After months of discussions with representatives of Lincoln County and City Councils and with Lincoln BIG, holding a focus on the safety of supporters, wristband holders, visitors, staff and stewards in the midst of a worldwide recovery from COVID, we put forward a proposal for an event that was entirely based within venues we have the capacity to manage safely.
This would have allowed for controlled numbers and environments and we would not have been offering any public “tourist” or open access content this year.
Unfortunately when this was considered (in consultation with representatives of the safety advisory group and police) we were advised by the City Council and BIG that whilst we would be doing nothing to encourage casual visitors wanting to see steampunk in all its glory to go to Lincoln during the festival there was still a risk of large crowds and a danger that this could be a major negative impact on local and National recovery. Indeed we were warned that the police were concerned that they might be asked to intervene if social distancing etc was not being maintained. This is most definitely not the positive impact on the City we have worked so hard to create and something we certainly want to avoid.
Steampunk is a very attractive and welcoming scene but this brings with it an audience over which we have no direct control. Even so it was made clear that we would be held responsible for this audience. The benefits of these visitors are entirely to the local economy rather than the steampunk festival and this has long been a difficult area to manage. Previously Lincoln BIG and the councils have helped with this but for 2021 we were told we would have to manage it all ourselves. As a volunteer based arts organisation this left us in an untenable position. We cannot control who comes to the streets of Lincoln but are apparently responsible for them if we bring some of our community for a gathering behind closed doors. We were therefore advised that we should not run the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln this year but should look for an alternative location.
Whilst extremely disappointed we have, of course, respected this advice since we have always endeavoured to be a benefit to Lincoln and not a detriment. We have also agreed that we will do all we can to discourage any steampunks from visiting Lincoln over the August Bank Holiday weekend and so for this year we must ask the world’s Steampunks and interested visitors to please stay away. We hope we may be able to return to Lincoln when we are welcome once again. We were pleased that the Councils and BIG have expressed a willingness to work with us again towards this end in this joint statement:
“Lincoln BIG, County Council and the City Council understand and appreciate the current challenges around organising what is both a national and international event in the city, due to the impact of the Covid pandemic. We therefore very much look forward to working with the organisers to ensure a triumphant return to the Bailgate/Uphill area in the summer 2022 when we will hopefully be beyond all restrictions and we can all enjoy and celebrate the amazing creativity that Steampunk brings to the city.”
We are delighted to announce that the festival is instead being welcomed by Newark and Sherwood District Council and will now be going to the delightful and historic town of Newark-on-Trent. We will be putting features into both the castle and marketplace with other venues to be confirmed.
We will also be using the fabulous Kelham Hall as our base with a much expanded version of our Sanctuary event which allows us to have a safe and controlled atmosphere. Kelham is probably the most exquisite steampunk venue in the country and incorporating a street festival in historic Newark makes for some very exciting opportunities. There will be a shuttle bus link between the town and hall. We will of course be working very closely with the authorities in Newark and nationally in light of ongoing pandemic situation so we can ensure we have a safe and enjoyable festival.
At this time we ask for your support in sharing the message to keep our Lincoln family safe, as per their request, we sincerely hope to return and work with all the teams there in 2022.
We also ask that you give us time to launch full details of the new location. I am sure you fully appreciate that we are a small voluntary organisation in receipt of no funding (all with full time jobs outside of our MoS roles). We promise to share everything with you as soon as we are able.