a sign of the times

I recently got a bit of encouragement on twitter for my blog post about the lost Nottingham Canal. If anything I only need the slightest provocation to geek-out about local history of lost infrastructure. Whenever I travel anywhere I always keep one eye out for “things-that-don’t-belong-to-our-time” in the built environment.

Junction of Colwick Road and Racecourse Road, just after Colwick Railway Crossing.


One such thing that I’ve been noticing for (probably) about the last 15 years is the “Nottingham Racecourse” sign on Racecourse Road, in Sneinton. No doubt you could speculate, why not have a sign for the Racecourse on Racecourse Road?


I don’t think the sign is especially old, probably from the 50s or 60s. The sign is made of box section metal and wood. The wooden parks are rotting away and will be gone soon and who knows how long the sign will last. Someone has tried to pull the “E” off the end of racecourse and a arrow has lost it’s wooden head. There seems to be wooden holders at the top of the sign where I suppose the next race meet could be advertised? These are in a bad state and will rot away in the next 5 to 10 years I’d have thought.


This sign is utterly unloved and forgotten, it’s neither been painted nor used in the time I’ve lived in Nottingham. Furthermore it seems to be in the wrong place. Way would it be North of the Daleside Road Roundabout? Why doesn’t Colwick Road go to Colwick? It’s these questions which make a mildly interesting puzzle game for me.

Having lived in the city only for about 15 years I’d not know that Daleside Road is fairly new having been built in about 1985. I’d not know that the eastern half of Daleside Road from the Racecourse roundabout follows the course of a removed railway line, and that the racecourse had it’s own station. Evidence of the line is plainly seen west of Racecourse road alongside Bendigo Lane (expect a blog post on Bendigo at a later date) and is an interesting walk/cycle for infrastructure geeks to get into town.

Racecourse Road sign about where the Racecourse Station would have started.


Racecourse Road, of course, used to be the ONLY road to the racecourse, there being no Daleside Road at all. The Racecourse sign would have been just before a railway bridge, about where the roundabout is now and traffic east would have run along Colwick Road, the ghost of which can be seen between Daleside Road and the racecourse, after the dog track. You don’t have to search very hard or look at many old maps to get the answers.


I’m utterly in love with the National Library of Scotland’s OS map overlay onto Bing Maps and would strongly recommend it to any infrastructure geeks as a tool to take out-and-about with you.

I know this sign will be something that many Nottingham reader will have seen and even easily remember it in use. I’d love to hear comments or recollection below filling in the gaps. Thank you and more soon.

maker faire, the european edition. rome 2015

If you are a serious British maker with a project you’d like to promote or commercialise or even if you simply want to improve your network or get some new ideas you should be at Maker Faire Rome. Whilst on paper it is no way bigger than a US flagship faire, this quirky king-rat of an event is teaming with makers from all over Europe and visitor numbers in the tens of thousands.  

 The Faire is run by the Rome Chamber of Commerce who are a government/public sector organisation tasked with providing support and promotion to Roman businesses. One way they do this is by providing trade shows. This gives the Chamber extensive experience in running events and they have all the required equipment (marquees, fork trucks, security staff, fencing panals) and exstensive partners with which to do it.  

 Maker Faire Rome or more (or less) officially Maker Faire European Edition (depending on who you speak to) is in its third year as an event and on its third venue too. This fact is amazing to me and refreshing too. I strongly hold the belief that Faires need to have contingency plans to grow and reinvent themselves. It’s a bugbear of mine that some Faires really arn’t about the city or country they are in (and named after) but are really about the venue they are held in. This happens because generally the team doing most of the work will likely be the venues in house team and a Faire is a good way to create attention for your venue.  

 The layout of the Faire is interesting, there are large marques from A to Z (though I’m not 100% sure there are 26 in total) with exhibitors dotted about outside and around them too. There are a large number of rooms, stages and workshop areas for the conducting of hands on activities, talks and performances as well as food concessions stands and a Maker Shed type shop space. The Faire itself (possibly controversially) occupies the campus of Sapienza University of Rome, it has been fenced off at the usual entry points. The Faire is utilising some of the University buildings for talks (mostly in Italian) but seem to prefer to use the outside spaces and marquees.  

 The Faire runs over 3 days open to visitors, a schools and education day on the Friday with general admision on Saturday and Sunday. The main downside is that the Faire is super busy and the marques become very cramped and stuffy and moving about the Faire is difficult. The Romans seem very polite and freindly and about 60% of them are very happy to speak in English which is very nice of them, the other 40% or so don’t speak English but are loverly all the same. For this faire being able to speak Spanish or Italian would be an advantage. One good technique for exhibiting is putting information in Italian on a poster explaining your project and that you don’t speak Italian.  

 Having come solo without a project I’m keen to find opportunities to network and socialise with other makers, something I don’t actually find especially easy when its forced. As a good ice-breaker Robert Fitzsimons and I are trying to organise a Bay Area style “Bring-A-Hack” social this Sunday evening. If it goes well I might blog about it.  

 I’ll not try here to blog about projects I’ve seen. I like project but as you can probably tell if you read my posts I’m much more interested in the organisation of the Faire itself. There was everything you’d expect to see here and maybe a few surprises? FabLabs are big in Italy and there are very many represented here with all manner of projects. It’s amongst the FabLab stalls that you can find the most interesting and innovative of the exhibitors in my opinion. If anything I’d like to see more amature tinkerers with crazy projects. I think the event has the flavour of a trade faire gone wild. Projects that have impressed me are the Zero-Mile-House-Printer a delta 3D printer that uses local mud and water to print shelters. It’s impressively big. There is also a monolithic drone cage titled “house of drone” (is that how they call Game of Thrones here? House of Thrones?) it’s the biggest drone cage I’ve seen. 

So I thought I’d sneak this in at the end. This is likely my last blog of this type. I may continue to write up my visits to Maker Faires but they will be as picture albums or similar. I’m going to be entirely revamping my blog content to be much more specific on a couple of niche subject. Farewell dear readers, it’s been “fun”. I apologise for any spelling mistakes, WordPress app is shiv. 

zones 5 & 6, world maker faire, new york

Zone 5 was new at last years (2014) World Maker Faire and Zone 6 is new this year. This zone is very leafy and extremely pleasant part of Flushing Meadow. The pace really drops off in these zones and some consideration could/should be given to mixing in some of the more lively and popular regular exhibitors. I was told that last year some makers assigned to zone 5 complained that they didn’t get the foot traffic of some of the zones right near the main gate.

Sustainability is a big part of Zone 5.
Zone 6 is accessed by leaving the Faire walking along a path and popping into the car park of the Terrace on the Park.
The Make Live stage. The largest speaking venue outside of NySci. One of several live presentation set ups at the Faire.
Exit from Zone 5 towards the Unisphere, where Eeppy Bird was performing their Coke Zero and Mentos show.

Visually this area does have a very different feel to it. Zone 5 contained sub zones on sustainability, especially transport and a stage area for speakers. The maker exhibits were much more thinly spread in the area and could certainly accommodate a lot more in future years.

Zone 6 beneath the Terrace on the Park contained spectacle in the form of the life-sized-mouse-trap and power tool racing.

Zone 6 was devoted to spectacle including the Life-Sized-Mouse-Trap, Power-Racing-Series and Power-tool-drag-racing.

You can get an idea of how the faire is laid out from the image below showing the site map for World Maker Faire 2015 and the same information from Google Maps.

Map of the 6th annual World Maker Faire. 111th Street runs along the bottom edge the north is to the left side.

This concludes my blog posts on World Maker Faire 2015.

zones 3 & 4, world maker faire, new york

Well these World Maker Faire blog posts are really out of date and out of the moment now so to move them along quickly I’m going to try a new format. Pictures with comments…

Zone 3 had a large number of makers of all kinds, it hosted lock picking and fabrication in the Makers Pavilion, most of the hands-on activity and food vendors are in the area as well. It contains the “start-up zone” and leads onto Zone 4, primarily devoted to young makers.

The Google “learn to solder” pavilion. Google provided thousands of free sets of safety glasses for kids at both World Maker Faire and Bay Area Maker Faire in 2015.
The Maker Shed from the outside in Zone 3. Around the shed there was a variety of hands-on activity.
Learn to Solder Zone prior to opening. Note the recycling point, “trash sort” is very well managed at Maker Faire.
Robotics area in Zone 4.
The Maker Shed, the sales arm of Maker Faire. This football field sized structure hosts the best of the on-line Maker Shed and is staffed with a communal cash register run by Make staff. Product manufacturers help by demonstrating their wares but do not sell directly to the pubic.
Make Faire is famous for it’s paella, this guy on the left (can’t remember his name) was very proud of this set up. It’s the same vendor at both Bay Area and New York flagship Faire’s. He was telling me he might be in Rome too. Paella is the main dish at the Makers meetup the night before the Faire.
This long “Avenue of Science” leads from Zone 3 past Zone 4 and onto Zones 4 and 5 and into the park.
Zone 4 has a sizeable area set aside for food courts and food venues as well as live music.
Zone 4 contained FIZZ a very popular hands on exhibit probably provided by Pepsi, where visitors could mix and experiment with making different drinks.

world maker faire logistics

I’ve been to 3 flagship Maker Faires, a flagship Faire is a huge Maker Faire generally with around 800 – 1000 “Makers” (that is exhibits). Currently there are two such Faires, one in New York, called the World Maker Faire and the original Maker Faire, Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo. I have had behind the scenes access and tours to both of these Faires, that has been a great privilege. But at this point I declare and disclaim that sadly I can barely scratch the surface of the intricacies of the logistics of a flagship faire and am definitely not in possession of nearly all the facts or any real hands-on experiences of doing them. What follows here is me trying my best to put across something of the flavour of what happens (at least on the day or so before) to put on a flagship Faire.

Humour in “the boneyard” an off limits area run by the heavy structure team. A scary but very cool place to hangout.

There are lots and lots of really large numbers of people and things to manage at a Flagship sized Faire. Last year the World Maker Faire hosted over 800 “Makers” which means 800 groups of exhibitors ranging from 1 person with a table needing one power socket, to parties of 12 or more on a large corporate stand with their own large tent or show vehicle. Then there are the sponsors who are looked after by a dedicated team. Also the “travellers” who are volunteers to help crew the event on the day but need managing too, anyone who’s ever managed volunteers knows this can be a difficult and sometimes thankless task. Additionally there is a permanent crew of about 250 including the editorial staff with their demands for WiFi and camera equipment, the maker shed team with their need for point of sale and of course the press manage.

Crew register Makers at a Maker Station, these tables are a point of contact between the Faire and Makers during set up.
Once set up is completed and the public are admitted, Maker Stations become information points by switching out the signage.

On top of that there are the food vendors who need to be set up and managed. Not to mention the big ticket paid for attractions, acts and speakers for the talks. Everyone needs to be fed and watered, have large amount of products or literature delivered be registered and processed onto the site and kept safe. There are a large number of temporary structures to construct from very small table and chair set-ups to massive football field sized pavilions, hundreds or portable toilets and about a mile of chain link fences. Extra generators for power are brought in and an additional cell phone mast is erected. There are police personnel, medics, museum staff and security men too. Oh… and I nearly forgot last year the World Maker Faire attracted 85K visitors.

Visitors queue on Sunday morning awaiting the opening of World Maker Faire.

Many volunteers are tasked with collecting data and signatures in order to issue a liability waiver wrist band. The Maker Faire in the USA issues these wristbands in order for visitors to take part in any activity on the site during the Faire, this includes soldering. This is not something that can be done in the UK, it is not possible to sign away your liability and waivers aren’t worth the paper they are written on in a UK court. In the UK you will must have sufficient public liability insurance as well as sensible systems of work and a risk assessment in place. To some extent it should be made clear that activities should be run with a parent or guardian ensuring the safety of anyone under 18.

All requests are run via a “chit” system.

It’s clear from speaking to a few of the organisers and managers that a lot of time has gone into refining and improving their processes. One that I heard the most about was reducing needless radio chatter. The Faire runs and monitors 16 channels, with the channels divided into different key teams or tasks. All radio chatter is written in a log. One of the key tools developed by Maker Faire to reduce chatter is the INFO HIT LIST. This pocket sized guide for the crew has facts and information in it aimed at reducing the number of needless radio enquiries.

85k people need a place to go sometimes.

Each zone of the Faire has it’s own manager, the zones are really bigger than a “normal” Maker Faire size so the managers have a very responsible and hands on job. They curate the content of their zones even playing swapsies with other zone manager to better manage the presentation of their zone to the public.

Make’s Caleb Kraft captured the essence of the zoning and curation story in this recent Makezine post.

zone 2 world maker faire, new york 

The start of Zone 2 right next to the main gate is an area I think of as the Craft Market, this area was managed/curated by BUST magazine and titled The Craftacular. The market offers a different feel and pace and  is very popular and with all kinds of hand made items mostly made locally by practicioners and artists. The things for sale range from laser cut and metal work jewellery, illustrations, embroidery and all kinds of artisinal craft items. It has become a tradition on the last day of the faire for the crew to buy a few pretty items and show them off at the crew after party. The grassy leafy area of the Craftacular, lacking in elctronic beeping and generally annoying noises is a tranquil heaven with a really different feel and pace to it.      

I spent a fair amount of time looking around the Craftacular with my friends from Solarbotics as well as an interesting 30 minutes with Sabrina, the Mini Maker Faire supremo who has been my main contact at Maker Media for sometime. One of the stall holders I met was Paulette who is the head crocheter/embroiderer at the Dahlia Soleil Collection who has recently graduated from a business degree and is about to start her MBA. She’s passionate about making and business. She makes amazing computer aided embroidery patches of animals. We talked about the Faire, she lives locally in Quees and hopes to teach business to makers in the future. She’d not been to the Maker Faire before and hadn’t realised it would have so much non-craft stuff at it and said next year she’ll apply as a maker and bring her tools and demonstrate her work!   

Beyond the craft village is an area devoted to hands on crafting as well as old-school Radio Hams and the local 2600 group merging into other community groups like hacker and maker spaces. It in this area where I saw the Staten Island Makerspace S.T.E.A.M Wagon (see previous posts) and people from shared workspaces of various flavours from all over New York State. This zone also included the 3D printing village which I must admit I didn’t look around at all.   

zones 1 world maker faire, new york

The World Maker Faire is quite big with about 800 booths, tables and things to see. I can easily spend 30 or 40 minutes talking with makers at each booth. I tend to wizz around as the faire is opening before the crowds build up. I’d love to do a review of every maker or even 5% of them, but sadly I just don’t have the time to see it all in detail and make the notes needed. 

Zone 1 is the area I neglected the most really  as I prefered to be outside. Zone 1 is inside at NYSci (New York Hall of Science) and includes projects using light, textiles projects and some large scale 3D printing. I was wondering around looking for my TOG Dublin Makerspace freind Robert Fitzsimons and bumped into Ross from the Crafty Robot who I know through Kitronik in Nottingham, UK showing off his fizbot and launching on Kickstarter. 

Ross has made Massimo Banzia and Eben Upton sumo-fighter fizbits. Both are at the faire but we were unable to get them to recreate the bout. I took pity on Ross and covered his table for an hour so he could try and see a little of the show. In addition to Maker Faire exhibits the indoor area has a lot of projects and exhibits for the museum that I assume are here year round for visitors.