It’s been over six whole weeks now since we all got together at the Light House Media Centre for MAKE:shift – Wolverhampton’s ideas festival. The event, commissioned by the City Council, brought the community’s best ideas to the surface and attracted mentors and champions to take them forward. We had two fun-packed days of wide-ranging activities, from big names delivering inspiring talks, to informal idea exchange in our marketplace.
One of the most exciting things about the event was the development of four of the ideas to change Wolverhampton that had been submitted before the weekend itself. These were Free Organic Gardens, Scribble and Scribe, Wolvopedia, and Gap Fillers. A camp with a legacy, these Make:Shift ideas continue with the same energy, even after the event:
Four potential sites for the Free Organic Gardens project have now been identified, and Elliot is in contact with the council and other community groups – like the Scouts, Probation Service and Friends of the Earth – who may be able to help.
Gap Fillers are planning a Christmas extravaganza for the Wednesfield Christmas Lights switch-on. Rumour has it that the pop-up might contain both Santa and an archaeologist. Longer term though, Steph is thinking about a Gap Fillers Guide to help other people make use of empty space in the city.
Andy from Wolvopedia is currently pursuing funding for a project coordinator and the first batch of QR code plaques. The University have also expressed some interest in supporting Wolvopedia.
Scribble and Scribe is exploring two possibilities for the ongoing work required to move the project along. They plan to either secure funding for a member of staff to run the project, or establish a network of community organisations who already do or would like to provide the Scribble and Scribe service.
As well as the idea development work that went on at MAKE:shift, we had a series of different expert panels on three themes: Assets, People and Making. From global speakers, right the way to (hyper)local speakers (James Clarke from WV11 spoke about his experience running a hyperlocal blog), they were all a big hit. Our tweets from day 1 and day 2 of the event give a great flavour of what was said and include plenty of links for further reading.
A number of those panel speakers volunteered to run workshops- as did some participants. There were too many good workshops to list them all, but these give a good selection: Annemarie Naylor (from the Asset Transfer Unit) and Julian Dobson (director of Urban Pollinator) led a walking tour of Wolverhampton’s assets, with no planned route – and no planned commentary. Tim Ahrensbach ran a discussion on libraries and their future, using his experience as head librarian of the Library Lab to offer ideas and advice to get people thinking about libraries as places for communities rather than just warehouses for books. They considered things like peer-to-peer exchange and learning, self-publishing, book and film clubs, mentor programmes and places that support life-long learning.
Running parallel to the workshops, we screened a selection of amazing locally made films – many of which focussed on Wolverhampton or the Black Country as their subject. All the films shown are listed here, and you can see plenty more local cinema at the Light House – who we should also thank for being fantastic hosts for MAKE:shift and putting on these special screenings.
As well as the screenings, Marni Schindelman, the artist and photographer responsible for the current exhibition in the Light House, Geolocations, joined us by Skype from Georgia, USA. She gave a presentation on her exhibition and then took questions from the audience.
The marketplace was bustling with activity: Local businesses like Chez Hippo came along to showcase their locally made goods, as did Pie Architecture, complete with *the nicest* pork pies the West Midlands has to offer, made in Wolverhampton of course. Wolverhampton Homes added some fun by encouraging people to join in and play Jenga. Students from Wolverhampton University attended and ran an ongoing animation workshop and other local partners came along and ran some interactive stalls and there were even some hula hooping lessons!
We had an ideas exchange zone in the marketplace where people could come along to get help developing any idea they had for improving Wolverhampton. One idea in particular really made progress during the day – Jez Turner’s Wolves Buddies was pitched and workshopped on the Friday, and the site was built by midnight that night! Wolves Buddies matches new residents with those who have been in the city for years, helping them find their way around and get to grips with the city.
Lots of people have already posted their thoughts and reflections to the MAKE:shift Posterous site – which is becoming a catalogue of people’s experiences of the day and videos and photos too. If you were there or took part online, we’d love to know what you got out of the day. Similarly, if you took any photos or wrote a blog post – please do post the links. Send all the submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll be published on the site within 24 hours – remember to include your name!
And finally – we really want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped make this wonderful event happen – all those who spoke, led workshops and facilitated ideas teams, our (incredible) local caterers The Oasis, and most of all everyone who came and took part, asked questions, came up with ideas, offered help and generally got stuck into things. So well done – together we uncovered huge potential in Wolverhampton – and this really is only the beginning….