Folkestone Maker Space
Folkestone is going through something of a creative renaissance. With events such as the Folkestone Triennial and organisations such as Creative Folkestone, there have never been more opportunities for local artists to set up shop and show their work on a whole new scale. But, for those who may not have tried making things in a while, those who may need some help, or those who need more specialised equipment, the offerings are slim on the ground. That’s where I think a Folkestone Maker Space could come in. And I’d love to be the one to bring it to fruition.
What is a Maker Space?
A Maker Space is a physical and commercial location where people are free to express their creativity. Members get access to tools such as tabletop CNC machines and Laser Cutters, 3D printers, Computers, VR headsets, etc. Technology that could be prohibitive for an individual to purchase or too “one-off” for a company to budget for. But, by bringing these technologies and the expertise to use them under one roof, you can justify the cost.
Maker Spaces have proven popular around the world, creating communities of makers who are enabled and emboldened by access to equipment and space. And they offer an education opportunity, by opening up workshops to the local community to pique their interest and teach new skills to individuals, companies, and more.
As I said earlier, Folkestone is already going through something of a creative rebirth. Creative Folkestone have established the Creative Quarter as the location for the creative businesses in the town, and events such as the Triennial have shown that creativity is alive in the heart of Folkestone and Hythe.
Folkestone is accessible enough from other local towns - Dover, Deal, Canterbury - and close enough to London to be able to offer services to a decently sized community whilst also being able to offer commercial design and maker services to businesses in the City.
Ideally half of Folkestone’s catchment area wouldn’t be underwater, but that’s always the cost when working in a coastal town.
What do I need?
To start a Marker Space, the first thing you need is space. When it comes to this, there are three potential options I see for setting up a Maker Space in Folkestone. These options are:
- Set up a permanent space (for example in the Glassworks)
- Set up a Mobile Maker Space (by converting a van or bus, for example)
- Set up a Pop-Up Maker Space that can be set up quickly in different spaces
Each of these routes has different strengths and weaknesses. And each offers up opportunities and threats. For example, a Mobile Maker Space would be able to go to where the customer is at - for example, set up a workshop at a College - but would have no fixed address and would have limited space compared to a building.
A Maker Space also needs technology. As a minimum, I see a Maker Space having the following technology:
- 3D Printer
- Macs and PCs
- Laser Cutter
- Soldering Station
- Sewing Machine
- Traditional Printer
- Misc Tools and Materials
You could also expand the inventory with devices such as VR headsets, CNC machines, etc as budget and space allows, but this core tool offering will allow people to make physical and digital artefacts.
You also need people who are skilled in using this technology, or who are willing to learn to use the technology and share their skills with others. Ideally, I see this being overseen by someone (for example, myself) with perhaps looking to local education routes for volunteers or apprentices who would be willing to earn and learn.
Obviously, all of this needs money. And depending on the direction taken, this funding amount could drastically change. A minimal Mobile Maker Space could perhaps be put together for a few thousand pounds. Whereas a a fully-equipped permanent space could cost 10s of thousands to get started. I would look for local funding opportunities and commercial activities related to the space to make this funding happen.