What have the Maker Faire ever done for us?

In a 3 weekend stretch that included me exhibiting for Kitronik and Robox at the Gadget Show Live at the NEC and a Mini Maker Faire in far flung Edinburgh I’m resting in a Travel Tavern somewhere on the A1(M) near York after a weekend at the UK Maker Faire. Before I dismantle the Corby Trouser Press I thought I’d knock out a blog post. This year marked the 6th UK Maker Faire at the Centre for Life (CfL) in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The UK’s only “featured” Faire (i.e. NOT a so called Mini Maker Faire). The team at Centre for Life put a lot of work into the event and aren’t shy with spending some cash on getting big ticket attractions either. It’s the closest thing the UK has got (though minuscule by comparison) to something approaching the big Faires in San Mateo (Bay Area Maker Faire) and Flushing Meadow (World Maker Faire New York). Time Square outside the Centre for Life offers a bit of space for so real crowd pulling big attractions included Matt Denton’s giant Mantis Robot Hexapod and the highly entertaining Eppybirds Coke and Mentos fountains. These things aren’t cheap to put on and CfL really makes an effort to find money to make it a big show.

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The Centre for Life with a big poster about the Faire.

 

Sadly though I feel the show is on the wane. For me it feels like fewer Makers are attending and there seemed to be fewer punters this time too. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to so many Faires now that I’m personally not seeing anything truly new? The first time I came to the Maker Faire in 2010 was more or less the first time I’d ever met people really into the same stuff as me, the fledgling Nottingham Hackspace had only really gotten started 3 or 4 days before, with 4 people meeting in a pub! So maybe it’s only me that has changed? The Maker Faire faces a lot more competition now from other events. With at least 10 Mini Maker Faire and similar unbranded events now mostly in their 3rd or 2nd year. It’s notable to me that London based makers like Sugru, London Hackspace, Technology Will Save Us and Bare Conductive don’t go to the Newcastle Faire. Is it just to far away in the “insignificant” and not so cool North?

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Geoff, Aaron and me at the NEC Gadget Show Live for Kitronik and Robox.

 

For me though it’s all about networking. I’m in a very lucky position that through my love of the Faires and through going to, well pretty much all of them, I know a huge number of makers. I was sad not to see some of my good friends at the Faire as for me, the Newcastle Faire has become a red letter day on my calendar. Many people asked me about the London Maker Faire as this blog is one of the only bits of info on that ill fated pipe-dream. If the big London Faire ever does happen I wonder if it’ll be the death of the Newcastle event? The Centre for Life don’t really deserve a diminishing event as they put in so much effort…. but maybe they do need to reinvent the formulae a bit? Maybe they need to do something different for the makers? Something that makes makers want to be there?

Me n Mitch Altman of Noisebridge
Me n Mitch Altman of Noisebridge

In other Maker Faire news Derby Mini Maker Faire 2015 has now put out the call to makers so please sign up and I’m pleased to say that there is a planned (though at somewhat short notice) Faire for Bristol at the @Bristol museum on the 22nd August this year so please save the date!

Me n Martin exhibit our company Just Add Sharks
Me and Martin exhibit our company Just Add Sharks. Martin wasn’t impressed with my Selfie-Stick.

I’m calling this year’s UK Maker Faire the Selfie-Stick Maker Faire as I had my selfie-stick and wasn’t afraid to use it!

Friends Jeffrey & Rob of TOG Dublin leaving for the airport.
Friends Jeffrey & Rob of TOG Dublin leaving for the airport.

5 thoughts on “What have the Maker Faire ever done for us?

  1. I think you are right about UKMF… The main reason I didn’t attend UKMF this year was disappointment over last years exhibits, I think having organised two and on my way to our third (Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire) on 19th September, I have probably seen a lot of the people that typically exhibit…

    I think there is something to be said for changing up the format a little, it would be great to see a Makercon event, something I know Maker Media have talked about, and so have Andrew, yourself and myself.

    I don’t think I have always gotten the most out of UKMF as I typically make it a day trip from London setting out at 04:30 and arriving home about 22:00, I miss out on a lot of the side events like the UK Hackspace Foundation meetup, and Maker Faire Producers Meetup.

    I honestly hope UKMF doesn’t disappear, I know the London Maker Faire is definitely not happening this year, but it will be in 2016, that I am sure, and we’re filling the gap.

    I regret not going to UKMF this year, and will go again next.

  2. Seemingly unsurprisingly I had this same thought and a similar discussion with my girlfriend whom I brought along to makerfaire this year (the first she’d been to).

    Her reaction was “there’s cool stuff here … but I feel spoiled because you’ve already showed/told me about it at Leeds Hackspace” so to her, it was nothing new.

    Makerfaire as a practice is as advertised (or as I saw) “the greatest show and tell on earth” so it’s not necessarily for makers, but to present to others, what makers can do?

    My mind wandered to having another event, and I guess that’s why ones such as EMFCamp exist. With practical workshops (the ones at makerfaire, I find are suitable for youngsters/beginners but lacking for anyone older) in a variety of things mixed with talks for learning something new.

    I haven’t been along to a mini maker faire, yet, but I found myself questioning if I wanted to go to Newcastle’s makerfaire next year if Leeds Hackspace weren’t having a stall.

    1. I think for you Stanto, you might be missing out by not going to some of the minis. Whilst you may not see anything new you will miss out on networking etc, Nav can’t do it all on his own. Networking at Minis all over the country has deeply improved my list of contacts, friends and I’ve enjoyed most every Faire I’ve been to.

  3. Interesting post, we were actually about 20% up on both makers and visitors at the Faire this year – so I think there’s life in us yet!

    1. Thanks for that Ian! I’m pleased you had higher numbers all round. I just want to reaffirm what I said in the post, you put on the best show in the UK at the moment, I worry though that because it’s tied to your venue can it ever truly grow, there is no question for me that the UK Maker Faire could fill a venue twice the size in Birmingham or London… or even Newcastle. That said I think multi-site Maker Faires are a no-no generally. I would be very keen to see another featured Faire in the UK and think if this was further south I’d be sorry to see your Faire suffer. For me your Faire is also the main meeting of my “maker scene colleagues” of the year and I am seeing fewer and fewer familiar faces weather exhibiting of visiting. In some ways that’s good but in other ways you must ensure there is something to keep us all coming back not just coming once.

      That’s a tough ask because you guys are doing so much already… but like I said in the box, the unfortunate truth is we all need to constantly reinvent ourselves to staff fresh and appealing.

      Thanks again for a super show and see you next year!

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