Time for another edition of MakeFest Memories! This time it’s none other than Mark Feltham, a man who would have to be one of the faces on any Mount Rushmore of Liverpool Makefest for sure, we don’t currently have one of those but I’m thinking paper mache or perhaps plasticine… actually scrap plasticine it’s a bit too Lionel Richie from that “Hello” video. Anyway, sorry, I got lost in my own digression there. Mark is one of the original founders behind our event, he’s still very much involved today and here he is with some of his memories….
Well, hi all! Makefest, eh? Wow… what a journey! Wondered how I’d start this but have ended up taking the advice of my first crush, Julie Andrews (yep – shocker I know)… ‘Start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start’ So here goes… in one take. No edit.
February 14th 2015, Valentine’s Day in the Discover Library and kids are making Chinese lanterns on the little stage where Caroline and I bump into Denise Jones, awesome library ninja. The rest, as they say, is history… But it’s not… history. It’s still going four years later and I hope will for many, many years to come. Most of my own memories are from that first year and how we went from an idea of maybe holding a robot workshop to it becoming a full library MakeFest in six crazy weeks for £850. We had no idea it would become this annual ‘thing’ in Liverpool, let alone that people would put it in their diaries and come back year after year. We really thought it would be a one-off. IF, that was we could pull it off at all! We had never done anything like this and had no idea how to go about it really, or what it would involve, only a desire to make it happen and that maybe we could just ask people. So we did… and they said yes… all of them! I can remember us putting out a call for makers and having to close it practically immediately because we were full. SO full! How were we going to fit everyone in? How were we going to pay for tables? Publicity? How do we do that? We’d need a logo wouldn’t we? How do we do that? We’ll need food for the makers won’t we? Where do we get that? SO, many questions!
That first year we zoned things. The Discover was robots and schools. Ground floor arts & crafts. Game Hub was coding. Atrium was loosely ‘Who-vian’. The first floor businesses. Top floor workshops… I think. So we needed zone chiefs and helpers to coordinate everything. Walkie-talkies, signage, better wifi… power sockets… PAT testing, risk assessment etc etc, none of which we’d really thought about! BUT, for every ‘how are we going to do that?’ there was somebody in Liverpool’s maker community who said ‘like this’. We were clearly not alone. Far from it! You see, the thing is, we hadn’t really appreciated I don’t think at that time, that we were becoming part of a long-established maker community in Liverpool. People who had been doing this long before we’d come along with a crazy idea and many of whom we now count among our closest friends.
So, what was it like… behind the scenes that first year? Phone calls, Twitter DM ‘conversations’, sending and replying to emails, pub meet-ups, updating spreadsheets, website populating… hours and hours of it at the end of the working day. We did everything that first year ourselves. Pat and Jen made amazing maker badges at DoES. We designed flyers and posters ourselves and printed them off. Beano did tokens for the code workshop and literally ran about Liverpool sticking posters in whatever shop and café windows would take them! We made bunting and signs. Dan and Les sorted food, crew and wifi. Denise sorted ALL the paperwork needed for the Library and the walk-throughs with their estate people. We all promoted it wherever we could. We tweeted like crazy, thanked every single maker personally. Got in the Liverpool Echo. Went on Radio City… or was it City Radio? I forget, except that I did this one… at the top of St.Johns tower and when I arrived they sprung on me that I’d be reviewing the papers on air before my pitch – lol.
I remember us giving a short-lived, sigh of relief when the books were full because we knew MakeFest would happen… besides that was at the end of March-ish and the festival wasn’t until late June. We had months lol. How naïve. Our own pockets ran dry shortly after and we needed funds. Not much, but some! So, we went to Awesome Liverpool and were over the moon they gave us one of their £500 awards. Makefest was go… and before we knew it, it was MakeFest eve. We’d deliberately set the date for a Saturday as we figured makers have to get home and relax before for most of them, heading back to their day-jobs on the Monday. So we gave them the chance to set-up on the Friday night OR first thing Saturday morning. Doors opened at 9am.
We set up a table in the library and awaited the arrival of the makers who said they were going to set up Friday night. First panic. Half didn’t come! It was OK… they DID the next day, BUT… first time doing this, I was like ‘Uh oh!’… I remember a bunch of us lugging tables around the library, sticking labels on them, directing makers, sorting extension leads, taping them down… and being utterly exhausted AND knowing we had it all to do again in the morning before doors opened. … but then the Dalek arrived and for a moment all that was forgotten. Seeing it drift through a mostly empty library that first year with its blue lights was wonderful!! That night we hardly slept… and then it was the Big Day… and what follows is me literally closing my eyes, right now, in Runcorn Costa and remembering back to June 25th 2015, in no particular order.
Ray Phillips awesome sculptures in the foyer, the Dalek, the Dalek voice emulators from York. DoEs Tower. Standing in discover and seeing OhBot robot, Cannybots, BigLes’s PiBots, Arora with the Ozobots on the little stage, in front of them, Ben’s MeArm, a Makey-Makey vegetable music set-up, HacMan light-up bugs, Future Tech Studio’s Sellafield rig, Draw & Code opposite, Aardvark, Liz Smart’s giant robot, 3D printing. Underwater robots on the top floor. Gemma’s punch cards. Lizzies’ pottery dragons. Gurl on Purl. Cutting Pizza. Radio MakeFest. Happy, happy faces… and that ‘vibe’ we wanted but could never articulate… and then saying we’d do it again. It was an amazing day.
Ooof, well that just got to me. Recalling things. I’m kinda welling up here tbh, thinking about what we’ve achieved, all of us, with MakeFest. Forgive me, but I’m so proud. SO proud! Bloody hell. Sorry. Thank you – EVERYONE!!! Big hugs xx
Aw, what a nice post, thanks Mark. It makes us a little emotional and light-headed too… or perhaps there’s a gas leak in here. Either way our eyes are watering. As previous posters have also stressed, it’s so lovely that so many people contribute so much to make Liverpool Makefest happen. They still do it today and the legacy created by Caroline, Mark and Denise after that chance meeting is clear for all to see.
Don’t forget that Young MakeFest 2018 is coming up very soon at Liverpool Central library on Friday March 23rd. We posted about it previously. You can still sign up your school for a free place via Eventbrite. Get down there for an amazing day!
We’ll be back with more MakeFest Memories and other things to share in the near future. In the meantime don’t forget you can find us on social media or even drop us an email to – firstname.lastname@example.org