The Asylum: Steampunk Festival Destination Travel

072115 Chris Banner

Looking for an unusual steampunk-themed travel destination for 2016?

Billed as the largest and longest running steampunk festival in the world, the Asylum takes place this year August 26th to August 29th in the historic City of Lincoln (“Welcome to the Asylum, 2015). Many of the venues that house festival activities have ties to Victorian England and lend an authentic sense of time/place to a festival which celebrates, in part, a reimagining of that era. But steampunk is more than a neo-Victorian celebration, and additions like a costume parade, professional tea dueling, “illicit” market, and craft zones add flair to the proceedings.

The Wacky Racers from It's not if you win, but how good you look racing.

The Wacky Racers from
It’s not if you win, but how good you look racing.

Why Yes—You Can Visit a Castle

Built by William the Conquerer in 1068, Lincoln Castle is a place where kings and convicts have walked. Lady Nicola de la Haye, as constable, defended the castle in 1217, during a civil war that followed King John’s refusal to honor Magna Carta in 1215. (The castle currently houses a copy of Magna Carta and provides a full interactive tour.) King Henry VIII visited Lincoln Castle with his fifth wife Catherine Howard in August of 1541, during the time of her rumored affair with Thomas Culpepper. The castle served as a prison during the reign of Queen Victoria: Men, women, and children as young as eight were imprisoned in the castle prison for crimes ranging from stealing a waistcoat and Bible to highway robbery and murder (“This is Lincoln Castle,” 2015). During the festival, Lincoln Castle is filled with steampunk themed events and traders as part of the Bazaar Eclectica steampunk market. Lincoln Castle is also the site for The Wacky Racers events.



The Assembly Rooms

The Asylum has another tie to the Victorian Era: its headquarters are located at The Assembly Rooms, an 18th Century venue with modern amenities. This is where the talks, panels, and presentations occur. It is also the site for the Tea Duels.

The Illicit Market

This aspect seems to be a very unusual idea—a fun-filled “black market” where all sale items must be easily portable, hidden from view, and vendors run the risk of being caught by the authorities (AKA the members of the Guild of Privateers, Illicit Entrepreneurs, and Scoundrels). It is a combination of an open market and role-playing activity with the possibility of bribing officials to “look the other way” as you sell your merchandise. (The “bribes” go to charitable causes.) As noted by Alexandrina Brant (2014), vendors sell many of the same goods here as they do in the regular marketplace, but often at a cheaper price.

The Marketplace at The Asylum Steampunk Festival

The Marketplace at The Asylum Steampunk Festival

I have only touched on a few of the events in this article. The festival itself is spread all over Lincoln. Where you visit is determined by what event you enjoy. If I visit, I definitely plan to go to the Illicit Market, where rumor has it that you can pay for goods with either cash or fruit pies. Apple pie versus the American Dollar—I wonder what the exchange rate might be?



Brant, A. (2014). The Lincoln Steampunk Asylum (Part Two). Reading, Acting, Steampunk, Christianity. Retrieved from

This is Lincoln Castle. (2015). Lincoln Castle. Retrieved from

Welcome to the Asylum. (2015). The Asylum. Retrieved from



One Response to “The Asylum: Steampunk Festival Destination Travel

  • I went there in 2014 and it was a totally splendid time. An insider tip for those wishing to travel there, while Lincoln is accessible by rail it takes a long time and you have to transfer. I accidentally missed the first evening’s frivolities because I underestimated the time involved. I have a bunch of photos posted from the marketplaces if you want to check em out 🙂 There was also tons of great costume,

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