We are Open. Come and See!

This Wednesday is our first Open Evening. Come along to say hello and get a tour of our fantastic new space!

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What a difference 2 weeks make

Thanks to a massive effort on behalf of SLMS members, the space is now completely transformed. What was an echoey bare shell at the beginning of April, is now a welcoming and well-equipped makerspace. We divided it into “dirty” and “clean” sides, with a PVC strip curtain on its way to keep any dust contained on the dirty side. We painted the walls and the central column. We swept, sealed, vacuumed and patched up the floor. We moved desks, benches, chairs and tools into the space. We scrubbed the hell out of that toilet.

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Many thanks to all SLMS members who helped out. We couldn’t have done it with you. It’s been a long time coming, and now we’re ready to show it all off.

You can get a taste thanks to the magic of GIF:

Entrance

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View from the front

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View from the back

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Open Evening coming up

We will be holding weekly open evenings, with the first being at 19:30, Wednesday 16th April. Everyone is welcome to come and check us out; to meet the members and see what they’re working on; to get a tour of the space and the facilities; and to join up and become a member yourself. Under-18s are welcome, as long as they’re accompanied by a responsible adult. Bring your own drinks of choice (the Costcutter next door has a wide range) and there will be a whip-round for pizza during the evening, so don’t spoil your appetite!

Where is it?

The address is 27 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, SE24 9AA, which is next door to Costcutter, opposite the main entrance to Brockwell Park. Herne Hill station is 3 minutes’ walk away and there are loads of local buses. It is possible to park on Norwood Road after 7pm, but spaces are hotly contested, so we recommend you take public transport.

We look forward to seeing you in the space!

What Time Is It? Painting Time

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This week, we’ve swept and tidied, cleaned and painted, but we need a big push to get ready for moving in furniture and tools this weekend. We’ve got 35 paying members on the books now, and we want all of you to pitch in if you can. The side walls need another coat of paint, the beams need their coats, the toilet needs some TLC, and the furniture will start arriving in Dermot’s van (don’t worry we have protective sheets).

So I don’t know what you were planning to do with your Friday night, but whatever that plan is, you should cancel it, put on some old clothes and get down to Norwood road. We’re having a paint party and you’re invited.

To coordinate efforts, please check this thread on the Google Group.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got things to contribute to the space, get them ready. You should bring them all over the weekend so we can hold our first open evening next week. Yeah, that soon!

See you in the space!

 

Day Zero – We Have the Keys!

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It’s official. South London Makerspace is now the tenant of 27-29 Norwood Road and we can start moving in today!

It only took 18 months

I suppose the very beginning of all this was Fiddian’s meeting upstairs at the Dogstar, Brixton in October 2012.  I was there, and so was the other Tom along with about 30 other people interested in starting a hackspace/makerspace/whateverspace in South London. There were follow-up meetings and even some making sessions in the following months, but momentum was starting to run out.

In April 2013, Tom (the other one!) had had enough and called another meeting at the Dogstar with the aim of actually doing this thing, instead of just talking about it. We started having more regular making sessions at Fiddian’s workshop and a community centre in Brixton. We got ourselves a logo and a facebook page. In July we started looking for somewhere to get the space started and it’s this search that has frustrated us ever since. Many times, what seemed like a perfect opportunity turned out to be too expensive, or would be delayed indefinitely.

Six months ago, along with Matt, we formed the company South London Makerspace. Since then, we’ve built enough of a community at our Make Day meetings and our various internet homes to be able to make the space a reality. We got our chance via Giles Gibson of the Herne Hill Forum, who put us in touch with a local landlord and his vacant shop unit. Today, we met with him at the shop and signed a lease for the space at the rent of one peppercorn.

The future starts now

We have a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 6 months here, depending on whether the landlord finds a commercial tenant. Given the long-running vacancy of the unit, we can be a little optimistic, but we need to move as quickly as possible to make the best use of our time. The first job is tidying up and decoration. The walls are bare plaster and could use a coat (or two) of paint. The back rooms are messy. The toilet could do with a good scrub.

SLMS Needs YOU!

So, if you’re a member (join here if you’re not!) and you’re free this evening onwards, roll up your sleeves and get on down to The Good Companion. If you can make it down to help out, or just to see the space for yourself, post on this thread and we’ll arrange to meet you there. More convenient access arrangements for the rest of the week will follow soon!

See you in the space!

We did it!

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Target smashed!

As of this moment, Gocardless currently hold direct debit instructions for £1,080.90 in donations. In addition to the £1,000 already donated, this means we have met our £2,000 target in a matter of days! So we now have more than enough money to fund two months of South London Makerspace at The Good Companion. We’re meeting the landlord this evening to sort out the lease with the help of Giles Gibson of the Herne Hill Forum and Emily Berwyn of Meanwhile Space. Their help has been very useful indeed, so many thanks to them.

Stars of the show

Twenty-five people have now signed up as members which is more than we’d expected in our most optimistic projections. Nine of them, on top of their one-time donations, have committed to a monthly amount as well. Our most deepfelt thanks to all of you. We’ve been waiting for this a long time and it’s truly uplifting to see it backed with such enthusiasm.

Of course, we shouldn’t stop here. Every pound donated goes directly into making the space better. If you’re still unsure about joining, don’t let this beaten target influence your decision. With your help, we can hit the ground running with better tools, more furniture and a larger cash reserve to deal with unforeseen problems. To donate and join, click the big red button at the top of the page.

The Future

Whilst we still have The Present to sort out first, we have to say a little about the future of SLMS. Given the following assumptions…

  • Everyone who signed up for two months at The Good Companion converts their membership to a monthly rate
  • The average rate is £20 (it is so far)
  • We grow at a rate of 1 new member per week while at The Good Companion (same rate as London Hackspace in their bootstrap space)
  • We grow at a rate of 2 new members per week at the next location (London Hackspace grew at 4.5 members per week at Cremer St. so this is a very conservative estimate)

…then our modelling says that we will be able to afford a similarly sized space (100m² or 1,000ft²) at a light industrial site of some sort. This is based off approximate business rates/VAT/electricity-inclusive rent as charged at the BizSpace sites in Camberwell and Loughborough Junction. Unfortunately, those sites are fully let for the foreseeable future.

So the hunt is on. We don’t have all that long to find our second home and we need to start searching as soon as possible. For the next two months, we need you all to scour the websites of local letting agents and shared workspaces. Do not be afraid to speak on behalf of the whole Makerspace, because now that you’re paying for it, you are the Makerspace! Bring all your thoughts, leads and reports to this thread on the google group.

Many thanks again,

The Trustees

Off to a very good start

It’s been just 24 hours since we decided to push the button on The Good Companion in Herne Hill and the response so far has been hugely positive. Already we have had fifteen people sign up to become one of the first  members of South London Makerspace, and together donating over £770 between them. Along with the money we already raised, it means we’ve nearly reached our goal on the first day! Outstanding work, everyone.

However if you’ve been umming and ahhing over becoming a member, now’s the time to join us eighteen (including three Trustees) brave souls and put your mark on the organisation. There is still plenty to help out on if you care to donate such as improved equipment and facilities in the new space but if you’re feeling a little short of cash right now (and frankly who isn’t these days) there are still these ways to help out.

Help!

Our fundamental organising principle is that the space is run for and by its members. So if you’ve signed up, or if you’re planning on it, we also need you to pitch in with running the space as well. Here’s a couple of ways you can help out:

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really rather excited.

Full speed ahead!

After some considerable debate, we’ve decided that some space is better than no space. We’ve been doing this for more than 12 months now, and it’s high time we turned words into actions. Read on for what that action is.

Thanks for coming to Make Day #5

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(Photograph by Andrew Black)

The Make Day event held at LCC on Saturday was a great success. The event mostly leant towards the social side rather than making, as most people were without projects. However, there were plenty of interesting discussions, not least the one at lunchtime which focused around the hunt for a space. We discussed some of the possibilities and explained our offer of The Good Companion in Herne Hill. One attendee, Sarah, suggested we ask people to pay the whole period’s cost as a one-off up front concern. This idea was well received with one member near-instantly offering up a considerable sum, and others indicating they would put money towards this 2 month stay at The Good Companion as well.

So we’re going to do it
The plan is to get access to the site as soon as possible, hopefully before the beginning of April. We’d then have two full months to build what is effectively a demonstration Makerspace. Its purpose would be to attract members, funding and publicity for the organisation, with the aim of reaching the 1st of June with sufficient financial, social and political capital to secure a more permanent home.

Loads and loads of space

(Photograph by Matthew Copperwaite)

The space itself is well suited to our needs; it’s open-plan, with a small storage room and toilet facilities at the rear. We think it would divide nicely into “clean” and “dirty” sides, possibly with some partitioning between the two. We already have enough furniture and equipment pledged to make the space usable from day one, but we’ll be asking all prospective members to bring whatever they think they can to help provide a wide range of facilities.

Ultimately, you (yes you!) could have 24/7 access to a space like this, just a few weeks from now:

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Covering the costs
While we have been offered the space rent-free, there are still some considerable costs involved. As it is a large retail space on a busy high street, the business rates are quite high, at £660 per month. We will also have to cover public liability insurance, fire safety equipment, utilities and fit-out materials. When we add it all up, we get a total of £2,000 to cover the costs of two full months operation. We’ve already received a very generous donation of £1,000 towards this amount, so now all we need is another £1,000. Time is of the essence. We have a move-out date of June 1st, so we want to get the rest of the money together by the end of Friday 28th of March.

This is where you come in. In return for donating to the Good Companion prototype, you will be a full member of the space for those 2 months. You will get to create the process, structures and culture for the whole organisation. You will be an ambassador for South London Makerspace and you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren that you were there at the beginning.

The recommended minimum we would like you to donate is £40. This equates to 2 months membership of £20 each but of course you can donate more if you wish! When we get a more permanent space, you can easily convert your membership to a regular monthly payment.

Remember, all donations must be in by 23:59 on Friday 28th March. If we don’t hit our target, we can cancel your payment before the money has even left your account. This is possible because we are using Direct Debit, rather than debit/credit card processing, in order to keep the transaction fees as low as possible.

To donate and join, just click the big red button!

Become a member

We (could) have a home!

This could be the home of SLM, at least for a while:

IMG_20140313_114524The Good Companion
27-29 Norwood Road is a double-unit shop between the railway and Brockwell Park near Herne Hill station. Until recently it was “The Good Companion” cafe and furniture shop, but is now completely empty and awaiting new tenants.

We’ve been discussing this site with Giles Gibson of the Herne Hill Forum, who showed us around the space yesterday. It’s 100m² in total, with toilet and running water at the back. It has large windows straight onto the street, so gets plenty of natural light and we’d be able to build a window display to attract people in.

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The transport links are excellent. Herne Hill station is on the Thameslink line from Kings Cross via Elephant and Loughborough Junction, on to Streatham, Mitcham, Sutton, Morden, Wimbledon and Tooting. It is also on the Southeastern line from Victoria and Brixton, on to Dulwich, Sydenham and Penge. A full bus map can be found here, which includes Clapham, Putney, Kennington, Brixton, Camberwell, Peckham, Dulwich, Streatham, Norwood, Mitcham and Croydon as destinations.

There is a large hardware store near Herne Hill station, and the area is well provided with supermarkets, pubs, takeaways and other high-street shops. We’ve been promised the space rent-free. It is, in short, perfect. However, at the end of May, we would either have to vacate or renegotiate with the landlord. It is a valuable commercial property and it is highly unlikely that we’d be able to afford the market rent. If we haven’t found somewhere else by then, we’d be right back to square one, with the added cost of storage for all the tools and materials we’d have accumulated.

So we have a decision to make, with the clock ticking. Should we move into Herne Hill? Should we grab this opportunity with both hands and actually put the space in South London Makerspace, and then work like hell to get something sorted out for the next move? Or should we bide our time and wait for a more settled location for our first space, saving ourselves potential hassle and cost? Or is there some other strategy that we could take?

Please please let us know what you think. If we’re going to use this space, we need to move quickly to make the best of it.

Here are a few more photos of the space from our site visits:

Make Day & Meet – Saturday, 22nd March 2014

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Get out your diaries and mark that date, because we’re going to meet up at the London College of Communication for another Make Day meeting. This is a chance to bring your projects to a friendly space with other like-minded people, to share knowledge and skills or just hang out for the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re not working on anything at the moment as we’re a friendly bunch and you’ll be sure to find someone doing something that interests you.

At 13.00, we’ll show a short presentation on our work so far towards securing a space, and open up the room to a general Q&A and discussion about SLM’s future. We’ve got a number of exciting leads on premises for our start-up phase, but more are always welcome. If you know of somewhere suitable that’s going unused, come along and tell us all about it (better yet, investigate it yourself).

The entrance to the LCC is at this exact location (google maps link). In order to satisfy the front desk at the LCC, you’ll need to register here. Please only register if you intend to come, as it can prevent others from attending. You can return your “ticket” at any time via the Eventbrite website. We look forward to seeing you there!

State of the Makerspace

Make Days
It’s been about a month since the last Make Day and because of delays we haven’t had any update from LCC about using the venue for this month. That said I am going to LCC tomorrow with the specific aim of resolving this.

Space Hunt
We have been working closely with Giles at the Herne Hill Forum for a while now. He is really interested in what we are doing and has been cultivating a short let on The Good Companion, opposite Brockwell Park. This is looking very promising and we hope this option will become available shortly.


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We are also working with him on possible longer term plans above the station in Herne Hill and in Brockwell Park.

Towards the end of last month myself (Tom L) and Matt met up with Lambeth Councillor Jackie Meldrum after a meeting in early February with Councillor Jim Dickson. Jackie has put us in touch with The Open Works in West Norwood who are interested in a link up where they could provide some money toward workshop facilities to enable their members to develop their projects.

Thanks also to Cllr. Meldrum we are also investigating a lead with Michael Wood at Harpenden House in Tulse Hill and are hopeful we may get a site visit tomorrow (Friday).


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Membership System
Matt has been continuing his amazing work to setup our membership management system. The system allows us to use GoCardless to take a monthly DirectDebit of a user defined amount. The system also helps us to maintain a member database which is a legal requirement. In future it will also be linked to out access control system that will give members 24×7 access and also eventually manage and log access to the tools in the workshop.

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Summary
We have been working really hard to find a space as there is no news on the Network Rail/Loughborough Junction front. Asking people to donate unused space is always a tricky proposition but we are making great headway and are very optimistic.

Tom N continues to work on the financial front as per the business plan in our last blog. Matt continues to work on the membership system, and I continue the space hunt.

The Cost of Making

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Situation Report

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who came to Make Day #4! It was our best attendance so far, full of new and familiar faces and people working on their projects. It’s really starting to feel like a community now, and that’s exactly what we set out to achieve. We’ll be doing it again in March (exact dates tbc) so we look forward to seeing you all again soon!

Meanwhile, we are continuing our search for a free (or nearly free) space to get us off the ground. Despite constant reassurances and encouraging noises, we’re still no closer to getting a hand-over date out of Network Rail for the Loughborough Junction site. Yet at the same time, attendance at our Make Days grows every time we hold one. It’s obvious that there are plenty of people out there keen to see South London Makerspace turned into a reality, but you all must be just as frustrated as we are by our persistent homelessness. We’re currently investigating a couple of promising leads in Crystal Palace and Tulse Hill, with the kind help of Lambeth councillors. With any luck, we’ll be able to bring you good news soon.

Numbers

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(No amount of photoshop can make spreadsheets exciting. I tried.)

44 people have now filled out our pledge form (and if you haven’t already, please do!). Between them, they’ve promised all sorts of tools and equipment, over £2,000 in start-up funds, and plan on paying an average of about £15 per month in membership fees. These numbers are very encouraging (thank you so much), and promise to put us in good shape just as soon as we open the doors. We have also been given access to historical records of the London Hackspace, showing approximate membership growth, income and expenditure right from their humble beginnings. With all that data in hand, we can make some encouraging projections about the future of SLM. Our conclusion from these projections is that we should ask for a “soft” minimum of £20 per month membership fee. Read on to see why.

The Plan

First, a quick explanation of our method and assumptions:
We’re assuming that of the pledges made, we’ll actually receive half the funds and member sign-ups. That leaves us with a starting budget of £1000 and an income of about £75 per week from 22 initial members. London Hackspace grew at the rate of one person per week during their semi-private incubation period. We plan on being much more public with our launch, but have kept to this conservative growth rate in our model.

Here’s what happens if we take the results of the pledge survey and plug them into the model:

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We find somewhere rent-free to incubate for 52 weeks. At the beginning, we spend several large chunks of money on tools and equipment. At the 52 week point, we have 70 members and enough saved up to pay a £2500 deposit for a commercially rented workshop. Our balance takes a nosedive and starts to drop even further as we pay the rent using savings. But the new, larger, permanent space puts a big bump in our growth rate to 3 people per week (for comparison, LHS have been growing at 4.5 people/week ever since moving into their first “proper” space). We eat into our savings for 6 months and can’t afford any other outgoings, but by the end of the year we’re starting to bank money again.

However, this plan is fragile. Just a small slip in our initial conditions could slow us down significantly or even kill the project. Here’s just two examples:

1A

We start week 1 with only 15 members, find it hard to invest in the space and end up significantly in the red in year 2.

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2A

We get our expected 22 initial members, but our growth rate in year two isn’t as high as expected and we spend 9 months of it in debt.

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However, in both cases, a simple increase in membership fees can save us from going broke. By raising the average membership by just £2.50, we get the following projections:

1B

Reduced initial member numbers

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2B

Reduced growth rate in year 2

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Both of which take us to the end of year two with a substantial amount of cash in the bank, which we can spend on high-quality tools and equipment for the space. We hope you agree that Plan B has a lot going for it. In order for it to work, we have to accommodate those who can’t afford the full rate. As a result we want to set the recommended membership amount at £20. Members will be allowed to pay more (yes please!) or less if their circumstances dictate it (we do not want to be exclusive), but if just half of the pledged member join up at the start and pay that much, then South London Makerspace has a bright, bright future.

You can help!

These charts were produced using a spreadsheet that you can play with yourself, if you have a Google account. Open this link, then create your own editable version by going to “File” then “Make a Copy”

What do you reckon? Can you improve our projections? What do you think the recommended membership fee should be?  Are you aware of any useful spaces going unused?  All feedback gladly welcomed – here or on facebook; remember, the space will be owned and run by You!