Meet Steampunk couple behind Yorkshire weekend festival

Steam Punks prepare for the big event in Whitby in a couple of weeks. Andy and Michelle Dolan on Whitby's windy West Cliff.
Steam Punks prepare for the big event in Whitby in a couple of weeks. Andy and Michelle Dolan on Whitby's windy West Cliff.

Behind a glorious gallimaufry of gorgeousness, a teeming torrent of titbits and an accumulation of accessories and apparel which make up Whitby Steampunk Weekend Ooh La La are the equally colourful and cheerful Andy and Michelle Dolan.

They moved to Whitby, where they had been regular visitors including to the Goth festivals, three years ago from a village near Bedale in North Yorkshire and launched Steampunk, held twice a year at the Pavilion, in 2017.

Their move to the coastal town was prompted by ill-health. Both have overcome cancer in the past few years. They are living in a cottage near the 199 Steps with their three dogs – Quincey, Bojo, who often appears in promotion material with the couple, and Fenella, after Fenella Fielding who was, without trying, the very embodiment of Steampunk.

They are living there while their house on West Cliff is transformed into their Art Deco dream home. One part of the extension is to house Michelle’s library of 1,000 and counting cookery books.

Andy was in the “party-killer” of a career in health and safety and they have always had an interest in property development.

The idea for Steampunk Weekend was the result of a 22-year wedding anniversary Steampunk picnic at Cusworth Hall, near Doncaster.

It was a drunken moment for Michelle, an inspired moment to Andy. “From that rug in a park in August came the first festival at Whitby Pavilion in the February attended by 6,000 people,” said Andy. “Since then it has taken on a life of its own.”

The song title after Steampunk Weekend reflects Andy’s love of music. T-Rex’s Get It On and Matt Monroe’s on Days Like These are two more that have been used.

“Steampunk Weekend Get It On was the first event. The doors of the Pavilion were opened at 10am, Get It On was pounding out and everyone had a smile on their face. It was a joyous moment,” said Andy. “People ask ‘Why do it?’ I say ‘Why not?’.”

However Steampunk is perceived, philosophy, way of life or less flattering descriptions, it is a passion for Andy and Michelle. It celebrates everything punk - out of the ordinary - and steam power, the invention of the Victorians, and literature from the era including novels by Jules Verne, HG Wells and Conan Doyle.

Both of them have Steampunk personas. Andy is Hubcap Diamondstar-Halo and Michelle is Lady Drinkmore Gin. Andy’s nickname derives from the fact as a youngster he used to steal the hubcaps from his dad’s Mercedes and hide them. Michelle’s reflects her love of the now ultra-fashionable tipple.

Andy sports a braided, button-studded jacket, black studded laced trousers, blue and red-plumed pith helmet acessorised with with cogs and wheels and Biggles-style goggles. Michelle is in a red corset and bustled skirt. Her attire is topped off with a stunning Lincoln green hat adorned with a tartan rosette.

Both sport a Whitby Steampunk badge - a different one is made for each weekend and have become collectors’ items.

They feel right at home in Whitby - home of the Goths and everything Dracula and Bram Stoker related.

“Whitby has grown accustomed to seeing strange, wonderful unusual costumes; no-one bats an eyelid. Bringing the Steampunk element has put a nice, friendly twist on things,” said Andy.

“It is warm, welcoming and colourful. We get Goths, bikers, alternates and pirates coming along.”

They also make a point of encouraging the local community to get involved.

This year visitors can expect umbrella duelling, mesmerism, pistol tiffin - a duel between biscuit dunkers armed with water pistols - and chap hop superstar Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer - think hip-hop with eccentric English themes.

For the first time, they are taking Steampunk on tour including dates in Scarborough and Bridlington.