Make it, hack it, fix it, Watchet


We have just launched our workshop and maker space demands survey, in order to find out what the demand is in West Somerset for a place to make things. Throughout all our consultation the message has been that Watchet’s character is as a working town, where people get on and do stuff, make things, build, create, work. We believe there is an opportunity to enhance that for a new generation. By making we mean pretty much anything (within reason) and not just professionals; hobbyists and those that love to tinker too..

Would you like a workspace to carry out anything from running or starting up your business, doing DIY or craft to woodworking, electronics and inventing? Do you need space to work, or maybe you need somewhere to meet like-minded people and network? Whatever your reason, if you like the sound of it please fill in our quick 10 minute survey.

There seems to be a bit of a maker movement taking the world by storm . All over the world shared community and communal workshops are popping up; some are run by communities, some as business, but all with a focus on working, making, changing (or ‘hacking’), repairing, tinkering, DIYing, creating and playing. In 2005 there were fewer than 20 ‘hackerspaces’, today there are over 1300.

The idea centres around a basic principle of (mostly) community operated workshops/places where people can work on their own or shared projects. They provide communal space that has access to tools and machinery such as 3D printers, laser cutters, kit for electronics, carpentry, jewellry making, glass, stone, metal work or whatever it maybe that its members want and need. It is a place that can support start up businesses, provide advice and pool skills, where generations can pass on their expertise to others, or just a friendly place for those who like to tinker, and hang out with like minded people. They encourage enterprise, interaction, skills and collective endeavour.

There are lots of words for places like this around hackerspaces, makerspaces, FabLabs, Techshops, Men Sheds and Repair Cafes. While all the various incarnations of this share the same basic principles there are also some subtle differences, here’s a quick breakdown as we understand it (and with thanks to Wikipedia!):

Hackerspaces: Often interchangeable with makerspaces, hackerspaces seem to focus more on electronics, technology, computing and science; representing a technology based DIY culture, as well as including more traditional arts and crafts. If something is ‘hacked’ it already exists and is ‘hacked’ into something else.

Makerspaces: Tend towards a broader ‘anything goes’ space for everything from fixing machinery, DIY projects to arts and crafts. Essentially all encompassing!

Techshops: These are commercial (for profit) run spaces with a trademarked name.

Fablabs: Again trademarked, kind of like a franchise. FabLabs have specific space requirements and opening times and teaching objectives etc. mostly run by ‘not for profit’ organisations.

Men Sheds: Running in parallel to hackerspaces, members tend to see themselves as ‘sheders’ or ‘men in sheds’. With over 1,000 Men Sheds registered , the movement is no longer age or gender specific but its origins were born from an extension of working class mens clubs. The focus is on sharing skills across generations and on the camaraderie of working together.

Repair Cafes: Offer a free meeting place for people to bring things in need of repair and provide a space to work together. Often not just about repair, but also modification and upcycling, repair café users tend towards a desire to live more sustainably.

This is just part of the picture of what we are looking into. And we are not wedded to any variant – our interest is finding out about and then meeting your needs for enterprising workspace. Our recent consultations earlier in the year revealed an appetite for cleaner ‘co-working’ places too. By comparison to almost all of the country West Somerset has a high proportion of people who work from home, and are self-employed, from graphic designers to e-commerce to accountants to writers. And whilst working from home can be great it can also be isolating. So creating a space where people can work, but also provide ‘break out’ areas and meeting rooms along with a café and other facilities there is an opportunity for people to enjoy the social interaction and networking benefits that come with co-locating businesses but with far lower costs than hiring office space.

Contains Art has started small but has become something of a local success so we are looking to help expand Contains Art; again in response to demand. Regular enquiries into whether there are more studio spaces or exhibition space, combined with a successful though small gallery have shown that it can work. Visitors enjoy seeing artists at work, not just exhibiting and the public events have been a real success; helping to make those who live in and around Watchet feel that Contains Art is part of the community. Starting small, and creating an inexpensive but charming place to hang out, make things, be with friends and laugh is a big part of what we would like to achieve for the whole project and it is fun to see a small bit of that working already.

So, we need to explore all possible variations of this ‘maker’ culture to see what would work for Watchet, and hopefully on the East Quay. There are plenty of places around the country where shared creative and maker spaces, co-working hubs and workshop/studios are working really well, here are a few examples:

Makespace – Cambridge

So Make it – Southampton

South London Makerspace – Brixton

The Glove Factory – Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Cockington Court Craft Studios – Torquay

We really like the idea of Watchet becoming a mecca once again for making! We know there are loads of you out there who are incredibly talented and highly skilled, and this project could provide support and facilities that could help many businesses to establish, connect people together, share skills, expertise and knowledge and allow makers an easy mechanism to sell their work. Who knows, maybe the next fossil shaped rocket boat could be invented here!

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