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Global makers to gather in Edinburgh

Maker Assembly - photo by Dan Sumption

On Friday 3 March, makers from across the globe will gather in Edinburgh to exchange knowledge and ideas across cultures and borders. Maker Assembly Edinburgh, supported by the British Council, will offer a range of talks, workshops and activities for anyone interested in making, with Creative Scotland-funded bursaries on offer to help people attend.

The philosophy is to be diverse and inclusive, says co-founder Liz Corbin, doctoral researcher at the Institute of Making, UCL.

Makers come in all shapes and sizes. People craft, design, manufacture, tinker, engineer, fabricate, and repair. Amateurs and professionals, young and old, with digital tools or by hand; bringing historical perspectives or envisaging how things might change in the future. If what you make, or how you see yourself, is a little bit on the fringes, you're doubly welcome.”

Liz first dreamt up the Maker Assembly with a group of friends after many years being involved in various maker-related initiatives.

"Time and space to reflect"

“Maker communities and initiatives here in the UK are fluid and ever-evolving,” Liz tells us, “yet we increasingly noticed there was a lack of space and time for reflection and honest conversation about what’s being made, how and why.”

“Along with Andrew Sleigh (Lighthouse), Irini Papadimitriou (V&A), Tom Lynch (South London Makerspace) and Marc Barto (London Arduino), I was inspired to create Maker Assembly as a way to provide this opportunity and make it accessible to as diverse a group as possible - from researchers and academics, to practitioners and those running small businesses; from policy makers and advisors, to those in education. “

Maker Assembly reflections - photo by Dan Sumption

“Our first event was in London at the V&A in October 2015, and since then we’ve held events in BelfastSheffield and Manchester.

"The events aim to make a home for critical discussions about making culture: its meaning, politics, history and future. Everyone is encouraged to participate. It's peer-to-peer, informal and conversational."

Collaboration and innovation are integral to our Creative Industries Strategy.- Leah Black, Creative Industries Officer (Crafts)

"A first for Scotland"

This year’s assembly will be Scotland’s first, and according to Leah Black, our Creative Industries Officer for Crafts, it’s a good time for such a gathering:

“Making sits at the heart of craft practice, but the understanding that makers have of materials also plays a fundamental part across many art forms. Skilled makers and the merging of new and old technology means that makers are not only innovating within the production of products but also becoming instrumental in linking art, craft and making with STEM areas across academia and industry."

“Collaboration and innovation are integral to our Creative Industries Strategy and we look forward to being involved with the discussion around making, collaboration and innovation and what this means for Scotland within an international context."

It’s about hearing about new ideas and gaining new influences; facilitating collaborative practice in multiple countries; creating networks.

"A truly international mix"

For Moira Lascelles, Programme Manager at the British Council and a key collaborator on the event, the international angle is especially crucial.

“We are proud that our involvement has enabled Maker Assembly Edinburgh to include a truly international mix of participants with people from Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico and Spain included in the line-up.

“The British Council feels passionately that collaboration and knowledge exchange across borders can lead to more innovative and progressive ideas. We are really excited about the conversations that can be facilitated on the day due to the participants involved both on stage and off.”

Liz is equally enthusiastic about the global scale – More than ever before, we will be expanding Maker Assembly's reach to an international audience. We have invited makers, thinkers and doers from around the world to participate in the day's discussions and to share their knowledge, skills and experiences." 

Maker Library Cape Town Showcase - photo by Keziah Suskin

What can people expect from the day?

The event will explore a number of themes, including; 

  • Making in the open: community activated making that is inclusive and diverse by design,
  • Designer-Maker: a workshop-based session that explores the relationship between making and the design process,
  • Networks: exploring the role informal and formal, digital and physical networks can play within the often fragmented and under-resourced international making community)

Confirmed speakers include; Hannah Fox (Director of the Silk Mill at the Derby Museum), Jasleen Kaur, Fi Scott (Founder of Make Works), Mara Balestrini and Silo Studio, amongst others.

Maker Assembly

Maker Library Network

In addition to the day's sessions and activities, attendees will hear more about two British Council programmes which Moira believes are true exemplars of the value of exchanging knowledge and ideas across cultures and borders.

"The Maker Library Network connects designers and makers around the world. It facilitates knowledge and skills exchange amongst professionals and encourages public engagement with making. A Maker Library combines three elements - a makespace, a library and a gallery. These spaces are connected online and through a programme of travel exchanges, exhibitions and events. People use them to make things, show things, get inspired and connect with like-minded people."

Maker Library Machines Room - photo by Jana Atherton-Chiellino

Attendees at the Maker Assembly will have the chance to hear about the outcomes of a workshop involving 12 of the international Maker Librarians.

The Maker Librarians who have set up Maker Libraries across the world - Nigeria, Ukraine, England, Turkey and Mexico - will be coming together on Thursday 2 March to take part in a 'think-ahead-tank' chaired by Maker Library Network founder Daniel Charny, to workshop how the Network can continue to grow and thrive independently. They will reflect on what has worked since the project was set up in 2014 and what can be improved.

"This will be the last time that the British Council facilitates this kind of get together, as we will be stepping back as the main funder for the project as of March 2017," explains Moira, "but we are keen to be part of helping establish a legacy for the project. We will also be launching a short publication that we have put together that celebrates the Maker Library Network and what it has achieved so far."

Hello Shenzen

The other British Council programme to be featured at the Maker Assembly is Hello Shenzhen - a new residency exchange programme connecting makers in the UK and China. It aims to build stronger links between UK and Chinese making practices, supporting meaningful collaboration and deepening learning between the two countries.

The Maker Assembly in Edinburgh will be a chance for the makers involved in the programme to coming together for the first time in the UK before they head off on their residencies.

Bursaries to attend

Maker Assembly Edinburgh is a community-run event taking place on Friday 3 March 2017 at Custom Wharf in Leith, Edinburgh. It is free to register for a ticket, although the main allocation of tickets is now sold out with a waiting list for anyone else wanting to sign up. For those who can't make it, the event will also be live-streamed and questions will be accepted via Twitter as well.

Creative Scotland wants to encourage makers of all types from all over Scotland to take part, to ensure the event is inclusive and representative of a diverse range of perspectives. To support this we are working in partnership with Applied Art Scotland to offer four travel bursaries (ticket included) to individual makers - in the broadest sense of the word - who are based more than 50 miles away from Edinburgh to attend the event.

Find out more and apply - the deadline is 5pm on Monday 20 February 2017.

Follow Maker Assembly on Twitter @MakerAssemblyUK and join the conversation by using #MakerAssembly.

Photo credits: Dan Sumption, Keziah Suskin and Jana Atherton-Chiellino. Used with kind permission of Maker Assembly.

This article was published on 10 Feb 2017