The Town That Never Was

The Town That Never Was is a steampunk weekend run by the same group that do The Asylum steampunk festival. Held at Blists Hill Museum in the Iron Bridge Gorge it’s a lot of fun, with all kinds of exhibitions and events, as well as loads of people dressing up in their finest steampunk outfits (myself included) to really get into the swing of things. This was my second year going, but for those who have never been before here is a short summary of what to expect.

Blists Hill

First up, the location is amazing. Blists Hill Museum is one of those living museums where you have people in period costume hanging around telling you all about life in Victorian times. I go there even when there’s no events on because why wouldn’t you!

They have a working chippy (which cooks in lard unfortunately, so no good for little old vegan me), a sweet shop (which I definitely could buy thing in), a bakery, a candle makers, a print shop, in fact all kinds of working businesses you can visit, not just ones that sell food. They alone make Blists Hill worth a visit all by itself.

Exhibitors

Lots of steampunk creators like myself go along to events like The Town That Never Was because it’s not only a great way to meet fans of your work, but it gives you the chance to maybe entice a few more to give it a try. Everyone’s always so nice when you meet them, they love talking about the things they create, and I invariably walk away with something new and interesting in my bag.

I’m going to do a whole post highlighting some of the creatives I came across this weekend – like Hopeless Maine, Gary Nicholls’ Imaginarium, and Herr Doktor – so you’ll forgive me if I don’t go into too much detail about them here. Suffice to say that they’re doing some very interesting stuff!

Shops

Buying things is one of the main reasons to go to a convention like this. Whether it’s something new to read or something nice to wear, events like this are the best places to get the more unusual stuff you don’t get on somewhere like Amazon.

I managed to get myself a new, light-weight vintage waistcoat, from the lovely couple in the image above, and let me tell you, I needed it! It was so damn hot all weekend I couldn’t face two days in the heavy woolen waistcoat I normally wear.

Events

One of the joys of something like The Town That Never Was is that there’s always something going on. Whether it’s steampunk cowboys robbing the post office, a troop of burlesque belly dancers, or a Victorian R2-D2 rolling about the place, the fact that you can walk into something around any corner really helps immerse you in the whole experience.

Cosplay

People love dressing up, and none more so than the steampunk community. I saw some amazing outfits at Blists Hill, which must have taken hours to put together. So many in fact that they too deserve a whole post of their own.

If you can’t wait you can see all the photos I took on my Instagram feed right now, but for the moment here’s a choice selection of some of the best to be getting on with.

In Conclusion

Simply put, whether you’re into steampunk or not (and there were plenty there who had just gone along for the museum alone) a visit to The Town That Never Was at Blists Hill is well worth it. It’s once a year, round about July, and whilst £29 per person isn’t cheap, the fact that you can visit any of the other museums in Iron Bridge for a full year afterwards makes it a good deal in my book.

I’ll be going along next year, hopefully as an exhibitor if all goes to plan. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Review – The Nevers

Hey there, steampunk enthusiasts, have you seen The Nevers yet? No? Don’t know what it is? Well let me enlighten you.

NB: Because you have to these days, let me issue a minor **SPOILER WARNING**. I won’t be going into detail on any major plot points or reveals below, but I will be discussing the set up, situation, and characters a bit, so if you want to go in totally blind I suggest skipping the Pros and Cons sections below. I won’t give anything away that you don’t learn in episode one, but even so, I thought I should let you know.

The Nevers – Official Summary

In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the ‘Touched’: people – mostly women – who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities – some charming, some very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True, a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair, a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of… well, pretty much all the forces – to make room for those whom history as we know it has no place.

Six characters, all in Victorian dress, superimposed in a line in front of a reflected London skyline. A black male doctor, strong and stoic, his sleeves rolled up. An older woman wearing black in a wheelchair, haughty and confident. A blonde woman in a brown dress, her hair tied back, gentle and intelligent. A dark haired woman in a red dress with an umbrella on her shoulder, wary and tough. A black woman in a bowler hat, a defiant look on her face, conjuring fire with her hands. And a mysterious woman with long dark hair in a white dress, looking over her shoulder at us.
The Nevers – currently available on HBO Max in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK (July 2021)

The Nevers – My Summary

The set up is fairly simple, and one we’ve seen before to be honest. A small group of people, mostly women, have awoken with powers they didn’t have before, upsetting the “natural order” of things. How will society react? How will they keep themselves safe? And what happened to cause them all to mutate (yes, this a very much and X-Men type situation) in the first place?

Is It Steampunk?

Yes, kind of. Most of the steampunk-like creations are centred around one character, Penance Adair, whose touched ability allows her to see and understand the flow of energy. This compliments her natural ability for invention, allowing her to come up with some weird and wonderful machines as and when required. They don’t always work of course, in line with the tired old trope of TV scientists being not very good at what they do, and being socially awkward (the socially awkward bit has nothing to do with the inventions but still, it’s there nonetheless), but they are a lot of fun, and they do look great. Very much in keeping with the steampunk aesthetic.

Pros

As well as the excellent inventions the whole thing is very well made. It looks great, the sound design and music work really well, and the characterisations and story lines are expertly crafted. Each episode – of which there are six, all roughly one hour each – rattles along at a satisfying pace, and there is enough variety in what is going on to maintain your interest.

Cons

I have two problems with The Nevers. As I’ve mentioned already, some of the characters are a little tried and tested. Not only do you have the awkward scientist, and the aloof yet emotionally damaged leader weighed down by the burden of leadership, you also get the government man who wants to round the Touched up and lock them away, whose daughter it turns out is one of them, as well as the mad scientist who kidnaps the Touched so that he can experiment on them. None of this came as a surprise to me.

Personally I would have liked to have seen more variety in who the main characters were, and in the roles they have to play, but I suppose when you’re doing something different you have to give people something familiar for them to hang their imaginations on.

My other problem is conversely the opposite of what I just said. I had a little trouble keeping track of some of the minor characters, and some of the lesser story threads, meaning I wasn’t sure what was going on some of the time. Also, there’s a thing that happens in the last episode that throws even more confusion into the mix, meaning I finished the first series with more questions that I started with. Now sometimes that can be a good thing, but for me it just felt a little unsatisfying, meaning I won’t be watching the second series because of eager anticipation, but because I have a mental itch that I need to scratch (which isn’t why I watch TV, to be honest).

Should I Give It A Go?

In a word, yes. Despite the misgivings laid out above it is a good series, well made, which I enjoyed a lot. You should definitely give the first few episodes a try if you’re into this kind of thing. You won’t regret it, and who knows, you may even find something you have a real passion for.

It is a lot of fun, and it’s really well made, so don’t let me put you off. I’m just some jaded old storyteller, so you should take what I’ve said about The Nevers with a pinch of salt lol.

Check out the official HBO trailer and see what you think for yourself. (I make no guarantees about how long this link will work, but it works for now.)