STEAMhouse, Birmingham, 2019

We’re working with STEAMhouse on a series of co-produced events in Birmingham, that will run throughout 2019. Through these events we hope to support the growing community of makers at STEAMhouse, and provide an opportunity for a diverse group of designers, craftspeople, artists and technologists to learn, be inspired, and get to know each other.

STEAMhouse is a new centre for creative innovation and cultural production that brings artists, inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs and makers together,  developed by Eastside Projects and Birmingham City University.

For full details – and to get tickets for forthcoming events – please see the STEAMhouse events page.


13 March – Making tools for Makers: Kniterate and Assemble

Makers are natural disruptors – modifying processes, developing tools and finding solutions to practical problems through the act of making. But how are we doing this in the 21st century? When makers identify a gap or opportunity what new solutions emerge?

We are delighted to welcome Triambak Saxena from Kniterate and Joseph Halligan from Turner Prizewinning architectural collective Assemble to Birmingham to talk through their work, and experiences, as makers making tools for makers.

10 April – Making Materials: Materiom

Imagine if all our materials were nutrients. If there was no waste, but rather that our plastics and composites nourished living systems.

Materiom is an open platform that lets anyone contribute, use or adapt recipes for materials that learn from nature’s techniques for sourcing, building and breaking down the ingredients that make them up. Their mission is to enable everyone, everywhere to participate in the next generation of materials.

Multi-disciplinary designer-maker, and materials researcher Zoë Powell joins us to talk about materials that are regenerative by design and how designers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and citizens can use their open platform to work collectively on some of the greatest material challenges in the circular economy.

8 May – Making Data: Grow Observatory

Professor Mel Woods, Chair in Creative Intelligence at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, joins us to talk about the GROW Observatory (GROW) and the potential of participatory culture, citizen sensing and citizen science. Grow Observatory is a Europewide project engaging thousands of growers, scientists and others passionate about the land. They are using Flower Power sensors to generate data on soil moisture, temperature and light, discovering together how to better manage soil and grow food whilst contributing to vital scientific, environmental monitoring.

With 2,500 sensors currently returning data, and several online MOOCs GROW is addressing the problem of amplifying scale, whilst supporting meaningful participation with citizens and grassroots organisations, as well as policy makers and scientists.

19 June – Reimagining Materials: Aeropowder and Studio Ilio

How can existing materials be transformed into something new? How can we use the valuable properties of waste materials to make something useful? What happens when we apply novel processes to the abundant materials that surround us?This month we welcome two makers who are working with overlooked materials in surprising ways: Ryan Robinson, from Aeropowder and Fabio Hendry, from Studio Ilio.

From human hair to chicken feathers, these designers are creating new materials, finishes and products and changing the way we think about the materials that surround us.

10 July – Making Histories: Thrifty Science and the Lucas Plan

Many of the questions makers are asking today have been asked before. How can we work more sustainably? How can we make a fairer world? This month, we invite two guests who can offer a new perspective on present day challenges by looking back to the past. 

Simon Werrett shows us how, in the 17th and 18th centuries, scientific experimenters used the tools and materials readily available to them to make some of the most important scientific discoveries of the day. In this ‘thrifty’ approach to science, experimenters transformed their homes into laboratories as they recycled, repurposed, repaired, and reused their material possessions to learn about the natural world. What can small-scale experimental makers and technologists working today learn from these pioneers?

Adrian Smith tells the story of the Lucas Plan, the bold, utopian project forged in 1976 by workers from the failing Lucas Aerospace plant to re-organise their work to make ‘socially useful’ products. While their plan received a hostile response from management, their ideas  lived on to inspire a new generation of utopian makers who want to manufacture a more just world.

9 October – Making in the Commons

From open source hardware to how-to videos, grassroots projects to cultural institutions, making increasingly happens in the ‘commons’.The commons are the things that we inherit and create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come – they consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, open source resources, scientific research and creative works.

Whether located in the makerspace or the museum, or accessible thanks to digital platforms and communities, these common goods are freely available to all and allow us to share knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world, transforming how we make with, and think about, the things that surround us.This month, we look at how makers can benefit from, and why we should contribute to – even defend – our commons. 

Kat Braybrooke is a social scientist and designer whose work explores the politics of digitally-mediated spaces and practices, in particular the emerging relations between maker cultures and new modes of production. 

Adrian McEwen is a geek and entrepreneur from Liverpool who makes, consults and writes on the Internet of Things. He’s also the co-founder of DoES Liverpool, a co-working and maker space. He has an interest in how we democratise access to the machinery of manufacturing, not least so he can use it himself; and how we smooth the path from one-off to mass-manufacture.

13 November – Making and Maintaining

This month, in partnership with the Festival of Maintenance, we ask whether thinking and talking about innovation can lead us to neglect maintenance and maintainers and fail to recognise the potential for repair, reuse and recycling, those who keep things going and the often hidden work done in repair, custodianship, stewardship, tending and caring for the things that matter. Maintenance work can be routine or highly skilled and maintainers can be found in many contexts, including nature, software, infrastructure, communities, industry, information technology, arts and heritage and work across traditional disciplines of maintenance, repair and stewardship and new areas such as supporting digital products, sustaining open source software, and moderating online communities. They are involved in design for repair and reuse, local manufacturing, software and open hardware maintenance, remanufacturing, dataset stewardship, online and offline communities or the physical and digital commons.

Naomi Turner is one of the organisers of the Festival of Maintenance. In her day job, Naomi is a Product Manager at the Ministry of Justice, thinking about what the internet means for people in prison.She says, “I became involved in the festival partly as an outlet for my frustration about a culture that focuses on the shiny and new, especially when we barely care for what we already have.Many think that maintenance is unskilled, repetitive, ‘low’ work – indeed the opposite of innovation, but this simply isn’t true. My hope is that the Festival highlights how varied and undervalued maintenance is as an activity, and that it fosters new conversations about how we can better care for others around us, our communities and environment.”

Lauren Hutchinson is Managing Director of Oxford Hackspace, a core organizer for the UK Hackspace Foundation, a lifelong equality and minorities activist, geek herder, sign languages enthusiast and ASL community mod. Her background in minority law, post-colonial literature and translation helps shape her work as a leader in the maker community, and more recently she has studied radio, electronics, and boundaried empathy and connection between people. 

She has lived all over the world, trying to learn how to care for people, and once nearly had to help deliver a baby during an AGM. She will talk about burnout, pressures and bullying in low emotional quotient communities, and share thoughts on what maintainers and volunteers can do to safeguard and heal their communities and themselves.