MakeFest Memories 3 – Caroline Keep

A photo of Professor Elemental in full stage gear with his arm around Caroline Keep
Our very own Caroline Keep with Professor Elemental. She knows all the stars.

Hello again to all of you lovely people out there. It’s time for another edition of our MakeFest Memories series. We started with my own memories of that first epic event, then last week we heard from one of the current event organisers, Mark Sabino. Well this week we’re going back. How far we goin’ back? Way back! As we here from one of the founders of Liverpool MakeFest, the originators, the OGs if you will. Caroline Keep started Liverpool Makefest back in 2015 along with Mark Feltham and Denise Jones. Today she shares some of her memories from those heady days. So let’s hop in the time machine, move over a bit, come on there’s room for everyone, oh no don’t touch that button, I said doooooo…..

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Makefest memories… well I got so many, I’ll start from the beginning.

A ohoto or caroline holding up a model of a dodo skull
Caz with her dodo head. We mean the model she made, that’s not an insult!

It’s 2009 and I’m oblivious to the maker community, I’m busy making props for my kids brother’s films and dodo skulls for fun, because I really wanted one. By 2010 I’m into steampunk and making outfits to hang out with an artist called Professor Elemental (who is kicking off Makefest week this year by the way) at some of the first steampunk gigs I go to.. that year I go MakerFaire in Newcastle. Something that will now dominate my life for the next 8 years.

By 2013 me and Mark Feltham have already set up a maker group and space (all be it roll on and off) at LJMU and been to DOES Liverpool to see what it’s all about. By 2014 we decide to run a celebration for makers after running a mini maker faire at LJMU.

We have pretty much no idea how to do this! ….But I tell people we are doing it nevertheless.

Lots of people say “they have been trying to do that for years”, I literally remember that statement being said to me. I think I was still relativity new to some makers in Liverpool, not new to making, but many people in the community hadn’t quite realised how persistent or stubborn I can be yet, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not 😉

I walk into the library on 14th Feb 2015 and bump into Denise Jones building lanterns. Before you know it we have a space.

Caroline’s post from the library, circa Feb 2015

I have just helped organise Liverpool Girl Geeks first event at which I laser cut and code, so I ask them to help and DOES too. I go into the university where I’m doing a PGCE and find Carl Simmons so I ask him. Bit by bit they ask their friends too…

Promoting the Liverpool Girl Geeks meet.

We start with trying to ask a few friends and that’s goes well. So we set up a blog and Twitter and get to work. We have 6 weeks to do this in and no funding.
(Seems to be my trick after setting up @SparkPenketh the same way this week).

By week 4 we are already full, not just the discovery room as we thought… but the whole three floors of the library. We say yes to everyone. By week 5 we realise we need help and set up the board of Liverpool Makefest, that still runs it today. On it are Mark Sabino and Jen Fenner our directors today as well as many curators we continue to work with now 🙂

Me, Mark and Denise spend hours mapping floors out with tape, checking rules and regulations of what can and cannot be put up on the walls (Liverpool library is a listed building). I still have no idea how we are funding tables or food until someone suggested the Awesome Foundation, we pull off 500 pounds in funding through that. Me, Mark and Denise fund the rest of makefest ourselves that year. Out of my own PGCE grant in my case (best money I ever spent).

Announcing the first Liverpool MakeFest with only 6 weeks to pull it together, scary!

I remember cutting tablecloths for hours straight for the tressel tables, then fighting with bamboo sticks for the signs in the atrium behind us for days after that. Getting everyone on board that I could. Getting Novoda to do our first logo. The hours of phone calls, emails and Twitter. Moving tables, oh the moving of tables seemed never ending! Wondering how much pizza is too much. Being so happy when LJMU Game Jam donated drinks from the spill over of their event, Andy Goodwin also chipped in for water. Then there were more hours of folding leaflets and printing them in mass batches …worrying no one would come, or maybe no makers would come.

I was really touched when Patrick and Jen from DefProc made us fancy badges with the word BOSS on them. We wore them with pride all day.

Because no one had done this before it was scary, thrilling and exhausting all at the same time. I was also in teacher training, apparently the most stressful year of your life …lol …it felt risky to say the least.

I was so happy when it worked, more like relieved actually. Our community came through and it was amazing. All the makers who came and have attended since are generous and kind to give their time.

I could show my kids from school what it meant to be a maker. We could get together once a year as a community and we still do.

Now it’s in its 4th year and although I don’t do as much of the organising bits now (Mark and Jen are experts in this) I’m always proud of Makefest. Sometimes it drove me to distraction but it’s inspired over 15,000 people to come through the doors in 3 years. Now with Maker Difference and Young Makefest too it’s accessible to young people who might not otherwise have the chance to try these activities in other areas of the region.

I remember saying to Dan Lynch in interview that 1st day some joke about Mark saying “If you build it they will come “. (Here’s a link to the audio of that interview — Dan)

But they did and still do.

This week I launched Spark Makerspace at Penketh High School a first in the UK and it made me feel the same again. Terrified, but it was brilliant on the night.

This is how I see Makefest. That first year is forever etched into my memories so clearly, probably because it was so scary. So many people helped us at Makefest I can’t even list them. So many of my memories are of the community and my friends. Our community knackered after the first one eating pizza. Makers are always there to inspire and motivate me, make me want to do better by them.

Hopefully I’m still doing the community justice in the maker ethos. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the faces on my kids again this year.

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Thanks to Caroline for sharing those memories with us and we can’t wait to see more of the cool things she’s doing with the Spark Penketh Makerspace. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to talk more about that with her in the near future.

If you’d like to share your memories or stories with us then we’d love to hear them. Send us an email to lpoolmakefest@gmail.com or contact us via social media (links in the header bar), you could even leave a comment on this post, put a message in a bottle, try smoke signals, I dunno anything. We’re waiting to hear from you but trying to look cool and aloof, and probably failing 😉

Until next time, take care of yourselves and keep making your own cool memories!

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