[aside: does anyone know whether there’s a good way to stay up-to-date and aware of where and when maker-centric (and adjacent!) events are happening around the UK? I’d love to get to more of them, if I’m able – in this case, I was following various related folks over on Mastodon, spotted that it was happening, and emailed Caroline to check how things were going]
It had been a few years since we were last in Liverpool, and of course it is a city that is always evolving. We caught the train from Euston to Lime Street on the Friday (I got a few bits of Mastodon-related work done on the way), and made our way to the waterfront where we were staying. It seemed as though every hen party, birthday celebration, and wedding was happening in Liverpool at the start of July, plus, there was the big On The Waterfront festival happening just a short throw from our hotel, so the city was really buzzing, even though the weather was sometimes a bit grim!
On Saturday we made our way to the library, and immediately bumped into my good friends Dan Lynch and Les Pounder (both of OggCamp fame, and with ongoing, separate, high reputes!), as well as finally getting the chance to meet Simon Walters in person, after many years of online connection. I’ve been a long-time supporter and volunteer of events like this one, but on this occasion I did skip the opportunity to get directly involved, as I wanted to be able to explore the show – so, here’s what I saw:
The fantastic Neston High School in the Wirral have their own Makerspace, and they were busy recycling plastic into objects that they were selling just outside the library. I’d just been reading about makeshift plastic recycling methods in the latest edition of HackSpace magazine on the train journey up, and the ones on display here seemed pretty sophisticated (it turns out that they have a version of the Precious Plastics recycling system that the teachers operate, to press the plastic sheets). As someone who uses 3D printers, I’m extremely aware of the sustainability questions around the use of the materials, and this was very good to watch in action – it is wonderful that the students have access to their own makerspace at the school, and can learn to use these techniques. A step up from the CDT lessons of my youth!
Inside the venue, Caroline was kind enough to make us honorary Makers for the day, which meant that I got a brilliant badge… maybe next time I can do more than just look around, and exhibit something instead. Remarkable though it may seem, this is the first point in my life that I feel like it might be something I could do.
The Central Library is an amazing space. A friend referred to it as “the most magnificent public reference library in Europe” and it is hard to disagree – a series of galleries spiralling upwards to a glass roof, with some very special reading rooms. A brilliant spot to hold a maker event, and to inspire youngsters.
[WordPress(.com) is unable to embed an image from Pixelfed, so go look HERE]
I’ll skip a booth-by-booth account of of the visit (we were there for most of the day!), but here just a few of things that I was excited about:
- the lower level of the library had some fun displays, including Spencer’s RC2014 kits (I really need to build my Pride kit!), Derek from Extreme Electronics with his Pico Cray (also just featured in HackSpace magazine issue 68!) and other gear, and a gentleman “Toy Hacker” who converts and upcycles old toys using electronics – his wife “Creative Stitch” had some absolutely wonderful mixed media pieces on display as well.
- ConcreteDog aka Jo Hinchliffe (another one of my primarily-online contacts from the hacking sphere) was launching hot air balloons through the atrium space…
[annoyingly, WordPress will not let me embed the video, so you can watch it HERE]
- I was very excited to see Tanya Fish, who was busy showing off her NFC-related magic. Tanya is such a great ambassador for technology and a wonderful communicator, I’m a fan! (and I may have picked up a couple of her kits, which you should do as well, so that she can do more events like this!)
- In the run-up to the event I’d been looking through the list of makers and saw Electric Flapjack Guitars… I looked up his site and saw the amazing stuff he is doing with 3D printing and traditional methods to create some very cool custom guitar builds. The Älgen did not disappoint: it is a thing of beauty…
- There was a strong emphasis on sustainability and recycling, with the Plastic Tactics group also showing their recycled items. Overall, this has inspired us to think a lot more about how we can do more to improve our material usage and footprint.
- Finally (just for this round-up, since there was so much more to see and investigate!) SolidMaps had an interesting 3D rendering of the centre of Liverpool, which was very cool. The challenge with this kind of topological modelling is the data for the buildings etc. This was printed using an SLA (resin) technique, which is something that I’ve not yet explored for myself.
Lots more was on offer to explore, and I tried to talk to most of the makers if they were not too busy, although I preferred to give priority to the youngsters who had come along with friends or parents so that they could have their imaginations sparked by all of the cool stuff on offer.
After the show
In the evening, we were fortunate enough to also be able to head along to DoES Liverpool to hang out with some of the makers. Adrian McEwen, yet another old friend and contact from the IoT and MQTT circuit, was one of the founders of this makerspace and co-working club and was gracious enough to give us a full tour – so many useful and exciting gadgets and tools, many of which I was aware existed, but don’t currently have ready access to. Thank you again, Adrian! (we may well be back…!)
A few more images [because WordPress(.com) will not let me embed a Mastodon post… 😠️]
I’ll end with an image taken at the makerspace, as it was a suitably inspiring way to conclude the Saturday.