How do I even begin to talk about my weekend at the Seaside Steampunk Spectacular in Minehead? The first word I would use would be emotional – to the extent that this blog has been delayed in writing as I decided the best way to talk about one aspect of the weekend… but more on that in a few paragraphs!
I’ll begin with a summary of the weekend!
Minehead is a wonderful little seaside town, with a lot of cute independent shops and a steam railway station (always a bonus to me!).
The weather was glorious, and with the talents of Ichabod Steam, Kiss Like Ether and Dr Grey and his Orchestra of One our on the streets entertaining, it was a wonderful set up to the event.
I found myself performing in various locations along the high street, from crowd shows in the square and in front of Ichabod’s Submarine, to close up by the station and outside a wonderful shop called Wombledon.
This is a vintage shop, a sort of Aladdin’s Cave of bits and pieces. The owner, Alison, had dressed the window mannequins in Steampunk attire for the weekend, and I couldn’t resist popping in for a look around.
On one of the shelves near the back I found a children’s magic set – but not like most I see around. Most are modern plastic arrangements, with the same half dozen tricks. This one was a wooden set, and the tricks so beautifully made that I couldn’t resist it – I even ended up using one of the tricks in the Sunday night variety show!
I got chatting to Alison, and found out that her father had been a magician, performing as ’Mr Fez’, and I even got a chance to see one of his business cards (perhaps if anyone remembers working with him or seeing him perform, you could leave a comment below!).
My relationship with this magician of the past was to deepen the next day, however…
We performed evening shows at The Regal Theatre on Saturday and Sunday nights – and I have to say it was a wonderful theatre with a crew who were just amazing. Even when one band had a particularly long and complex sound check (followed my traditional sound check of saying one sentence into a microphone), the sound crew remained calm and relaxed about the whole evening. So good was the venue and crew that I couldn’t resist chatting to them about taking ‘Very Christmas Story’ to the theatre (watch this space, we’re talking about it).
Then the evening show (and I know this is a performer’s cliche, but see the below quote from the Captain), had one of the best audiences I have ever had the pleasure to perform for (and I do have some that stand out in my memory). They were so buzzing with excitement, so ready to be entertained, that it made the evening a special one for all involved.
This cliche’s only cliche, ’cause it’s true. – Captain of the Lost Waves
Every moment, every aside, every ‘just for me’ comment that I slipped into the show that night hit a home run. Was I on form? Yes. Was I a better performer than usual? I don’t think so. I just think that some nights shine – as performers some nights our performances soar to new heights, and other nights it is the audience that pushes a show to greatness. I will take all the credit in the world for a good performance that night – the audience can have the credit for making the whole evening one of the special ones!
Then, after the evening show on the Saturday night, Alison from Wombledon came over to tell me that she still had some of her father’s old magic kit, and would I like to have a look at it the next day? (Of course I would!).
The next day, while performing throughout the town I stopped in at Wombledon, and spoke with Alison, who brought out a briefcase containing Mr Fez’s magic act. I pored through it, and I was close to tears as I went through it. It was overwhelmingly emotional to go through someone else’s kit. To know the bits I knew and to imagine them used, and to puzzle over and eventually figure out other pieces (and some are yet to be figured out!).
If you want to hear all about this fully, then have a listen to the episode of my Tales From The Road podcast, where I talk a lot about how this felt:
Overall, the Seaside Steampunk Spectacular was an incredible experience on all levels!