Mobile Fun Factory

So we (Garry Bulmer, David Checkley, Rachel Sutton, Kim Wall and I) eventually finished building a Mobile Fun Factory for The Public in West Bromwich.

Designed as a mobile unit that is interactive in its own right as well as providing a method of displaying work made during the summer programme’s activities, the Mobile Fun Factory had quite a brief to fulfil. It also had to fit in the goods lift.

Here’s what we made…

Mobile Fun Factory

It sports:

  • A 42″ screen on the top
  • A smaller touchscreen screen in the Secret Cinema (behind the velvety curtains)
  • Some amazing velvety curtains
  • A camera sending a live feed to a screen on the other side of the unit (pleasingly infra-red)
  • A chimney that glows in a vaguely TARDIS-style manner
  • A scrolling LED matrix
  • Lots of mesh for attaching artworks to
  • A mahoosive blackboard
  • A Control Panel full of big pressy buttons, thunky switches, rainbow LEDs and random noise samples
  • A periscope
  • Glowing circles (really quite pleasing!)
  • And the best boot-up sequence ever (see below)

Mobile Fun Factory boot-up sound from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

And it still fits in the goods lift!

Well, sort of, the periscope and the chimney have to be detached, but we figured out ways of doing this in a reasonably straightforward manner whilst still having them secure once re-attached.

Here are a few photos (more here):

Waiting to receive and disseminate Fun

The gorgeous curtains for the Secret Cinema. What’s inside? Only one way to find out…

Nice kaleidoscope effect when the periscope points at the LED hoop

The LED hoop in all its glory. It also runs Conway’s Game of Life, which is rather nice.

The Control Panel – an easy way to lose track of time as you explore the different sound samples and admire the blinkenlights. All those switches and buttons do something; can you figure them out?

Photos of several of the bits don’t really do them justice, so here’s a quick video to give more of a flavour:

Mobile Fun Factory from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

The Mobile Fun Factory is now parked up in the main entrance atrium to The Public awaiting your interaction pleasure. Go have a play.

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.

Building Fun

Following on from the Gallery Hack Camp at The Public back in February, I’ve been working with fellow attendees Rachel Sutton, Dave Checkley, Kim Wall and Garry Bulmer on a commission to build a Mobile Fun Factory to inhabit The Public’s atrium space over the summer.

Our brief was mostly centred around this steel frame that’s just a leeeetle bit smaller than the goods lift:

We’ve been tasked with turning it into a Mobile Fun Factory: a structure that can rove around the atrium space of the arts centre and be used to display the products of the summer workshops, as well as being a playful thing in its own right.


First step: a ginormous brainstorm to figure out what a Mobile Fun Factory might be…


Second step: breaking out the cardboard and gaffa tape!

We’ve moved on a bit since that first cardboard maquette built in March. For a bunch of people who, for the most part, had barely even met before, it’s turned out to be a formidable team. I’m also in the role of project manager, so it’s my job to keep an eye on these things, and my considered opinion is that these guys have some truly formidable making skills. HIRE THEM!

As we slowly get closer to completion, here are a few images from the build process so far…


An early sketch. The final Fun Factory won’t be entirely dissimilar to this…


Fettling new plates for the new castors


Yellow is the colour of Fun

top accumulations

Possibly the sexiest assemblage of soil pipe ever.


Seekrit bunker


Testing the camera feed

periscope simulator

Periscope simulator

secret cinema

The Secret Cinema starts to take shape…

We’re pretty much onto the final assemblage of component parts now, so hopefully the Mobile Fun Factory should be mobile and fun soon.

fun button

Hacking The Public

Last weekend I took part in The Public’s experimental Gallery Hack Camp event. Experimental in that they’ve never hosted anything like this before and also, well, it’s a bunch of creative people in a space – we’re going to end up trying stuff out!

First up: rearrange the letters. GRAHAM CAKELY PLC. That’ll do nicely.

Second up: respect The Public’s attitude towards caffeine.

Third up: a tour of the 230 metre long gallery ramp that we had been invited to tweak and re-imagine.

++th up: IDEAS!

Eventually the ebb and flow of conversations settled down into coagulations around ideas. Kim, Alyson and I set off in search of cracks and crevices to leverage towards exciting, secretive, human-scaled experiences. This involved some impromptu den-making and a certain amount of static electricity…

Eventually the gravitational pull of the ramp drew us back in to what had been most people’s first response to the ramp: by some administrative oversight, the ramp is currently without a marble run. Shocking!

We fixed that.

like marbles; but BIGGER

We only had a few hours making time, but we managed to scrump some interesting materials from various boxes, shelves and cupboards. We by this time being Kim, Dave and I.

I think we had a nice demo mix of mechanical and electrical going on with chutes, a bicycle wheel paddle wheel, drumroll, unfeasibly large alarm clock, fire bell and Christmas lights all either affecting or responding to the golf balls along their journey.

Things got a little eratic after we relocated from the camp HQ to the ramp, but I think the power of these things is all in the build. Remember the Improbable Machine?

marbles from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

It’s got me thinking a lot about the use (or not) of prototypes in settings like this. I think I’d like to be able to engage with imperfection more.

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