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The Power of Making
From the 6th September 2011 to the 2nd January 2012 the Victoria and Albert Museum in collaboration with the Crafts Council hosted an exhibition called the Power of Making. This highly successful exhibition, curated by Daniel Charny was visited by over 30,000 guests. The space featured an area called a Tinkerspace at the rear with 3D printers and a workbench for people to get involved in Making during the exhibition.
At the same time, Fiddian Warman and Rachel Coldicutt formed Makers Guild a meetup group with the aim to bring Makers together to showcase their work and in 2012 they began running a series of events on the subject.
Throughout Summer 2011 Fiddian and Blaine Cook (ex CTO of Twitter and founder of Poetica) started looking for spaces, building a community and running online polls. Brock Craft, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Joanna Kohlmann were also involved in this push throughout 2011 and into 2012 as people began to meet up about starting a Brixton Hackspace/Makerspace/Project Space. A number of different names we’re bounded about on what was then the Brixton Hackspace Google Group (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dos and don’ts for Maker Spaces
On the 24th April 2012 the 5th Makers Guild meet up was announced – Dos and don’ts for Maker Spaces, this event, held on the 4th May included speakers from Technology Will Save Us, Makerspace Cambridge, DoES Liverpool and Makerhood.
All of this led to a public meeting at Dogstar in Brixton on the 25th October 2012, held Fiddian and Daniel at which they announced plans for Brixton Tinkerspace. It is at this meeting Tom Lynch and Tom Newsom, currently two of our directors, and Yulia Silina first got involved.
To this day Tom N is regularly reminded of the embarrassing moment when, somewhat displeased with the high talk-to-action ratio, made his “dramatic exit” out of the meeting only to return moments later for his bike helmet and his tail between his legs. However this “let’s get on with it, rather than talk about it” attitude is almost certainly what pushed us to where we are now.
After this meeting there was a real sense of excitement and the group continued meeting for some time at the Dogstar and Brixton Community Base but after Christmas 2012 things went quiet. Tom L posted “Dead?” on the Brixton Tinkerspace Google Group, which was the first point at which Matt Copperwaite introduced himself, Matt went on to become one of our founding directors.
As we began to grow our community, we began to figure out what we wanted from the space and how we might make it a reality. We also started exploring branding options, so Panja Göbel kindly did some work on the branding for us.
As 2013 drew on, it looked like we had something “real” so we started looking at registering a limited company. This forced the issue of the suitability of the name: Several people had spoken about the negative and derogatory meanings of the word “Tinker”, so we had to choose something else for Companies House. Eventually Matt, Oli Evans, Tom L and Tom N met on the 18th September 2013 at The Prince Regent and talked it through, but still with no real resolution. The conversation continued online until the 25th September 2013 when Tom Lynch said “Love it, screw this – decision made: SL Makerspace…” in response to Tom N posting a logo mockup:
On the 25th September 2013 Tom N also began the process of registering South London Makerspace as as a limited company, and on the 26th September 2013 company number 08706591 was registered as a company limited by guarantee. Committing us to completing accounts and moving this forward, The two Toms had already agreed to be directors, but we were lacking a third to get the company going. In a somewhat spur of the moment call out Matt Copperwaite volunteered.
The mockup was developed into a full logo and we got our social media channels all in order. We then put real effort into growing the community, holding our first of many “Make Days” at the London College of Communication. We also started the process of setting up our bank account.
27–29 Norwood Road
Over the next few months the focus shifted to really getting a space and, after a long autumn of frustrating searching, Tom L began to make enquiries about 27-29 Norwood Road, an empty shop in Herne Hill. Over the following months, with the help of the Herne Hill Forum, Meanwhile Space and the landlord, we were able to secure a 2 month rent free use of the space which was formerly an Apollo video store, and The Good Companion Cafe + Shop.
At this point we also rebranded. The M of Makerspace is loosely based on the bold M in DIN 1451 with the same Ruler, Scissors, and “unknown slider” detailing as before. However adjustments were made to give emphasis to these details at lower resolutions. The logo uses the open font Dosis, although we used the open font Roboto for everything else.
South London Makerspace opened it’s doors for the first time on 31st March 2014. Sadly someone put a little downward turn on the whole affair when they chased Tom L off the pavement and into the space, smashing our window in the process. Various events took place during this two month period and eventually it was extended for an additional two months before we had to move out. During the 4 months, our membership grew from 3 to over 60, we hosted The Restart Project, The Herne Hill Free Film Festival and a number of public open evenings, but sadly we failed to find a new space and had to move to storage at the end of July. This Google Street view gives a sense of what the space looked like before closing.
Over the next months real effort was put in to find a new home. Eventually Dermot Jones found a railway arch behind our previous venue, which we’d been tipped off about some time before by businesses in the same set of arches. Sadly this unit was already taken, but undeterred we kept looking and eventually the landlord told us of another unit a couple of doors down – directly behind where we had been staying on Norwood Road.
Arch 1129, 41 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9AJ became our new home on the 18th October 2014.
Then the local community, members and directors started working hard toward the common goal of turning this railway arch into a shared space where locals can become members and access like minded individuals, specialist tools and space to build their projects.
South London Makerspace opened for use in Spring/Summer 2015 with access to a range of facilities including an Ultimaker 2 3D printer, a Trotec Laser Cutter and a wide range of hand and machine tools.
In Spring 2015 we successfully applied for funding to complete construction of the Makerspace phase 2 workshops, and begun the major work in October 2015, the work is almost complete with it expected to be finished entirely Summer 2016.
This work created a new dusty workshop and provided money for a range of tools, as well as a messy workshop with laser cutter, 3d printer, and other areas, clearing phase 1 for electronics and textiles.
In late 2015 we started work on the latest South London Makerspace website redesign which eventually led on to looking at the logo which had an issue at small sizes, a redraw of the logo squared it up and simplified the ruler on the left hand side, as well as formalising the use of the red box, a new redrawn logo was born…
In October 2017 after three years in Arch 1129 our landlord renewed our lease for a further three years, giving us peace of mind that we have 3 years more making, but also turning our attention to the future, should we continue with a third phase of works to renovate the small lean-to building at the rear, affectionately known as ‘the snug’, or should we focus our energies on finding a larger forever home to move to, perhaps with a commercial mortgage or very long lease.
Directors past and present
- Matt Copperwaite (September 2013 – January 2016)
- Tom Lynch (September 2013 – July 2016)
- Tom Newsom (September 2013 – October 2017)
- Dermot Jones (December 2014 – Present)
- Sarah Barber (December 2014 – January 2016)
- Pete Hellyer (October 2016 – Present)
- Paul Court (October 2017 – Present)