Friday, 9 September 2011

Fun at the Faire

OK, it's been a while. You can see my enthusiasm for this project is waning somewhat but here we go again. Oh, and it gets a bit potty mouthed when I talk about parking in Brighton - those of a fluffy disposition may wish to skip that bit - I shall warn you in advance!

The bank holiday weekend was rather bad. Despite my optimism that it would be better, it wasn't. I had headaches and depression for most of the three days and I really couldn't be arsed to do any work. I had plenty to do for a change and getting it out of the way would have made me feel a lot better. But it was useless so I stayed in bed or wasted my time on the internet.

I was going to go down to Lydden circuit on the Monday to watch the Rally-X events and to say 'hi' to the Project Mobility 4x4 guys that were featured on Top Gear. I wanted to take some action shots of the cars and maybe some pictures of the lads for their publicity. It wasn't to be though and I felt upset that I couldn't be bothered to go out and enjoy myself.

The weekend wasn't all bad news though, Henry Dagg, a good friend of mine, phoned and asked if I'd like to go down to the Brighton Mini Maker Faire the next weekend. I jumped at the offer as I'd always wanted to attend one of these events. Henry had been invited to play his saw at an evening concert after the show and, as he doesn't drive, he asked me to come along. Excellent! Here was a great chance to get out of the house and meet real people doing amazing things. My spirits were lifted for the rest of the week in anticipation.

There was work for me to do during the week and I managed to get it done and was able to pay a couple of bills in the process. Woo. I am a tiger.

Saturday! Road trip!

I picked Henry up in the morning and suggested that he put his busking gear in the van - just in case. It turned out to be a good idea as it happens.

After a few delays on the motorways we arrived in sunny Brighton. It must have been 20 years since I was last there and had good memories of it, apart from forgetting where I parked my car in one of the multitude of identi-kit NCP structures. I had the SatNav on but, as usual, in built-up areas it directed me slightly too late to make turnings without slamming on the brakes. It didn't matter though because it soon corrected and after going the long way round we found the Brighton Dome. Just up the road was an NCP hell hole and I dived in as it was nice and close.

There was no tariff displayed on the road though and I didn't see what proved later to be a small sign at the ticket barrier. It didn't take long to find a (small) space and we parked. I get really annoyed with designers of car parks because the bays are always at right angles to the direction of traffic. This means that there is a lot of shuffling about to get into the tight bays because the access roads are also too narrow. If only they were at an angle, then you could just drive straight in - no problem. Of course you might lose a few bays and that would eat into profits.

There were no instructions on the ticket or signs in the car park to say how, when or where you should pay so I thought 'sod it' and we made our way back to the Dome. It would prove to be an expensive stay.

The Maker Faire was excellent with plenty to do and see. I'll put a link to it at the end to give you a flavour. I particularly liked the Water Theremin, Jane Bom-Bane's hats, the Rep-Rap 3D printer and the Arduino stuff. I found it rather claustrophobic and noisy as the event proved to be much more successful than the organizers had anticipated, well over 5000 visitors. I went twice round the exhibitors just having a quick look at everything as I found it very hard to talk and listen to the people manning the stands. Meanwhile, Henry was having in-depth conversations with a few people and seemed to be enjoying himself.

We got hungry at about 2pm so went off to find food. The weather was lovely and the restaurants busy so we were lucky to find space at an Italian place. We had a reasonably priced, but slightly boring, 'hot' Americano pizza each. We ordered extra fresh chillies to make it actually hot. After the meal we went back to the van to pick up the busking gear as Henry had spotted a good pitch outside The Theatre Royal.

Henry Dagg
An enthusiastic and appreciative crowd soon gathered once Henry started playing the saw, he even sold a CD for twice the marked price - result! Henry really is a quite remarkable person, not only is he a fantastic musician on a number of diverse instruments but he is also a very skilled engineer and inventor. During his performance I spent a glorious afternoon soaking up the sun and taking photos of Henry and the passing crowd. I also got chatting to a very charming musician called Frank Holland (The Pretty Things) who was enjoying the music tremendously.

A Face in the Crowd
After playing, Henry met a friend of his and we retired to a cafe for a drink. I can't remember his name I'm afraid but we had a good talk and set the world to rights. After that it was back to NCP as it was time to make our way to The Brunswick in Hove for the concert.

Potty warning!

As we walked into the car park I finally spotted the tariff sign. 25 quid for six and a half hours parking! The rip-off bastards - I would expect a blow job as well for that kind of money. I drove to the exit barriers expecting to be able to pay with cash and saw a sign printed on the barriers, i.e. too late to do anything about it, that said don't forget to pay for your ticket! Where should I pay for a fucking ticket, where? I saw no signs or meters anywhere. Fortunately the barrier took card payments and so Henry paid for the parking. Goodbye busking money. By the way, the barrier didn't ask for a PIN, it just sucked the card in and then spat it out again with the message £25 debited. Actually that sounds rather like a Brighton blow job (so I'm told) - perhaps I should've just shoved my cock in.

How do NCP get away with this? You can't see how much you're going to pay when you drive in until you are in a queuing system that does not allow you to change your mind and park somewhere else. I've had a moan at them but the cheating money grabbing bastards can't be arsed to even acknowledge me. Cunts. I'll be talking to Brighton Council next.

Fluffy again!

Anyway, we were off to the Brunswick, we got there in plenty of time but had to search for a parking spot. There were problems but I've moaned more than enough for today.

We arrived in time for the sound check and I was fascinated by the equipment on stage: all sorts of interesting stuff. About the only instrument I recognised was a Theremin, everything else had been built by the performers themselves. I was really looking forward to this and I wasn't to be disappointed.

The venue was quite small and was packed with people by the time the concert started. The atmosphere was electric because most of the audience, I think, knew the performers quite well. The artists and audience were mainly Makers who had manned the Faire earlier. I believe I was one of only a few 'outsiders' to attend. Actually 'outsiders' is an unfair word to use as everybody I met all day was friendly and chatty and keen to get people involved in what they were doing. I sat on the same table as a bloke that made underwater robots - how cool is that!

There was such a range of music performed that night that I can't do it justice by writing about it. I have put links at the end that you can follow if you want a taster. Some acts stand out as favourites though:

Jane Bom-Bane at the harmonium singing songs illustrated with marvellous mechanical hats.
The Sawchestra, an amazing group of saw players and accompanying musicians.
Spacedog with the lovely Angliss sisters, Sarah and Jenny - beautiful Theremin and singing and slightly unsettling robots.
The quite extraordinary Thomas Truax with a collection of home-made instruments that your ears will simply not believe.

Jane Bom-Bane

Sarah Angliss

Thomas Truax
If you are in any way creative, I urge you to explore the work of these artists and the other Makers involved - truly inspiring.

Unfortunately the concert had to come to an end but we stayed on for some time and chatted to several people including Sarah Angliss who was quite fascinating (thanks for the drink too, Sarah). The pub was extremely noisy and I had trouble with the conversations though, so I was a bit quiet and uncommunicative.

I enjoy taking photos at music events, maybe I could (not so) subtly hint that I would love it if I could take pictures at concerts in the south-east involving the musicians at the Maker Faire Party. Please leave a comment if you'd like that.

I have rambled on at some length now so it's time to stop. Thanks to everyone at the Faire for a grand day out.

OK, quite a few links to share:

Sorry if I've forgotten anybody.

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