On Wednesday 15th July we held an evening of talks and discussion focussed on the growth of makerspaces, fab-labs, and community workshops. This event aimed to examine what these spaces could contribute to the economic future of Loughborough.
First, we heard from Andrew Sleigh – a researcher, writer and producer who was one of the researchers on Nesta’s Open Dataset of UK Makerspaces. He discussed what the findings of the project can tell us about the way makerspaces and the like function, what purposes they serve within their local communities, and what their increase in numbers says about our interest in ‘autonomous creative production’. To see his presentation slides and a list of relevant links, visit Andrew’s website here.
Next, we heard from Hannah Fox, Development Manager for Derby Museums. She took us through the tumultuous journey of their extensive redevelopment, including the decision to mothball the Silk Mill for two years while they got on a more stable financial footing. Hannah pioneered a co-production project titled Re:Make the Museum, which engaged the local community in planning, designing, and making elements for the newly redeveloped Silk Mill. Extensive audience research turned up valuable information about what the Silk Mill represented to the people of Derby, and how they would like to see it used. A series of experiments on potential uses for the space – including gigs, debates, and maker fairs – were co-produced with the local community, and in 2013 the Silk Mill reopened completely empty as a space for activities such as these. The museum’s audiences continued to have a large amount of input as the venue gradually reintroduced some of its collections for public viewing.
The next speaker was Dr Caroline Chapain – Lecturer at the Department of Entrepreneurship and Local Economy at Birmingham University. She spoke about her involvement with several different projects researching local design and production. One was Media, Community and the Creative Citizen (also known as Creative Citizens), a research project exploring the value of creative citizenship in three primary areas: Hyperlocal Publishing, Community-Led Design, and Creative Networks. Another was her research on a creative co-working space based in Birmingham called the Moseley Exchange. She also spoke about her involvement with the Co-working Europe Survey (2010) and the Global Co-working Survey (2012) and discussed how the findings of both reports indicate global trends in the design, location, and usage of makerspaces, hackspaces, etc.
The last speakers were Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen from STEALTH.unlimited – a creative practice based between Rotterdam and Belgrade which explores the responsibilities and capacities of architecture in contemporary societies. Their presentation focussed on a project they initiated in 2013 called Stad in de Maak (‘City in the Making’) which aimed to find new uses for the large quantities of welfare housing that currently stands empty in Rotterdam. The buildings became ‘toxic assets’ after the housing associations which purchased them fell on hard times; partly due to the economic crash but also, STEALTH.unlimited claim, ‘disruptive governmental policies [and the] mismanagement and speculative risk-taking of its current real-estate owners’. As such, these associations are in a financial position neither to develop the buildings nor to tear them down. Over its ten-year duration, ‘City in the Making’ will experiment with communal ownership and use of three of these buildings in an attempt to make these urban resources available once again for collective benefit.
After the speakers has finished giving their talks, there was just enough time for a Q&A session before the event was officially supposed to end. As with all the Market Town events so far, however, we were blessed with a passionate, engaged, and curious audience who were more than keen to stay for additional discussion with the speakers (and each other!)