When is a Maker Faire not a Maker Faire? When it’s not run under licence to Make Media, that’s when and whilst you might have heard of Maker Faire you are less likely to identify with any number of non-Make-un-branded events that are springing up around the country (and I suppose the world). It’s been a conundrum for some time for organisers, wanting to run an event like a Maker Faire but not a Maker Faire. Many have had to reinvent a brand and a format to side step the licencing costs and rules of Make Media to run a similar event their way. This is a post about one such event and an organiser looking to take that brand further.
Don’t get me wrong, this blog post is neither comes to bury Maker Faire nor to praise it, the advantages to a group of running a fully branded Mini Maker Faire under licence to Make Media are immense. With it’s colourful bunting, crisp clean branding and World-wide following having a Mini Maker Faire is a great way to have an event that is quickly recognised for what it is, a big show and tell of makers in any or all disciplines. The huge buzz that is generated by the Bay Area Maker Faire every May trickles down to the features and mini faires as a recognisable package that makers the world over want to visit or exhibit at.
But surly not every maker event needs to be a Maker Faire? With Make Media rightfully protecting their brand and gearing up to survive on their own feet after breaking away from O’Reilly publishing as a company in their own right. It’s easy for outsiders to assume that Make Media are rolling in cash… but in these early days who knows how the balance sheet might look? I rather suspect Make Media are worried about others making a quick buck on their name and muddying the quality of their brand. I utterly understand why they’d want to protect it. There have been similar issues at the UK Hackspace Foundation and it’s free to use Hackspace branding (is someone’s house really a Hackspace, “here is the electronics lab or “landing” as my Mum calls it”)? So obviously if you don’t want to pay 50c for every visitor and write Make Media into your insurance policy you might want to do an event YOUR WAY…
Maker Day Sheffield is one such event, run as part of this years Sheffield Design Week. Organisers Emma Cooper, Pam Bowman and Matt Edgar created a great buzz and atmosphere at the Yorkshire ArtSpace Persistence Works Studio in the atrium on the 28th June 2014. The event exhibited a range of disciplines including traditional crafts, pedal powered printing, laser cutting (your-truly as Just Add Sharks) as well as Steam Punk costumes and the usual RepRap 3D printers from the Sheffield Hackers & Makers. As well as one-man-band-Matt from Barnsley.io the fledgling maker community from Barnsley that’s just getting started. There was a constant stream of interested families throughout the day and the venue held the small number of exhibitors very well indeed. I was pleased to catch up with numerous Sheffield based geeks and friends from the York Hackspace. It was a nice and simple event run with little fuss (seemingly). One minor criticism was that from the outside of the ArtSpace you’d not have known there was anything especially interesting going on inside. Having said that there seemed to be no shortage of people with the RIGHT level of interest visiting inside!
I’d like to see a lot more of these type of event pop-up all over the country. Once thing I hope happens (and I am sure Make wouldn’t mind this or shouldn’t… more shoulders to the wheel really) is to see an alternative brand pop out and get used under some sort of CC licence with support provided by a central team. A unified alternative maker event brand would be a great thing to see compliment rather than detract from the spate of Maker Faires around the country (and world). After all Make don’t have the reach or time to really take advantage of the interest in Maker Faires in the UK. With no UK based sales unit (since the spin out from O’Reilly) they aren’t generally able to provide a sales stand at Mini Maker Faires or even to organise a bundle of Make Magazines to be sold on by organisers, a real missed opportunity to cash in on an eager audience getting their first taste of Make I’d think. This is possibly because of their USA based advertising base, I’d imagine that a non-US based audience isn’t 100% appealing for US advertisers? To be honest I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but perhaps you’ll indulge my speculation?
So good luck to Emma and the team with future events… I sincerely hope we’ll see this brand grow and produce more events beyond Sheffield? I’d like to try and bang that drum myself and wonder if I could use my experience of MMF’s and contacts around the movement to help create and alternative brand? Watch this space maybe?