January 22, 2011

Maker Night at the Art & Design Academy

On Wednesday we rebooted the Liverpool Hackspace with the first of what will become a monthly meet-up at LJMU's Art & Design Academy - Maker Night.

Fifteen of us gathered in the workshop, surrounded by all manner of interesting tools and machines, and within sight of the digital fab room. As it was the first Maker Night, we had a couple of short talks to introduce what we mean by "making". Andy Goodwin was ill and so couldn't make it along to give his talk on fabbing, so it fell to me to give both talks. I've embedded the slides here in case anyone wants to see them:

After the talks things broke up into a number of activities. Some people had a tour of the digital fabbing lab; others had a play with the Arduino and the ARDX beginners kits that I'd taken along; and some just worked on their own projects.

Future events will be a bit more hands-on - you'll be able to work on your own project if you like, but we'll also be aiming to organise a led workshop too (things like building an Arduino from scratch, or making a solar chime). We'll also have some ARDX kits in case anyone wants to have a play around, so you don't need any electronics or programming experience to come along.

Maker Night will be the third Wednesday of every month, at the Art & Design Academy on Duckinfield Street. 6:30pm for a 7:00pm start.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that I'd got the day wrong - it'll be the 3rd Wednesday of the month, not Thursday as I'd originally written.


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The Liverpool Embassy

A few weeks back I got to visit the Liverpool Town Hall for the first time for an event to announce that Liverpool is opening an embassy in London.

Yesterday saw the opening of the aforementioned embassy which, obviously, isn't a true embassy but some office space to allow big Liverpool companies and council officials a base from which to meet up with businesspeople and politicians in the capital.

I'm not entirely convinced of its value - mostly down to my disdain for "inward investment" as a regeneration tool - but from attending the event and hearing the leader of the council and the newly-appointed council business advisor speak about it I'm happy to give it the benefit of the doubt.

They seemed open to questions and criticism, and honest about what they want to achieve. They're trying something a bit different, and going to see how it works or if it works. The embassy is open for three months initially, and it ties into some of the promotion around the upcoming Liverpool Boat Show. Keeping it open for longer will depend on it proving its worth, and also on finding further funding from the private sector. The initial costs have been provided from money that last year paid for some of the junket to MIPIM and they are already signing up sponsors to help with that.

Press response to the launch has been mixed, with the Financial Times and Guardian providing fairly neutral factual reports.

The Telegraph, however, has a rather romantic and curious piece which, despite waxing poetic about the delights of Liverpool later in the article, also irks me somewhat. I think my irritation can be summed up in this paragraph from it:

"But an embassy is a redundant idea because Liverpool already has many eloquent ambassadors actively abroad (myself included). And the thing about these ambassadors is this. Liverpool inspires an intense, mawkish sentimentalism… coupled with an extreme desire to get away and never return. Its diasporised diplomats speak eloquently of the city’s intense romanticism while praying never to be required actually to live there again. Ever."

Although he is undoubtedly eloquent, someone who talks about how wonderful the city is whilst simultaneously claiming it's somewhere one would never want to live isn't someone that I want as my ambassador.

Liverpool is a great city - not just to hark back to, but to live in, to play in, to run a business in. If our current "ambassadors" aren't getting that across to the rest of the country or the world them maybe we do need our own embassy.

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January 21, 2011

Rainy, Grey-sky Thinking

When it comes to designing better ways for our cities and us to interact, it occurred to me just now that what we definitely don't need is "blue sky thinking". That sort of "start afresh", "everything can be re-imagined" approach is what gave us Corbusier's aesthetically-pleasing yet soul-less and aggressive in practice grand modernist projects - most evident in the slum clearances and war-damage reconstruction in the UK cities of the 60s.

What we need more of is almost the opposite - "rainy, grey sky thinking" perhaps. Thinking that embraces the constraints of the city-as-is and works out clever ways to reuse and refactor what already exists, and which replaces as little as possible.

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