Mr. Wilfred Makepeace Lunn and his wife Elizabeth.
Wilf’ is held in high regard by many within the world of steampunk and quite rightly so, his style of attire and contraptions has raised the question within the steampunk community if he was in fact first steampunk. Although Wilf’ would be the first to flatly deny this, the simple fact remained, his fans wanted to meet him so it was off to Lincoln!

We set up the table in the main hall (once the exercise wing of the psychiatric ward) On display were some of Wilf’s creations The Worm Catcher Bike, The Overkill Bird Cannon and Lure (more on that later) and The Lazarus Helmet For Reanimating The Dead. Alongside where copies of Wilf’s book WILF LUNN - "MY BEST CELLAR" (autobiography up to the age of eleven & other stuff) and his limited edition Surreal Cycle Prints and some of my Science Spotlight postcards (namely 3/12 that feature Wilf)
The stall was along side the great far-fetched fiction novelist Robert Rankin. Author of such books as ‘The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse’ and ‘The Witches of Chiswick’. He was accompanied by his charming wife Lady Raygun as they promoted Mr. Rankin’s latest novel ‘The Mechanical Messiah And Other Marvels of the Modern Age’ On the next stall was freelance writer Jonathan Green. Described as 'a Geek's Geek' he is well known for his contributions to the Fighting Fantasy range of adventure game books he has also written for such titles as Sonic the Hedgehog, Doctor Who, Star Wars and Games Workshop's worlds of Warhammer. Jonathan was promoting his current series of novels set within the alternative steampunk universe of Pax Britannia along with other titles such as 'Match Wits with the Kids' and 'What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Christmas'.I quickly added the ‘Womblus Wimbledon Vulgaris’ to the Great Exhibition and returned behind the table just as the doors opened to let the public in to the main hall for the opening ceremony. Each attendee dressed in their finest, each one with a fascinating back-story to tell. Once the opening ceremony was over, many came over to meet Wilf’ shake his hand and thank him for his contribution to their childhood memories and inspiring them to be creative… Wilf’ on the other hand just wanted to compliment them on their costumes and props and find out how they created them! A lovely moment occurred when a young girl came up to Wilf’ and asked ‘who have you come as?' Wilf’ pointed to his book cover photo and said “I’ve come as him” to which the girl responded ‘You look like him!’ As the day progressed I was fortunately able to catch up with many familiar friendly faces from past events and discuss ideas, costumes and methods (not to mention hand out a few of my new badges and stickers!)

Womblus Wimbledon Vulgaris ‘meets’ the good people of Lincoln

In the afternoon it was time for Wilf’ to give a presentation in the little theatre located upstairs. He presented several slides featuring his time in television and various contraptions and creations over the years. There wasn’t a single slide that didn’t have an interesting story behind it. Moving on to his contraptions he demonstrated the Overkill Bird Cannon and Lure. Once firmly placed on Wilf’s head he clapped his hands activating the mechanical bird inside the cage that sang ‘Ode to Joy’ it lured a passing bird in Wilf’s sight he tugged the cord and fired a cannon ball! This marvellous hat was followed by countless other items that he produced from his cases including the skinless balloon (a green one) a cow pat Frisbee also known as WMD. (Weapon of Mass Disgust) and The Sneaky Baby Feeder (As seen in Wilf’s book Cheap Cheerful and sometimes grotty gifts to make) A device that rings a bell at the back of the baby’s head causing the child to look up and automatically open its mouth allowing the parent ample opportunity to squirt the food. (Wilf’ demonstrated this and despite his best efforts he missed me!) I loved the Second Class Battenberg medal, coloured and shaped like a slice of Battenberg cake Wilf’ presented this honour to Prince Charles for eating all his dinner when he was a child. Undeterred by the lack of response he then presented his Royal Highness with the Wilf' Lunn First class Battenberg medal with custard clusters for not spilling to which he received a thank you letter from Buckingham Palace!
Wilf’ even set out to aid the farming community reacting to concerns of crop circle like bald patches appearing on sheep (the result of moths unable to find woollen clothing to eat). He demonstrated the Moth Destroyer a fake sheep with nitro soaked wool that exploded when moths landed to feast! Followed by his finale, the infamous fox deterring Hen Grenade.
After answering questions from the audience Wilf’ took a bow to a delighted audience who responded in raucous cheer and applause.

After a well-earned cuppa Wilf’ was invited to be a guest judge for costume competition no easy task as the standard seems to increase with each passing year! The winner was selected and announced a spectacular set of mechanical wings, powered by a housefly encased in the backpack.
Then it was outside for an attempt at making it into the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Steampunks in one location. Rules were strict, each person had to have something on their head and also some form of gadget on their person. Although a pocket watch was acceptable I took the pocket sized killer bee locator with me as well as one of Wilf’s spare boaters. managed to have a natter with a few other people as the photos were taken and one final group shot later the busy, hectic day ended.Along the way we had managed to over look one minor detail and that was that nobody had actually eaten anything! So it was off for well-deserved gluten-free meal at the Wig & Mitre where we discussed the days happenings, exchanged ideas and shared stories oh and we had pudding too!
In fact we had a lovely weekend, our heart felt thanks to everyone that made us feel welcome.

Many thanks to Andy Dingley for the additional photos
© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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