UK Maker Faire

The UK National Maker Faire was held at the Life Sciences Centre in Newcastle on the weekend of 23rd and 24th April 2016. This event first ran in 2009 and is the oldest Maker Faire outside the US, so it is well established and well supported. Co-founder of Maker Faire, Sherry Huss, was there to kick-off proceedings and kindly gave UK DiDIY partner Isabelle Risner an interview for the DIDIY research into creative society.

The conversation was wide-ranging and covered topics ranging from the meteoric success of Maker Faire around the world, and particularly recent significant growth in Europe (the biggest Maker Faire outside the US is in Rome), to what it is that attracts so many people and what they get out of it. Sherry explained that last year, 150 Maker Faire events worldwide took place and reached 1.2 million people. She talked about the sense of excitement and community at Maker Faires where people come together once a year ‘sharing and showing’, linking it back to the County Fairs of her childhood in the US and her own anticipation of this annual event. The full interview will form part of a series that UK DiDIY partners University of Westminster are conducting to explore makers’ motivations and rewards.

The Faire itself was a customary mixture of the educational and the spectacular, the amateur and the professional, the serious and the silly. Ticking the educational box (and the fun box too) were Think Physics from Northumbria University with hands-on activities including a tweeting wishing well and a boxed silhouette-making workshop. In the spectacular category, Lords of Lightning demonstrated their lightning bolt show. Drone wars, robot wars, interactive games, coding, soldering and a zoetrope workshop are just a fraction of the activities that were available for kids. The event showcased the work of dozens of projects, from makers raising awareness for crowd-funding ventures, to maker spaces seeking new members, to artists and crafters engaging the public with their work and makers there just for fun. There was music from a live band, plenty of costumed characters but also a serious programme of well-attended lectures with expert speakers that explored issues from bitcoin to the future of drones.

The overall effect was a vibrant kaleidoscope of making-related activity, and an event where everyone was engaged in conversation. An extraordinary number of open and fervent one–to-one conversations seemed to be going-on everywhere. Maker Faires have proved themselves popular as a way for making communities to get together, share projects and ideas amongst themselves and the public and invite in new blood. This one was inclusive, eclectic and lots of fun.

Pictures: I.Risner