We’re now less than a week away from the premier Maker event in Britain, Maker Faire UK, which will be held at the Centre for Life in Newcastle-upon-Tyne this weekend. The first Maker Faire UK took place back in March 2009, and was held under canvas in Times Square in Newcastle. Last year’s faire was the fifth, growing from just 30 Makers back in 2009 to 350 in just five years — it was the biggest, and loudest, yet. This year, of course, the faire is expected to be bigger, and louder, still.
Regulars at our US faires, EepyBird will be bringing their Diet Coke and Mentos experiment to this year’s Maker Faire UK — and finding out exactly what happens when you combine 200 litres of Coca-Cola and over 500 Mentos mints. Along side them will be MicroMagic Systems who will be bringing along the biggest all-terrain hexapod robot in the world — the “Mantis” walking machine.
Designed and built by Matt Denton, the Mantis has 6 legs, is nearly 3 metres high, and is powered by a 2.2 litre Turbo Diesel engine. This is not your grandfather’s robot. This year’s Maker Faire UK should be a spectacular show.
Of course Maker Faires aren’t just about fire, ice, and blowing things up — although there is always some of that going on somewhere — it’s about individual Makers showing off what they’ve done. We talked to Cheryl Lumley from Woolaballoo about what she’s bringing to the faire and why:
Tell us about what you’re bringing to Maker Faire?
I usually revamp and reuse wood, tiles, and paint, but wanted to bring an often underused material to the Maker Faire. So Woolaballoo was born. It’s beautiful, soft, and comes in so many colours it’s a shame to use it purely for jumpers and scarves. There won’t be any knitting needles in sight though. I want to inspire children and adults alike to re-use the things around us to create and save money on buying new. There’ll be card making using wool and wood, wool-wrapped letters, decorative hearts with wool and pipe cleaners and I’ll be showing people how to create unique lampshades and decorative objects for their home using wool. I’ve sourced all the wool from charity shops, pulled apart old scarves and been given lots of remnants from friends and even their parents!
Why are you coming to the faire?
I’m a creative junkie and love making and creating, so when I got the opportunity to attend the Maker Faire I jumped at the chance. I’m a big upcycling fan and I want to pass the idea of revamping and reusing onto the next generation. The idea of wool came from wanting to show people how to use even the unlikeliest of materials when upcycling.
I’d like to think my enthusiasm is going to rub off on my son’s generation and we become less of a throwaway society and more creative and resourceful in the future.
How did you get started making?
I’m a graphic designer by day so I’m creative in my daily life, but making and upcycling really started when I bought my first home and the lack of money spurred me into upcycling. I think it started with a chair I rescued from a skip. It’s been used in every room in my house for the last 17 years! It’s almost an heirloom now. It might even make an appearance at the Maker Faire!
Since then, I’ve made mirrors and candle holders from scaffolding boards, chalkboards from roof tiles, planters from decking boards, revamped furniture and painted anything that didnt move. I believe everything in a home should tell a story and have history and I’d much rather have something unique than mass manufactured.
We also talked to Ian Simmons — the communications director at the Centre for Life in Newcastle, and one of the organisers of Maker Faire UK — about the faire and about the local Maker scene there in the north of England.
Tell me about your background?
I am Science Communication Director at the Centre for Life, and have been involved in the development and running of science centres for over 25 years, as well as many other aspects of involving the public in science and technology from planetariums to science comedy.
What made you decide to run a Maker Faire?
Initially we were looking for a flagship event when we relaunched Newcastle Science Festival in 2009, and Maker Faire fitted the bill perfectly, as Newcastle and the North East of England have a long and established history in innovation, particularly in science and engineering and Maker Faire is imaginative, interactive, democratic, and involved the community. At the time, Maker Faire was entirely new to Europe as well so we were lucky enough to lead the way. Since then it’s rather taken over from the Science Festival and taken on a life of its own here as it’s the UK national faire and it clearly has such a positive effect on everyone attending.
Tell me about the local Maker community
Newcastle is blessed with a thriving and growing Maker community, there’s an active hackerspace a short distance from Life and all sorts of individuals doing creative making right across the spectrum from potters to coders to knitters in the North East of England.
As well as Makers sharing their ideas and projects, there will be a series of talks during the faire by some big names in the Maker movement. Including Cory Doctorow — blogger, journalist, science fiction author, and co-editor of the brilliant blog Boing Boing — as well as Maker Faire regular, Mitch Altman — a San Francisco-based hacker and inventor — perhaps best known for inventing TV-B-Gone. Oh, and I’ll be there too and talking — well okay, possibly ranting just a little — about the Internet of Things.
Tickets for Maker Faire UK are on sale now costing £9.95 for an adult ticket, and £24.10 for a family ticket. So come along.