I am beginning my expeditions of worldly travels as a journalist with a place that is familiar to me, London. Even though I have been here before, I was not looking at it through the eyes of a maker. It is my goal to go to various locations within the next year so I can collect stamps on my hackerspace passport. Being able to go around the world and see how other communities operate is a blessing, so I will talk about the first makerspace I have seen in London and the fun of being in a makerspace in general.
So how is it to be in a makerspace/hackerspace? It is quite fun actually. Having the tools to do whatever your brain imagines is a lethal ability. It stretches your mind and your abilities if you are ready. The typical environment is filled with fun, chaos, enterprising work, DIY culture, and slight danger. The sounds of these places are filled with various machines in usage. The smells of these places include hot metal burning, sawdust, and sometimes spray paint from artistic ventures. So how is the first makerspace in London that I attended?
South London Makerspace is a nice place. The vibe of this makerspace is small and compact. The facility is not very large, but it has a member list of 500+ people. The small nature of the space causes compact corners and a close-knit nature of collaboration amongst the members. There is a very DIY nature associated with this makerspace. A lot of makerspaces have this, but this one is more apparent based on its smaller size. The space was essentially built from the ground up. This includes some of the tools they use on a regular basis.
Finding my way to the space was a bit tricky when I was nearby, but that is just due to my over reliance on google maps as well as being fooled by the curvature of London roads. Importantly I would like to note that the space is under a train rail. So what does this mean? Consistently one will be working and they may hear the rumble and tumble of a train once every other 10 minutes. It forces a certain mindset: focus. Being in this environment necessitates a focus of mind at this particular space. The vibe of the space was a fun and inviting, but no nonsense type of place. People were there to work and get things done, but there was a warmness of the community based on the people who showed me around and told me about what they do. The space is contained on one floor, and they are building it out to another connecting area soon. This will be ideal location for their metal shop.
Small in nature, but it is tenacious. I mentioned before that it serves 500+ members. I find that awesome that the space can help so many people without as much wiggle room. It makes me wonder how skilled the membership are in various tools and skillsets. They must be in order to not be a bother on others as well as use their space efficiently. Being in the space for too long would likely be a deterrent to people making projects. This leads to focusing on what you need to do here. The space is also open 24 hours a day. That’s always fun for me and other disruptive makers. Lastly, the membership serves a large international community due to it being in London which is awesome.
From my brief exploration and tour of the South London Makerspace, I concluded some cool things. Tenacity and awesome things happen from grassroots. You don’t need a lot to do a lot. This makerspace definitely fits that model. It reorients how I think things can be done.
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