Updated April 2021
Norwich Hackspace is a community of like-minded people who, through face-to-face meetups, project shares, workshops and an online Slack team where we communicate and discuss ideas and projects. We decided to grow slow and steady and now have about 60 members on average with new members joining even through lockdown.
In August 2016 we got the keys to our very own premises - at Lion House, St George’s Works, Muspole Street in Norwich. We started with minimal equipment but we had two essentials – a Just Add Sharks A2 Greyfin laser cutter, an Ultimaker 2 3D printer. Since then, we have been working hard to build up our armoury of tools and we have added a Wanhao D7 resin printer which we have recently upgraded with a newer model . We now have a good selection of equipment, from the laser cutter and 3D printer, to a mortiser, metal mill and lathes plus lots of handtools, a welder, a vinyl cutter and an electronics area.
The space is spread over several rooms, including a wood and metal workshop, a ‘clean’ workshop for less messy activities (including the lasercutter), a main room where non-dusty activity such as electronics and general projects, workshops etc take place and a 3D printing room. We also have a storage area, where members have boxes to store materials, components and projects for use at the hackspace. All of this has been put together by members on a voluntary basis - and by combining our knowledge we’ve achieved quite a lot.
Members work on their own projects, in small groups or on group projects or challenges. We share knowledge, equipment and skills.
At the space we have a small stock of laser-safe plywood and acrylic, 3D printing filament and electronic components available to buy in the Hackspace shop, as well as a selection of drinks and snacks. A current project is the restoration of two vending machines - we hope to furnish these with a variety of electronic and mechanical components for members to purchase.
We have now taken on a second space, part of a large workshop nearby where members can weld and and work with metal - a forge and experimental casting facilities. Metalspace is in a building on the St Mary's Works site on the other side of Duke Street, Norwich and is currently being organised and equipped. Use of the Metalspace is subject to an induction and not generally available to new members unless they are experienced with metalworking equipment
To make a hackspace work well so that it is safe and pleasant to use as well as being able to accommodate a wide range of interests, it needs some management. From the experience of other hackspaces, it works best if the responsibility for management and maintenance is shared by its members.
The hackspace is a community where individuals take responsibility for the hackspace as a whole and everyone is involved in improving the space. To make decision-making viable, there is a small team of Core Team members who are entrusted to listen to the members and makes decisions accordingly. An Admin Team of three members look after the day-to-day running and make smaller decisions on behalf of the members and Core Team. We also have Lead Maintainers who have agreed to take responsibility for a particular area or activity because they have some expertise*. We use the app Slack to communicate with each other when we are not physically in the space and that enables us to discuss decisions, ideas and plans - and make decisions. The Admin and Core team members are long-term members who know the space and running issues well but welcome contributions from all members, especially events, workshops, projects which enhance the value of the space to members.
There are house rules which new members agree to when they join. We aim to keep rules to a minimum, ensuring the safe running of the hackspace whilst allowing maximum freedom. New members are introduced gradually to the space so they learn what is acceptable practice and how we do things. People are ultimately responsible for their own safety and that of other members too.
*they are not legally responsible however
The hackspace of course has costs - rent, bills, insurance, purchasing equipment and materials etc. We fund the hackspace core costs through monthly member subs as we think this gives us a more sustainable future than depending on public funding. We occasionally apply for funding for specific equipment or projects but our basic income is from membership. We have been lucky enough to have been offered a favourable lease by developers and entrepreneurs Our Place who are developing the areas either side of Duke Street in Norwich. This has enabled us to get started and keep the Hackspace running without having to grow too large. We expect to be able to use our premises for the foreseeable future on a rolling lease, fingers crossed.
Our current membership subscription is a minimum of £15 a month and some members pay more if they can afford to or if they use the space a lot. We have a bank account and the money is used to pay the basic costs and to enable us to invest in materials and equipment whilst we save as much as we can for the future when we may need to pay a more commercial rate of rent..
We have been supported by Our Place who are our landlords and give us a very favourable rent on our premises and also Town Close Trust Estates Charity who gave us money to buy our lasercutter and to basically equip the space. Our webspace is sponsored by Fred Cohen at Quickfire Digital https://www.quickfiredigital.co.uk/ and we have subsidised broadband through Red5 Networks, suppliers of business broadband http://www.r5n.co.uk/
In addition to our main premises we rent space in another large workshop nearby at St Mary's Works. This is to enable metal-based work such as welding, forge-work, casting etc. in safe conditions. We have recently invested in more equipment and safety gear. Metalspace is available to all members although an induction is required and special arrangements for access (go to Slack to arrange)
As well as equipment bought by the Hackspace, we also sometimes buy through pledges. Pledges are basically the same as a crowdfunder such as Kickstarter. The monthly subs pay for the regular running costs of the hackspace but pledges pay for one off equipment purchases. If enough members want something, a member creates a pledge for a new bit of kit, say 3D printer costing £500 and once that target is reached (say 10 members might pledge £50) the printer would be bought and become owned by the hackspace for use by all members. We have recently bought a milling machine that way. The whole membership needs a consensus to buy larger pieces of equipment as we have limited space, even if only a proportion of members contribute. We also often get donations of equipment or agree to buy from hackspace funds if we feel we can.
As well as the website we have a Meetup group of over 720 people who are interested in the hackspace but are not necessarily fully-fledged, paid-up members who attend the space. It is a good way to keep in touch with the Hackspace if you are not ready to become a full member. We also have a Facebook page @norwichhackspace and a Twitter account.
For longer term storage of documents and project info we have a Wiki which all members can access and update.