'Greetings From the Steampunk Planet' by Tony Noon

I have experienced life on another planet. More of that later, but wanted to share a few thoughts about the above event, which took place at The Mansion House on Saturday 8th July.
I’m not a steamy, or steampunker or whatever the followers of Steampunk call themselves, but I do know what they look like. We went to a Victorian street market in Louth last year and they were there. If you imagine Sherlock Holmes with bright colours and goggles, you begin to get the idea. Familiar but strange at the same time. I knew this much, but didn’t quite know how strange it would feel to throw myself into a dedicated steampunk event.
Initial impressions were that this was just a craft fair with fancy dress. Closer inspection of the merchandise made me realise that I was a little out of my depth. There was jewellery made up of recycled watch parts, hoods and goggles made of handcrafted leather, top hats, trilby hats, exquisite jackets and bodices…
You had to be an insider to get it really and there were plenty of insiders strutting their stuff to make it worth the traders’ time. Very elegant they were, too.
I retired quickly to the tearoom and let the event wash over me. It occurred to me that The Mansion House was a perfect venue for this type of event. The chandeliers, pillars and bright colours provided a perfect background to the pure theatre of the enthusiasts.
It was a little like alternative dimensions and times clashing in perfect harmony , and it is no surprise that some of the jewellery for sale reflected concepts from Doctor Who, so there were TARDIS pendants and Dalek earrings (I think), but mostly they all did their own thing and did it well.

Even the skull dressed for the occasion.

There was live music as well, from Miss Harri Deane, who added to the temporal paradox with a set of classics from the 1930s to the 1960s. And then…
And then The Captain arrived… The Captain of The Lost Waves, that is.
Looking like a post apocalyptic Matthew Kelly he attacked the audience with the energy of a young Ian Andersen. Attacked is not quite right. He certainly exploded into our presence, but what he actually did was was seduce, or enchant the audience.
His set was essentially one song called “Another Planet”, with the chorus “I have experienced life on another planet”, but the set lasted a good half hour and the song evolved, twisted and turned, metamorphosed into something else but always coming back to the same steady drumbeat provided by Mr Phileas Cogg.
There were kazoos too, one notably wielded by a lady in the audience with a stuffed raven on her shoulder… I know.
By the end of the set we were all singing along with The Captain, who is a genuine, full-on star.
The whole event was unusual and hugely enjoyable. It was free too.
For that last half hour with The Captain of The Lost Waves though, Doncaster shared some of the creative energy of the Edinburgh Fringe, and we want more…

Frenchgate Flower Show

Doncaster isn’t the first place people think of when they hear the words ‘flower show’. That could well change with the inaugural Frenchgate Flower Show, opened on the 26th of May. With claims that it is ‘Doncaster’s answer to Chelsea’, it is hoped the show will attract more people, both visitors and retailers, to the Frenchgate and inspire creativity in the community. For this event, four exhibits are open to the public.
Toby Buckland, formerly of Gardener’s World, was on scene to officially cut the ribbons and give his thoughts on each submission. First up was the Forget Me Not Garden, designed by St. John’s Hospice and our very own Rachel Horne. Inspired by and a tribute to Japanese gardener Itaru Sasaki, the story behind the submission (which I won’t spoil here- go see for yourself) struck a chord with me. I would later go back and enter the box myself.

The phonebox that formed the centrepiece. No, it’s not a TARDIS. Trust me, I checked.

Next up was The Vintage Garden by Flourish Enterprises. Described as a ‘peek inside the gardener’s potting shed’, this submission felt like the perfect summary of Britishness. The only thing missing to complete the picture was the gardener sat in the chair, enjoying a brew. Andrew Marshall, the gardener in question, obliged by sitting down, almost completing the quintessential British shed picture.
Due to its position near the main doors, this particular plot caused many passersby to stop and look. Granted, some looked on in bewilderment, but with others I noticed an approving nod. High praise indeed. Not just because this is Yorkshire, where ‘it’s alright’ in the highest honour there is, but because everyone who’s lived in Doncaster for any length of time soon starts to feel like the Frenchgate is somehow theirs. So not only were Doncolites accepting this spectacle into their town, they were accepting it into an extension of their home.

Pictured: gardener in shed. Not pictured: tea.

After a potter around the shed, we moved out into the garden for exhibit number three: The Little Gems Gardens, by Grange Lane Infant Academy. A charming little four-parter, the garden is designed with accessibility in mind. The pathways are wide enough for wheelchairs, allowing any and all to enjoy the mini gardens and their plant-renditions of favoured pets.
Once again, many onlookers stopped to take this particular garden in. Perhaps this is partly because it was perched right outside WH Smiths and therefore on one of the main routes through the centre, but I believe that, much like myself, they were equally stilled by the relaxing simplicity of this particular submission.

The rabbit and its brethren were oblivious of the gathering around them.

Finally, we headed up the escalator and around to the final exhibit: The Imagination Garden, by Richmond Hill Primary Academy. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this was the very first exhibit I saw prior to the opening. Situated outside Game and right around from the escalator from the interchange, this Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sufficiently captures the surrealness of its inspiration.

Herbal tea.

With the final ribbon cut and the opening over, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. As someone with hayfever and little to no knowledge of gardens, I found I was both fascinated by the design choices and stories, as well as astounded I had not sneezed myself into a teary mess by the end. All of the gardens have stuck with me for different reasons, though my favourite has to be the Forget Me Not Garden. Not just because my boss is behind it, but because the story resonated with me enough to return twice after the opening just to contemplate it.

Bonus: an appropriate and truly magnificent tie.
Meet Your Muslim Neighbour

‘More in Common’. If there was one thing I took away from ‘Meet Your Muslim Neighbour’ on Monday the 27th of March, held at the Waterfront Restaurant in Doncaster College, it was this message. The event, hosted by the Doncaster Partnership For Muslim-Christian Friendship, presented a stark contrast to the tragic events of the London attack the previous week. To call it a rallying cry against the murders would certainly be evocative, but feels disingenuous. Rather than address the violence and division inherent in terror attacks, the event instead shone light upon and celebrated the similarities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Not a rallying cry, then, but the calm and measured voice of education.20170327_184334

The evening opened with a presentation on the real meaning of Halal food from Syed Iqbal of the Halal Monitoring Committee (pictured above). Of particular note was the scripture he quoted: ‘Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful and the One in the Heavens will have mercy upon you.’ Though a principle of Halal, it’s impossible not to read a response to the terror attacks in such a statement.

The Halal buffet. The food didn’t last long.

Following the presentation (and some debate on the matter of stunning and its relation to Halal), a buffet of Halal food was served. Over pulled lamb, onion bhaji and mini Yorkshire puddings, talk turned to the faiths as a whole. Witnessing Muslims, Christians and Jews, three religions that may look very different on the surface, find common ground in their core stories and beliefs was a privilege and a joy. For the first time, I truly understood why the Abrahamic religions are called so.

The queue never seemed to get any shorter.

But this is not where the common ground ended. Once the chocolate brownies (which disappeared in record time) were finished, the second speech was on the subject of Kosher, delivered by David Hayes from the Sheffield and District Reform Jewish Congregation (pictured below). It was here I discovered that the concepts of Halal and Kosher were, in fact, very similar in principle and mainly differed in their approach to the slaughter and preparation of the meat in question. Including, it seems, counting locusts as an acceptable food source.20170327_201400

The evening was wrapped up with a short video demonstrating the work of Families Relief and a powerful anecdote about fifteen women in Greece who left their families behind to ‘carry the torch of Jesus Christ’. We were entreated to shake hands and wish ‘peace be upon you’ to all. Though I identify as a bewildered agnostic I found myself saying it with full conviction. In light of the terror attacks and the tragic events just in the last couple of months, it was impossible to not be moved by such positivity and warmth. So peace be upon you all… and feel free to share a locust or two.