At Dave Haslam’s Big Regeneration Debate this week – Owen Hatherley asserted that Manchester’s fortune was founded on punk and labour politics, and ironically, these movements fueled the ‘orgy of property spend’ that drove the city’s growth. I would suggest that Manchester’s cool is no longer about rockstars, shopping or the ‘Cold Feet’ of Didsbury – it’s about the geek, the developer, the hacker.
I think of the beautiful Hwa Young Jung as Manchester’s ‘Geek Mother’. A co-founder of MadLab, the Manchester Digital Laboratory, Hwa and her partners Dave, Asa and Rachel, personally committed to develop a community resource and haven for hackers, artists, and enthusiasts of all kinds in the heart of the Northern Quarter.
In a former life, with Manchester: Knowledge Capital, I was pleased to support this quartet’s bid to the DIUS Learning Transformation Fund - and although that seed funding’s now come to an end, I’m excited that they’re still innovating learning provision for the digital and creative sector.
In February MadLab launched the Omniversity of Manchester. The guys have used their networks and great reputation to a develop training programme delivered by real industry experts, who are each leaders in their field.
Courses to date have included beginners guide to Arduino, physical computing and internet of things, experimental film making and web design foundations but you can go online and request a course that will be relevant to your needs *right now*, and in the future.
The relevance and agility is the main strength of the Omniversity – there are no long lead times to secure funding, or print prospectuses – a key issue in this technologically pacey time. As they explain:
“You’ll learn the insights that only well-versed industry experts can know. You’ll be learning things other institutions will not be providing for a few years, at the very least, or aren’t economically viable for them to offer.”
So today, I’m pleased to present Hwa Young Jung’s ‘Five on a Friday’. I hope it helps you get to know her, and you’ll feel free to call into one of their many events. You don’t need to be a hacker, just drop by, there’ll always be a welcome…
C: Why did you guys set up the MadLab?
We used to love the informal networking events around London – things like Dorkbot brought together a massively diverse range of clever, crazy, successful and dangerous people to talk about projects. We saw this was missing in Manchester, and that there were no visible locus for activities and non-commercial practices to develop. The whole aim has been to support ideas and practices, and create a coalition of the doing. Or a youth club for adults, as we sometimes call it.
C: So what’s been happening in MadLab this week?
Pancake Day at the MadLab! We’re running a monthly open day to bring together the communities here – this time, over pancakes – so they can share ideas, talk about what they’re up to, and catch up without having to worry about running an event themselves. It’s been a great way for people to let their hair down and hang out with other people they may not usually bump into.
C: Who inspires you, and who would be your dream Omniversity lecturer?
Dave Mee’s dog hat inspires me. It reminds me that you can look ridiculous & still sometimes make sense.
I would love to get Tim Hunkin to teach at the Omniversity! He was a hovering special guest at our last Robot Hackday during Manchester Science Festival 2010. Tim was knowledgeable, approachable, and modest. He has a wonderfully imaginative approach to everyday objects.
C: What have you seen this week that has inspired you?
PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew is a cute game taking traditional purist game mechanics and making a one button – or sound – interface for it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UIscqAspVs
C: You must have seen the ResignLondon debates – Why is Manchester your home?
Because it’s small enough to get on with it and not be caught. Large enough there’s people around to make it possible to make a meaningful difference.