THE HELLO SHENZHEN EXPERIENCE
15 May 2017
For three weeks in March, we were joined by Dr Wen Wen from Shenzhen University as part of the Hello Shenzhen bilateral exchange programme, which aims to build stronger links between UK and Chinese making practices.
We asked Wen Wen and Andrew Sleigh, who headed up the residency at Lighthouse, to tell us about their experience of taking part in the exchange and about the maker spaces they visited in Brighton and across the UK.
Andrew: “We started this project with the idea that we should map the networks of makerspaces, suppliers, buildings, and partners that shape the making ecosystems in Brighton and Shenzhen.
“In many conversations about making, we gloss over these questions and assume we all want the same thing, but in fact there is great diversity in cultures between – and within – each country. There is a huge opportunity for collaboration here, but to be successful, we need to find common language and common ground.”
Wen: “The most important thing I learnt is different perspectives. My interest is more likely to be at the macro level, the relations between the maker culture and the creative economy. I think Andrew’s interest, and that of some of the UK researchers, is more on an individual basis, like crafts and sustainability. These are quite different from China’s, but very interesting perspectives for me to look at.
“One lightbulb moment is when we figured out our common ground on crafts and sustainability. For myself, as a researcher, I’d like to write about the tradition and innovation of the maker movement in the UK in the context of a rich history of arts, crafts, and design. During my visit to the New England House, I was quite surprised by the clustering of professional makers and creative businesses. I guess in the UK, makers and the creative economy are already interwoven.
“I hope Andrew can come to Shenzhen, then I can show him around and have conversations with the local maker communities.”
HELLO SHENZHEN VISITS
Maker Assembly Edinburgh – 3 March
Maker Assembly brings people together to have a critical conversation about the cultures of making – its meaning, politics, history and future. Wen and other Hello Shenzhen participants joined representatives from the UK, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico and Ukraine to discuss and to share their knowledge, skills and experiences in this special international edition, co-produced by Lighthouse.
London Maker Mile Tour – 6 March
London’s Maker Mile, launched in 2015, is a square mile of open workshops, hardware startups, architects and studios in London.
University of Brighton Fablab – 8 March
Open access workshop FabLab provided the perfect space for Wen to give an introduction to her work as Director of the Programmes Department at the Cultural Industry Research Institute of Shenzhen University and her research on the cultural and creative industry, urban culture economy and maker culture. It was a great opportunity to get to know the local maker community, make new connections and check out some sites to visit.
Young Animators Studio Screening, Lighthouse – 13 March
The Young Animators Studio was an eight-week course for 8-12 year olds run by Curiosity Hub Young Animators Studio in partnership with Lighthouse. Wen attended the closing event to watch a showcase of the young animators final films.
Sussex University, Q Method trial – 15 March
Wen contributed to a project run by researchers from Sussex University, testing a research methodology which explores the connection between making and happiness.
Build Brighton Tour – 16 March
Along with other Shenzhen makers, Wen visited the Build Brighton communal workshop to meet the makers, designers, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers and artists who work there.
Amberley Working Museum– 19 March
The Amberley Working Museum is dedicated to the industrial heritage of the South East. The visit helped Wen understand the origins of contemporary maker culture in the UK.
New England House Tour – 20 March
New England House in Brighton is home to a variety of organisations including digital media companies, magazines, a French bakery, and practitioners of life drawing and ceramics. Wen took a tour of Brighton’s ‘vertical factory’ hosted by Matt Weston of Spacemakers an organisation that creates projects, publications and interventions to regenerate cities, buildings and spaces.
Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex – 21 March
The Science Policy Research Unit, based at the University of Sussex, is a leading centre of interdisciplinary research on science, technology and innovation policy.
Field, Brighton – 21 March
Based in Brighton, Field is a hub for start-ups that design and make physical products.
Rodhus, Brighton – 21 March
Rodhus studio workspaces to creatives. It aims to empower entrepreneurial designers and engineers, and to cultivate a vibrant community which thrives on the free exchange of ideas.
Impact Hub, Westminster – 23 March
At the closing event at Impact Hub, the UK hosts and their residents showcased their individual experiences of taking part in the exchange.
Photo: Upfront Photography
Watch British Council’s interview with Wen Wen and Andrew Sleigh about the residency.
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