A story of makers, artists, people

My name is Mark. I’m a knife maker but also like to work on other projects involving design and crafts. I live on Athol Road with my wife; my daughter moved out a few years ago. We have a small basement where I have been working for the past 30 years after converting it into a workshop and even though I got used to it and love having my own space, I feel that it sets limitations to my work, as it is too small. So, when a few members of the community of Norton Hammer invited us to a community meeting to discuss the future of our neighbourhood, I thought it was a good opportunity to share and discuss some ideas that I had in mind.

The meeting took place at the Climbing Works, where the staff generously offered the space for the meeting and I was really excited to find out that there are many other artists and makers like myself living and working in the area. The main concern of the community is that the area has lost its sense of community and it could be so much more. So we all decided it would be a good idea to gather as many of us as we could and have another meeting where we could all give suggestions for improvement. Somebody told us that he knew an architect that could help and would love to attend the next meeting and work with the community.

Last Saturday we all met at the Climbing Works for our second meeting; there were almost a hundred of us this time. Each person had their own ideas about simple hacks, modifications, additions and crafts that could really make a positive change, others had more complicated ideas in mind. We all agreed that we need more usable green areas and a café or restaurant where we can meet and relax during our free time or to take a break from work- after all there are many hard-working people in the area who deserve it. We would also all love to make more use of the river and clean the area. We are meeting next week to start doing that and we will all help out any way we can for repairs and improvement of the existing infrastructure.

Some of the business owners and employees that attended the meeting suggested that they need space for exhibitions to promote their businesses and bring more people to the area; a lot of the artists and makers loved the idea and thought it could be very beneficial. I suggested to design or modify existing spaces to create studios in the area. This can also attract visiting artists. I was very happy to hear that many others agreed. Hopefully we’ll get some funding from the government; many of us are thinking of investing or donating- after all it’s our neighbourhood.

We asked the architect whether it would be possible to design a building for exhibitions and maybe some meeting spaces and a café. She liked the idea and we started thinking together about possible sites for the building. She started working on a few sketches and will keep working with us to offer as much as we can so that we will all design it together. Many of us will also help with the construction at a later stage, but will probably need to hire an experienced team- we’re good, but not that good. Designers and artists have already started thinking about spatial interventions throughout the area. As I see it, the process will involve the formation of small and larger groups that will keep changing at different stages; there are many people willing to get involved. We all know it’s not going to be easy- there are many obstacles and difficulties and I’m sure many more will arise. But we also know that we can do it; I’ll keep you updated as it progresses. Oh, I forgot to mention, we’re calling the project M.A.P. It stands for Makers-Artists-People (I came up with it!)


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