I’m writing this on the train back from London where I’ve just had an excellent afternoon visiting the London Hacklab with my old friends James Stevens and Ian Morrison. The Hacklab is a not-for-profit organisation that encourages experimentation and innovation across a huge range of areas ranging from Computing to Bio science, with everything in between.
The Hackspace was fairly quiet when we visited – we were welcomed in by a Swedish Web Developer called Philip, originally trained at Hyper Island, which was a coincidence as I know some of his class mates from Lateral days. Philip graciously stopped his coding to give us a quick tour of the facilities which include 3d printers, laser cutters, PCs, and a whole room full of serious looking laithes, drills and assorted engineering plant. There was even a little room at the back of the Hackspace that had shelves lined with bottles, each filled with a mysterious green liquid. This is apparently the bio-hacking space, being used to experiment with algae.
The Hackspace is made up of two light industrial units, with one used mainly for Computing and electronics related activities, and the other for more hands on ‘maker’ type stuff. There is a kitchen area and a sort of social area in the centre of the space. We hung out for two hours or so, and it was interesting to watch various people come and go – each announced by their personal sound sample or robotic voice when they swiped into the space with their RFID oyster cards. We watched various drilling, hammering and grinding going on in one side of the space, whilst at the same time geeks hunched over laptops in the other side. The sight of this made me nostalgic for the good old days of Backspace, one of the earliest examples of this kind of project, set up and run by James Stevens who kindly organised the visit to the hackspace this afternoon.
One interesting thing I noticed was the preponderance of bicycles in the hackspace – just about everybody who appeared through the door was carrying a bike with them. There is an area given over to Bike recycling, much like Cycle Recycle at the ATC in Hebden Bridge. It seems that a lot of people use the Hackspace to mend their bikes while having a chat and a cup of tea.
We chatted to people as they drifted in and out, and got a real sense that people enjoy having access to somewhere where they can work on stuff while at the same time meet like minded others to chat with and possibly collaborate with. The basic cost of joining the hackspace is £25 / month, which gets you 24/7 access to the space with an RFID card and several other benefits such as:
- Voting rights
- Personal storage space
- Discounted workshops and events
- Github access
The legal structure of the hackspace is very interesting indeed – it’s a non profit company limited by guarantee, but is is also the first ‘virtualised non-profit organisation‘, utilising a new on-line platform provided by ‘One Click Orgs‘.
There are various display cases dotted around the room, showing off the interesting stuff people have hacked together using the equipment in the hackspace. All in all, it was an interesting visit and also most inspiring. Having seen what these people have achieved, I am excited by the possibility of doing something similar up north in the near future. Watch this space.