Marlborough Theatre, where he hosts regular Steampunk themed events.

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The bizarre hidden world of Steampunk

23 October 2010 2 Comments

Tarik at a Steampunk event at the Marlborough Theatre Tarik, right, at one of his regular Steampunk nights.

“Steampunk is an alternative reality – the creation of the universe as if people had never discovered electricity so carried on in a steam-powered direction,” Tarik Elmoutawakil explains in the bar of the Marlborough Theatre, where he hosts regular Steampunk themed events.

“It tends to ignore the darker side of Victorian life, which is why the last event “The Hidden Underworld” looked to shine a light down that dark alley, as I like to put it”, he grins.

Tarik discovered the bizarre world of Steampunk when his old manager (at the Marlborough) assumed that he must be part of the scene. And sitting opposite Tarik in his Victorian outfit at lunchtime on a Wednesday, I can see that it’s an easy assumption to make. In 2008, he went to a festival and met a whole group of Steampunkers, “who were all naked at the time”, and since then has become a figure-head for the genre in Brighton and beyond.

“It’s very open to interpretation,” he says of the genre that many people have heard of, but there exists a vagueness about. “And is a great platform for the arts. People are very creative with it and bring their own style.”

Crowd at a Steampunk event at the Marlborough Theatre

Hidden worlds

Tarik’s events at the Marlborough, held every two months on a Saturday night, always have a theme. There has been the Hidden: Planitarium, Peepshow, Cabaret and Circus, and the next night is called the Hidden Oasis.

“There are market stalls selling jewellery, clothes, hats and artwork, as well as music and performance art, including absurdist striptease,” he explains. “At the last event an artist called Cynthia dressed up as a bruised and bandaged Victorian woman and stripped to ‘Smack My Bitch Up’.”

Tarik hosts events under the name Carnival Catalyst Productions, and also collaborates with Palilalia, or ‘everyone knows what the night is for’, who put on nights at the Brighton festival fringe, sculpture collective Circus Kinetica and Curious and Curiouser, who are responsible for the decor at Speakeasy events. “Their most recent was a shop front that looked like a funeral parlour, which lead through to a drinking and gambling den – prohibition-style”.

Steampunk event at the Marlborough Theatre


Taking his “summer holidays – like I’m still at school” to travel around on the festival circuit, this year Tarik tried something new at Brighton’s secret-venue Playgroup Festival.

“With the ‘Nubile Venusians of 1901’, we created a Victorian alien gentleman’s living room,” he says as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. “We played games, watched Victorian porn and flirted on comfy sofas, as aliens. It was nice to introduce a neon and sparkliness to the genre.”

So who is receptive to such playtime? “You get your festival crowds, creative geeks, people who are very interested in Victoriana, as well as those who are just come because they’re intrigued, and don’t dress up. People who are into Steampunk are very friendly and earnest, as if by adopting the clothes of the past, they’re adopting the traditional values also.”

Performer at a Steampunk event at the Marlborough Theatre

Silver Wednesdays

If flirty Victorian aliens all sounds a bit too much, Tarik also hosts more laid-back affairs mid-week. Silver Wednesdays, also held at the Marlborough, incorporate “unusual vintage cinema, sassy girls selling ice-cream, and candle-lit, competent ushers”.

Tarik came up with the idea because he doesn’t feel comfortable with the formality of regular cinemas. “At Silver Wednesdays you can move furniture around, put your feet up on the chairs and talk,” he says. ” It’s like watching a film at home, but on a big screen, with vintage styling and with someone else changing the channel for you.”

“Come in vintage attire and you also get Hendricks gin surprises.”

Steampunk takeover

But the Marlborough isn’t the only home of Steampunk in Brighton. Every Saturday at the Mesmerist bar on Albert Street, bells toll, mist rolls across the floor and the building speaks.

You guessed it, Tarik also plays a hand in these events. “There’s bizarre performance art from the likes of Professor Elemental, and we’ve also had chimney sweep striptease.”

And on November 26, he will collaborate with London’s White Mischief to put on a night called ‘The Tusk and Garter’ at the Brighton Ballroom. “There’ll be a world influence, so if you don’t feel like wearing a waistcoat, you can come in a kimono.

“It’ll be like a fabulous party on a Zeppelin, travelling the world.”

Top hats off to Tarik, his enthusiasm is as infectious as a Victorian disease.

Words: Jo-ann Fortune

Images: Pending credits

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  • Aether Wochenschau – Pre-Raphaelites « Clockworker – Steampunk said:

    […] Brighton berichtet über The bizarre hidden world of Steampunk: “Steampunk is an alternative reality – the creation of the universe as if people had never […]

  • sarah said:

    wonder what is date of next Brighton Steampunk do… please can you e-mail me when you have a date arranged. LOVE the Marlborough Theatre, so can’t wait!

    Sarah x

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