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.