The Power of Making

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I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of standing in front of 150 of you, about to present plans for our town that we feel passionately about. Fear, pride, excitement­­­­, hope (did I say fear?) It was an extraordinary feeling, to have spent so long attempting to understand collective needs and desires for the town, to have interpreted those expressed desires into a comprehensive scheme, and then to say, “Here it is, do you like it?”

Thankfully we were blown away by the response, thank you so much to everyone who came. To those who came to the drop in sessions on the following Friday and Saturday, sorry there wasn’t much room, but it was great to talk to so many of you. If you weren’t able to come, and haven’t yet seen the plans you can download the designs for the Boat Museum here, and for East Quay here. The infographic (pictured) lays out the benefits that the East Quay proposal will bring.

One question that we are asked with some frequency is around jobs and why we have placed such an emphasis on ‘making’. The Work Foundry, with its communal makerspace, studio workspaces and co-working represents a core believe that the attainment of skill is the path to employment, confidence and wellbeing.

In the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition catalogue for the 2011 ‘Power of Making’ exhibition, Daniel Charny writes:

“For as long as people can learn from each other, individuality and society will be able to thrive. This starts with instilling confidence and a sense of independence, and runs through to creative innovation and mastery of precious knowledge. Full knowledge cannot be transferred solely through the sharing of information; it must be kept alive and passed on through the experience of making.”

Creating opportunities for jobs and employment is one of our main priorities, and we have shown that our proposed development will create 53 jobs, not all associated with ‘making’ this figure also includes jobs across all aspects of the scheme including catering, hospitality, the running the facilities and associated projects. However, the scheme represents more than just providing a facility for people to learn skills and make things. It is also a kind of manifesto for how rural towns can thrive in the 21st century.

In Ele Carpenter’s essay on Social Making she writes:

“Makers are not Luddites. They recognise that de-skilling is not simply the result of digitization, but an effect of the geo-political exploitation of technologies for profit over social or environmental sustainability. In response, re-skilling needs to take place across both digital and craft practices. In the same way that the cooper’s barrel-making skills need to be shared for continuity, so the ability to programme code as a material needs to be taught in schools. Otherwise the result is end-user passivity, associated with product loyal consumers who lack the skills for making, communication or survival.”

Inventors, computer programmers, engineers, carpenters, furniture restorers, graphic designers, bicycle repairmen, upholsterers, crafters West Somerset has them all, many of whom are toiling in isolation and who have expressed an interest in working together, networking, learning from others, passing on their skills and enjoying the buzz of working alongside each other. In fact, lots of you have asked how you can get involved and register your interest. If you are interested in having space to work at East Quay, please fill in our Demand Survey here.

Lots of you have also said, ‘how can we help?’ Well, actually there are lots of jobs we need help with, and it would be wonderful to have your input. The things we need help with include:

  • Information on the Victorian Pleasure Grounds at Splash Point.Does anyone have photographs or printed descriptions of how it once looked, and how it was used?

  • We’d love to hear from anyone in the restaurant business, the restaurant element forms and important part of our business plan, and we’d like to hear from as many of you as possible to make sure we get this right.

  • Are there any inventors, engineers, builders and makers out there that would like to get involved with our pilot makerspace projects? To begin with, this will involve getting together and working out how skills can best be used, and what types of projects might work for building a ‘maker community’.

  • Funding for our project will be from various different areas, including grant funding from various possible pots including Power for Change and Coastal Communities. However we will also be looking at social investment and philanthropy.So if you know of anyone who might be interested in investing, or who would like to get involved in some way please let us know.

The tower is the other element of the scheme that is often talked about. The majority of the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive, most of you seem genuinely excited about the possibilities the scheme offers. However some people have voiced concerns over whether the tower is ‘too much’ for Watchet. Obviously we love it, and feel it is Watchet’s take on other coastal tower-like structures up and down the country. It provides a great reason to visit and will help fund the rest of the scheme through the revenue it provides in self-catering accommodation. However, we also want to know what you think. So to that end we will be running further consultation workshops in January to understand more fully what Watchet people think of the tower in particular. Dates will be announced shortly so keep posted!

So, what’s next? Well, further discussions with the District Council and Watchet Harbour Marina need to be had, which (we anticipate) may take some time due to the complexities of the land. Then once agreed it’s all systems go go go for funding applications. Most funders that we have spoken to have expressed a real interest in our project, our winning the Power to Change short film competition is good evidence of that, this is a scheme that is genuinely interesting to big funders, mainly because it is about giving power back to a town on so many different levels. Power to attract visitors to our town, power to give our young people the training and skills they need to start their own businesses, the power to engage the whole community in something extraordinary and of course, the power of making.

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