Imagining Community Futures and Utopias


Maker-Centric is one of a series of participatory arts research projects across the UK that are funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Connected Communities programme. This year the 2016 Research Festival takes the theme of community futures and utopias to mark the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s influential text. Maker-Centric brings community participants together to speculate on and imagine ideal futures through the lens of heritage, place and the act of making.

A partnership between Craftspace, the University of Wolverhampton and Soho House Museum, the project involved participants aged 50+ in Handsworth, Birmingham. Soho House was home to the Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton. and was also the regular meeting place for The Lunar Society, a leading Enlightenment group. They exchanged ideas, discussed philosophy and conducted experiments, aiming to bring science, culture and commerce together to imagine and enable a better future.

Taking inspiration from Boulton and his colleagues, Maker-Centric drew on locality, heritage objects and memories from the past to stimulate thinking about future communities both utopian and dystopian. Artist Melanie Tomlinson and story teller Gauri Raje helped the group create their own vision of a future society in urban Handsworth through story-telling and collaborative making.

Participants worked together to produce a contemporary praxinoscope (an early form of animation). They utilised a combination of drawing, painting and metalwork. The group had a session at Fab Lab West Bromwich  based at Sandwell College to make digital laser cut elements.

A central aim of the project is to enable community groups to become more involved in, and connected with, their futures through creative means by utilising local heritage and digital resources. The project will showcase at the Utopia Festival at Somerset House in London from 24th to 26th June 2016. In the following months, a range of participants will be involved in a community sharing event, an exhibition at Soho House Museum, a Learning Lab event and a display and workshop for Birmingham Open Heritage Day in September.

Follow the project on twitter #makercentric

Maker-Centric is led by Deirdre Figueiredo, Director of Craftspace and supported by Dr Fiona Hackney, Professor Fashion & Textiles Theories from the University of Wolverhampton and Hannaa Hamdache, Creative Producer at Craftspace funded by the  Weston Jerwood creative bursaries.

Lead Artist Melanie Tomlinson

Story teller Gauri Raje

Film maker John Humphreys

Artist producing files for laser cutting Antonio Roberts

Designer for display Joseph Welden

Leaflet design Kerry Leslie

With thanks to Anne Scrimshaw, Fab Lab West Bromwich at Sandwell College

With thanks to all the participants and collaborators

The finished praxinoscope:

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