Only days from now, a group dapper fellas and dashing dames will convene dressed in their finery and costume to celebrate the fascinating world they’ve created. These steampunk folk will be joining the revelry at the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition (CNSE) in Toronto, Ontario from April 29th to May 1st 2011. The CNSE is an exciting way to get a taste of what steampunk is all about, or immerse oneself deeper in its re-imagination of the past and the future.
I caught up online with Lee Ann Faruga, one of the event’s organizers.
Known internationally as Countessa Leonora, Lee Ann Farruga is a founding member of Steampunk Ottawa and the founder of Steampunk Canada. A bundle of organizational energy held in check only by her growing collection of corsets, the Countessa promotes steampunk in a plethora of venues including book signings, message boards, local events and at conventions large and small. Like many steampunk aficionados, Farruga was a fan of the aesthetic long before she knew it had a label. Since her youth, she had always loved the Victorian aesthetic and the work of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Three years ago, she noticed her husband Patrick, with a mutual friend, looking at images they were describing as “steampunk”. “Once they explained this ‘steampunk’ to me,” she recalls, “I realized it was something I had always loved, but now it had a name.”
She became involved in steampunk culture in Eastern Canada as a founding member of Steampunk Ottawa, but has since branched out and founded Steampunk Canada, a national organization bringing together local steampunk groups from across Canada. Driven by her love of steampunk, she has brought the genre and local groups to the attention of publishers and major media companies, and is campaigning to bring steampunk to the attention of all Canadians through more conventional exhibits. Her local efforts have included tea parties, photo-shoots on Parliament Hill, expeditions to carnivals and museums and mass costumed movie nights. She also appeared in costume for Ottawa Magazine – a moment she treasures as it included her family. “We now have a number of people who are organizing events and I simply help out” she says. “As well, our house (built in 1899) is often used for smaller events like our recent poker/whist night”
These days, Farruga is more involved in Steampunk Canada, supporting the growth of steampunk on a national level. She is working on getting more exposure for Canadian steampunk artists of all mediums including art, literature and music. One of the biggest events supporting the growth of the community is the CNSE. Participants can look forward to an exhibition of steampunk music, information, contests, people and fun in Canada and for Canadians (and friends from other places). Some of the highlights include Professor Elemental from England.
Author Maureen Jennings (Murdoch Mysteries), the Friday night Sideshow Social and many panels on a huge variety of steampunk topics. As well, there are contests for attendants to join in such as best bathing costume at the Victorian pool party, Mad Scientist competition and best evil laugh contest.
Farruga is also helping people begin local groups and helps steampunks across Canada find their local groups through Steampunk Canada’s event calendar and links. “I think it’s a fantastic way to put a face to someone you’ve only met online,” she says. “I’ve met some lovely people online who have become good friends after having some face time to know them better.” In-person events connecting the online community have practical utility as well. Farruga says “It’s a great opportunity to get a lot of “hands on” experience learning about costuming, gadget building, etc.” With her extensive experience facilitating the community’s growth, Farruga offered some advice for those new to the steampunk world: “For someone new to the Steampunk community I tell them to check for a group link in their area or on Facebook as well. They can check the event calendar for events in their area. They can check the members to see where they are and the forums for people talking about their area. If they cannot find a local group and are interested in starting their own I usually advise to put out an invite to family and friends for a tea or pub night to talk about it and also to start a Facebook page very clearly stating where they are so that other steampunks in their area can easily find them.”
When asked how she’d like to see the community grow in the future, Farruga has clear vision:
“With the endless ways to enjoy steampunk and participate in the community it has the ability to grow in a huge number of areas. It is already growing into areas such as gaming, LARPing (live-action role-playing), and various media. I would like to see the community grow to include more art and lifestyle from its recycling roots. I would also like to see it grow but continue its sense of fun and wonder.”
For more information, check out Steampunk Canada’s website: Steampunkcanada.ca
for questions and to get involved they can contact Lee Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org
for information about the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition go to CNSE.ca
for more information about the Steampunk movement in general, take a look at these links: