IN a building behind Newcastle's Star and Shadow cinema, there's a club that describes itself as "communal garden shed of mad inventors".
Maker Space is the city’s own version of what’s called a hackspace, a place for people who love to experiment and build things.
All sorts of projects can be tackled here, although there’s a “no strong smells in the Maker Space” agreement which stops people experimenting with strange things in enclosed spaces. There are a few tools on offer as well, even including a 3D printer known as the Makerbot.
Alistair MacDonald and Brian Degger took on the space known as the Cottage nearly two years as an office, but also had an ambition to open the area up as a communal hackspace.
“Most of us just do this for fun”, said MacDonald. “Personally, I’m very interested in electronics. I like software and soldering components.
“From my point of view, I’m definitely drawn to the community spirit and the social side. For others it’s an ability to share equipment. Some people might want to use a drill or a saw but don’t have the facilities at home. Having the Makerbot as a shared resource is also great.
“People just come along and build stuff, but you don’t necessarily need to have a project. We also like to talk about things and bat ideas around. We do consider ourselves a club. We’re like-minded but not necessarily alike in ability.
“If you’re a creative person and you want to build something or even just learn something, that’s fine.”
The club meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month, but has also held a few special events. Maker Space hosted an Arduino Day a couple of months ago, and more recently a gathering themed around retro computers such as the Commodore 64. MacDonald said the group is interested in finding a bit more space somewhere if they can, but is really happy with the atmosphere created by the current members.
“We had people coming to the Arduino event who didn’t have a clue what they were doing and others who were masters”, said MacDonald. “We ended up with more people than we could really hold. There are a lot of hackspaces and we’re probably one of the smallest. The hackspace in London is almost a factory that you can open with Oyster cards.
“We’d love to get a few more people in and get a few more bits of machinery. We’ve got a few things that people are willing to loan to the club, but we don’t know where we could put them. The membership we have at the minute are great people with the same mindset and we’re really pleased to have them. We’ve set the tone right.”
The concept of sharing ideas and skills is central to the atmosphere of Maker Space, although it’s open to a range of interested people.
MacDonald says people can get in touch via the website at www.makerspace.org.uk, or even sign up to the North East Makers email list where members discuss ideas.
“It’s easier to come along and meet us all though”, he said. “We’re a friendly bunch. We have a kettle and everything, even though we sometimes run out of milk.”