An open letter to makefesters, Liverpool MakeFest 2017

Last weekend on July 24th the third annual Liverpool MakeFest occured. The day ran smoothly, with little issues at the start. Out of all the exhibitors that were currated by us we only lost a few in the week leading up to it, these things happen but we had more than enough pitches, free standing exhbits and activities in marquees to fill the venue, Liverpool Central Library. It was such a good day that it’s taken me most of the week to come down from the high of it all and I don’t think I am properly there so please excuse the trumpets that are about to go off- rest assured I’m blowing not just my own- it’s only because it’s raining that I’ve decided to sit down and write, anyway…

It’s been nearly seven months since Jen, Denise and myself started talking about it. Jen and I were meeting weekly in the first fews months, with the exception of April when we rested for a bit of it, and with exception to May and June when we sandwiched our regular day volunteering to organising MakeFest with late nights, early starts and weekends too.

We did the first curation for this year from Newcastle’s Maker Faire on the Sunday, on the benches in front of Def-Proc’s Made Invaders Nerf gun range. At the same time we also found out that the Library and Liverpool City Council had secured an ACE bid. So that meant we didn’t have to worry about fundraising for tables, table covers, flyers, posters, banners, badges (medals), marquees, and most importantly food for everyone on the day at the least that was now covered. The rest of the bid goes to towards enabling libraries to provide equipment and workshops for project based learning in communities, and another, smaller “Young MakeFest” in March 2018.

In the meantime, Hayley from WeHeartTech CIC was curating a youth social media team and applications for inclusive workshops for impaired visitors. Chelsea from Liverpool Girl Geeks was curating a Women In Tech showcase. Adrian from MCQN Ltd and DoES Liverpool was leading TV appearances for us and talking about us at every oppotunity from industry events to shoehorning it in on twitter. Lou was busy creating content for three social media streams and linking them all together. Jackie was ensuring my spiritual MakerHome, and a lot of other peoples too, DoES Liverpool, had everything and everyone it needed to showcase itself. Really- I can’t thank these people enough, not only have they promoted this years Liverpool MakeFest but they’ve supported Jen, Denise and me in ways they probably don’t realise. I had no doubt that MakeFest would be a great day but these people were instrumental to it. I hope they all continue in their roles with Liverpool MakeFest because they’ve done more than they realise.

Leading up to the day, we had a social event, not a big one but we got to meet volunteers who’d come through our open call- essentially strangers who were trusting Jen and myself to welcome them in, we’d meet our resident steampunk crew, some makers, and some of people behind MakeFest. A special hats off to the volunteers who had no investment in Liverpool MakeFest who embraced the setup, opening the event and closing it down, thank you Gary, Pat, Laura, David, Philip, Terri, Stuart, Joe, and Joe’s friend! Our steampunks were led by Hilary, Alan and David who did a blinder on the day working to ensure the public were welcomed, including the 200 or so armed forces personel who were our first guests at 9am! Did that happen?!

Every maker was set up and ready to go by 9am, the stalls looked amazing, the space looked amazing, and makers were on form, some of our crafts people weren’t sure what to expect as this was a maker event, not a sales event, but they too embraced their passions and networked through the day speaking about what it is each of them do. People still made sales too and friends. The day got busy and remained so from lunch until well after we were supposed to close. Every Liverpool MakeFest can be summed up, and I paraphrase (because I was really tired when she spoke) Rachel Freire, like so…

Normally at events people come up and look, they don’t talk to you but they might say “that’s cool what does it do?” but this is Liverpool. People don’t want to know what something does theywant to know why you’re using that microcontroller, or want to know why you’ve done something the way you have. It’s great.

…I hope everyone had a similar experience, I’ve always thought that MakeFest is about the makers foremost, their ideals, skills, wants, needs and intentions are what define making and how we communicate what it is to each other, the general public are voyers we hope to co-opt down a path of learning or reineforce the notion that being passionate about something (geeky) is exactly what you should be, be it for an analogue or digital craft, and it’s meeting these makers that drives it home.

After three Liverpool MakeFests, the first of which, and I quote Caroline…

Thank you from me & Mark Feltham to… Mark Sabino who without nothing could have been done

…was ridiculously busy, for me- I have no idea what I did most of the time I felt like I was on autopilot. I didn’t really get any time to take the first festival in on the day- I missed loads of really fucking awesome stuff, and it was the same again last year- I still look at the photos and I’ve no idea what cool shit I am looking at! But this year, I felt none of that, sure I was tired, I had been up late wednesday with Jen and Patrick engineering a solution to hang vinyl banners that’d been donated by Emma and Jade at Studio@Deyes, up at silly o’clock the next day for a last day in work at RenderNation, and up till late for the MakeFest social, then up on Friday to be hanging said engineered banner solution at 7am in the library with Jen and Patrick again, and in the Library till midnight setting up with everyone who was there and then back at the library on the Saturday for 7am with Jen and Patrick…instead what I felt was as soon as those doors opened, was that this isn’t our show anymore and there’s nothing left to do but enjoy it.

Many of the people behind MakeFest, who don’t have an active role in the day to day of the festival but offer advice, run their own pitches supporting other makers and it was now their turn to run it along with everyone else. I knew that as organisers we’d done everything, and what we hadn’t done we couldn’t stress about as it was too late for that now! It was the right attitude, whilst I didn’t get to speak to every single maker, I did speak to 99% of them, which I think is unheard of as an organiser.

I went round alone, with my brother, with my friends and with Jen, together two people who’d been in comms with all of these makers, visiting every maker we could on the day. I walked four miles around the library that day!

The only reason this was possible was because Jen and I worked through the entire festival until the day itself with Denise and then the library team. I can’t thank these ladies enough for their support and encouragement, oxoxo

We were offered the responsibility of MakeFest by Caroline and Mark, we took it and made it our own, together with the team behind us we’ve introduced a Women In Tech showcase, grew the marquee offering, worked with impaired children to make the event as as accessible as can be, took over space we haven’t used before and celebrated all things “makery”. I’m ridiculously happy I had a go! Thank you!

A special thank you to Liz and Ed, who came early to support us, and help Zarino and Chris on Liverpool Code Club’s workshop too, thank you too.

Ultimately we crafted MakeFest around the makers we’d attracted and curated, and it was also only possible because of the quality and the spirit of the makers who exhibited and the maker community and library community that travelled by boat and rail and all other modes, from places like Isle of Man, Glasgow and Cambridge, and from closer regions too- the biggest thank you is due to all of you! You’re amazing and you’ve enriched Liverpool by taking part in what is in essence still a small, DIY, cultural event (thant should only get bigger). Thank YOU!

Right, I’m in another country, so I should enjoy my holiday (and the rain and thunder) some more (o;

I hope to see you all again soon!

Thanks again everyone,



PS – John is selling his Dalek, can we crowdfund buying it off him and for him to deliver training? £4500 all in, I reckon. Essentially if we don’t do this, there’s not going to be a Dalek next year!

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