Bees in a Tin line-up announced!

It is with very great pleasure that we’ve just announced the details for Bees in a Tin, an event I’ve co-curated with Hannah Nicklin and Jen Southern.

Bees in a Tin will feature talks and workshops from key makers and thinkers from around the country as well as two panel sessions for audience questions. If you’re interested in the spaces where the arts, science, technology, and games crash into one another, apologise, and then buy each other a drink: then this is for you.

The talking throne made by East London Kinetics

Even if we do say so ourselves, the line-up is outstanding, with contributions from

  • Dr. Rebekka Kill
  • Kate Andrew
  • Holly Gramazio
  • Hamish MacPherson
  • Stuart Nolan
  • Nigel Reid
  • Tim Wright
  • Pete Ashton
  • Katie Day
  • Alice O’Connor
  • Gareth Briggs
  • Henry Cooke

You can find out more about them all and what they’ll be talking/doing about on the Many & Varied website.

We’re also very excited to have a keynote commission from Sarah Angliss:

According to Sarah, the stage is a tricky place to deploy a machine with an unusual interface. Your audience may be encountering the interface for the first time. They’ll have to grasp its function as the music unfolds, even though they can only see and hear it in action, rather than get their own hands on it. These days, musicians often have to face the challenge of laptop-based interfaces, where so much of the function is embedded in invisible, intangible code. As Sarah talks about these issues and her experience with unusual machines on stage, she looks at the importance of ‘coupling’ – in particular, the audience’s sense of cause and effect between a musician’s actions and sound. What are we gaining – or losing – by loosening this coupling? Does it matter if the audience have no intuitive sense of the musician’s influence on the music? And how can we deploy coupling to turn any gig into an unforgettable event – one which could never be replaced simply by listening to recorded music at home.

Tickets are only £4.50. Buy some.

Declaration of intent: collaborations, brokerage, weird shit and ecosystems

This is still shifting around a bit too much to go on the Many & Varied website as something concrete, so putting it here more as thinkings-in-progress…


For a long time now I’ve found myself having conversations with people about how we’d like things to be different; about what’s missing in the Midlands; about how we often seem to meet up Elsewhere, because that’s where the stuff that feeds our practices is.

A few weeks ago I gathered together some of the people I’d been having these conversations with and we sat down and asked the question “so are we going to do something about it?”.

The team was selected on the basis of being proactive folks having a wide range of skills and backgrounds, here’s who was present:

David Checkley – Involved with festival style events and performances (such as Shambala and ProjectXPresents); Senior Teaching Technician, School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Birmingham; has helped several arts spaces across Birmingham get set up with electrics and lights etc.

Katie Day // @otherwayworks – Artistic Director at theatre company The Other Way Works; produced the Theatre Sandbox scheme for iShed, working with six regional venues to commission six new projects that explored the use of pervasive media in live performance.

Alyson Fielding // @alysonf – Managing Director of Pyuda, (storytelling, digital content, play); currently doing work for the Government Digital Service team; leads sessions for TeenTech; also working on various artistic/cultural projects.

Nikki Pugh // @nikkipugh – Me. Artist working at the intersection of people, place, playfulness and technology; founder of Many & Varied; co-founder of Birmingham’s first hackspace fizzPOP and mover and shaker for events there for a few years.

Antonio Roberts // @hellocatfoodArtist, curator and VJ; another fizzPOP co-founder, mover and shaker; runs events like Bring Your Own Beamer and GLI.TC/H.

Kim Wall // @kimble4 – Herder of bytes, electrons, photons and cats. Actively involved with Many & Varied, co-creator of Fun Factories and interactive igloos.

So between us we had a lot of angles covered, but we quickly identified that our concerns were similar. I’ll add the notes I made from the meeting to the bottom of this post, but the executive summary is that some or all of us will be working together to put things in place for a Midlands-based interdisciplinary hub of some sort. As the next iteration of Many & Varied we’ll be designing and delivering a programme of research, events and activities that move us a few steps further along that path.

We’re developing that programme now and identifying the research questions we want to address through it. If you’re thinking along similar lines or have thoughts/resources to contribute, then please get in touch.

Summary of meeting on 24th of November 2013

The challenges:
– Birmingham (and the wider West Midlands region) is missing a FACT- or a Watershed-like institution to champion and facilitate interesting interdisciplinary works [do we want to use the ‘D’ word? is it healthy?]
– Finding places to make (physical) stuff is difficult
– Finding people to collaborate with is difficult
– Intermediate layers of administrators can suck up disproportional amounts of the limited funding available to artists
– Birmingham often feels like it doesn’t ‘get’ interdisciplinarity, with newer artforms lacking support and people being judged on day jobs and academic background (or lack thereof)
– It’s difficult to find/make space in which to play/learn/explore

Ideal ecosystem:
Space and facilities for making things
– Fun and inclusive
– Where weird shit can happen
– Embraces interdisciplinarity (including in same person)

Space and facilities for meeting people (may not be the same physical space as above)
– Talking as a currency (also see PM Studio’s contract of interruptibility)
– Co-working/hot-desking options
– Events that bring people together
– Facilitates serendipity and bringing together potential collaborators

Admin component
– Optional – can access the hub without buying into training etc
– Advocates for interesting stuff, showcasing good projects
– Brokers for funding
– Initiates projects that give purpose to collaborations
– Approachable at the start of a project to fast-track linking up with people and resources
– Promotes collaborations (cf contracting for services) and the skills required for this

Short-term aims:
– To develop a community of interesting people
– To develop a culture of open, interdisciplinary events
– To get in place what we can in terms of community and infrastructure, so that we can hit the ground running when we get to the stage where we need to ask for support and money/membership etc
– To begin to identify sources of income and strategies for sustainability

Short-term actions:
– Sort out a programme of events that bring people together and explore initial questions about what might or might not work
– Get clued up on what else is going on the the region

Bees in a Tin – call for unusual interfaces

I’ve been running the Many & Varied programme of events over at The Public, and as the last in that series (relocated to Birmingham, because The Public has now ceased to be) we’re gathering as many interesting and exciting people as we possibly can together in the same room at the same time.

The event is called Bees in a Tin and the call for proposals is here: (deadline January the 8th). Follow that link for full details and the application form.

So, if you make unusual interfaces for the world around you, get thinking about how you can use that day. Also have a think about who you’d like in that room with you and spread the word!

GPS Orchestra workshop at The Public

GPS Orchestra

As part of the Many & Varied programme at The Public over the summer, I’m running another of my GPS Orchestra workshops.

Again limited to 10 people, but this time supported by Arts Council and running over 2 days, the £40 ticket price represents quite a bargain – get yours now!

We’ll be using a combination of Arduino, simple electronics and junk materials to make a collection of noise-making devices that play themselves in response to how you move through a landscape.

Whilst coding experience might be useful, it’s nowhere near as essential as imagination, a sense of humour and a willingness to give things a try. Absolutely no musical ability required whatsoever.

I’ll guide you through what you’ll need to read live data coming in off a GPS module and use an Arduino nano to translate this into taps, rattles, swooshes and whirrrrrs through an assortment of motors, servos and the like.

By the end of the weekend you’ll have a great utility belt of translatable skills and enough know-how to buy your own kit if you decide this is something you’d like to do more of.

As I said, places are strictly limited, so get your tickets soon.

GPS Orchestra

GPS Orchestra raw materials. Add imagination.

Many & Varied

A couple of months ago I was approached by the arts team at The Public about spending some time with them on a residency based around hackspace activities – something they want to be more involved with in the future.

Following a successful application for Arts Council funding, I’m now working under the umbrella of Many & Varied to deliver a programme of events and consultancy based around themes of maker culture and DIY technology.

maker hands

I learned a lot through co-founding and helping to organise events for fizzPOP for a year or two. Also during the following years where I have run various workshops as myself. Many & Varied is the next iteration in the evolution of these and my attempt to respond to things I have noticed, struggled with and aspired to.

First stop is the programme of events at The Public and we’re working on some Big Exciting Things for after that.

Stand by for events that embrace and nurture a wide range of skills, media and fun.

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