London Hackspace had their space warming party on Sunday to celebrate their move into Cremer Street Business Centre so I went along to find out what was going on. As soon as you enter there’s the thrill of a workshop crossed with a mad inventors lab. I saw angle grinders next to a half repaired (or deconstructed?) bike, old school singer sewing machines, a workbench, an amazing open source 3D printer by makerbot industries that replicates itself and other tools and machines that i dont know the name of. Oh and a disco ball with flashing ligts. Hackspaces as i understand it, are places where like minded people can get together and tinker around, invent, make, play, exchange ideas and tips on many things. They describe it as a communal garden shed. I thought it might be limted to a few techy boffins playing with circuit boards and computer parts but that was just my limited interpretation of hackers. Actually the members of London hackspace don’t define hacker activity to a particular area. One described hacking to me as the act of taking, remaking anything – at London hackspace, this currently includes a planned knitting class (referred to as the first type of programming language), a lock picking sports club, bike repair shop, as well as the more techy activities of playing with circuit components and a tesla aerial (just because it made a cool noise when 4000volts was run through it).
There are quite a few precedences for hackspaces – I had previously come across the more well known ones such as the NYC Resistor in New York and c-base in Berlin – the Hackspace Foundation networks these spaces together. There’s clearly a real community feel to the crowd – faces being recognised from gatherings such as hackdays and dorkbotevents.
Having decamped from a shared space with an archery range where they were located for a year, London Hackspace are hoping this move to their own space means that they can grow their membership but also have the room to really have fun. The monthly membership is £40 (less if you can’t afford that) it’s 24/7 access, a proudly anarchistic operation(there are no strict rules or preset definitions of what goes) and people act very much in a shared spirit evidenced by the donated tools and kit and their openess to talk to anyone that is curious in learning.
There was much conversation on the fact that spaces and places like this don’t exist easily, particularly in London because of the commercialisation of space. How do we value these activities that are beyond hobbies but not quite “work” – yet their value in creating a skill and knowledge base is invaluable – and primarily the self taught education of exploring by doing and making. This is the real classroom that should be present in all neighbourhoods – not only do spaces like this spread knowledge and other ways of learning, they are a class in civil society itself. Go down to check it out.