Author: amcewen

"What Sorts of Epic Should We Enable?"

Two mugs on a table.  One shows the DoES Liverpool logo, and the other has a three-step plan for success: 1. Do epic _____; 2. Tell people about it; 3. Go to step 1.  It cycles through a list of epic step 1s: startups; CNC; meetups; design; research; art...

DoES Liverpool wants to help people do epic work, whatever that work might be.

It’s a noble aim; but how do we go about enabling and supporting that?

It’s something I was thinking about when reading Bottling Lightning, an essay from Ben Reinhardt thinking about how research institutions should be structured.

DoES Liverpool isn’t a research institute, at least it’s not just a research institute. However, it is somewhere where we collectively play midwife to the future world we want to inhabit.

At different times, and for different people it can ba an art school; a startup incubator; a workshop; a salon; a research lab…

As Reinhardt says:

Context plays a large role, not just in what people think is important, but for the sorts of ideas people have in the first place. Context is a frustratingly nebulous term that I won’t even attempt to circumscribe. When thinking about research ideas, there are two key aspects of context that are worth focusing on: the culture someone swims in and the resources that they believe to be at their disposal.

Culture and resources. Two key elements that make DoES Liverpool unique.

What sort of doing do we want to enable? What is nobody else helping, but that they should? What would that help look like?

What tools should we make available? David Lang talks about supply shocks, where ready access to new tools or supplies unlocks new uses and discoveries because they get into the hands of communities who wouldn’t normally have access. We’ve done a great job of that, first with laser-cutting, and now with an increasing set of other technologies. What should we add to that list? Who else might we take these “supply shocks” to?

One way that DoES Liverpool is radically different from most institutions is that it doesn’t have any funding, and barely has any staff. The only people who can make any of this happen are the community. Naturally, the community should also get to choose what happens.

Lots of these choices happen from the day-to-day doing of work on projects, and the informal (and occasionally more formal) collaborations that come out of being in the community and the space.

Every now and then it’s good to take a step back and look at the space and the community as a whole. At DoES Liverpool we call that future-gazing.

You can read the notes from the last session on the Wiki; it’s a convivial group brainstorming and exploration session.

A printed floorplan of DoES Liverpool surrounded by three concentric circles. On top of the printout assorted building blocks and post-it notes are arranged, explaining different elements of possible futures

We’re gathering again for our next session on Wednesday, 10th August 2022, from 6:30pm, in the DoES Liverpool events space. There will be pies. If you’re part of the community, you should come along. (And there’s probably room for the odd interloper too, if you’re nearby and interested…)

"What is DoES Liverpool — presenting to the Fabric District Board"

Earlier this year we had the opportunity to present what we’re doing to the members of Fabric District Board. The board leads the Fabric District CIC, which exists to help shape the area of Liverpool that DoES Liverpool calls home.

Hardly any of the presentation is specific to that meeting, so we thought it would make sense to share it here. These are the slides and notes from when we prepared it, so don’t reflect what we said on the day word for word.

This is DoES Liverpool

Hello, I’m Adrian McEwen, one of the directors of DoES Liverpool. Two of the other directors, Jackie Pease and John McKerrell, are also here. Thanks for letting us share what we’re up to.

DoES Liverpool (2011)

DoES Liverpool started back in 2011, down on Hanover Street. We’re a makerspace, a co-working space, and an events space.

The makerspace side was pretty small at first; this photo shows all of our kit: one 3D printer and a soldering iron…

DoES Liverpool (2018)

In 2018 we moved into the Tapestry, doubling our space (four times what it was in 2011)

A space run by the community.  For the community.  Paid for by the community

We don’t have any external funding. It’s paid for by the members, to provide the space and kit that they want.

We’ve got a bit more stuff now…


3D printers

CNC mills

CNC embroidery machine

Electronics kit

Knitting machines

Sewing machines

And we’re not just a place for making physical things. Just as important is the…

Office space

…space for co-working and for small businesses to start and grow.

Meeting rooms

So we also have meeting rooms for meeting clients, or jumping on a video call.

Events space

There’s an events space that’s free to use for free, open, community events (and for hire at pretty reasonable rates outside that); including a projector and PA.

And we host all sorts of events

Repair café

Such as the monthly Repair Café (third Sunday each month) where you can get help fixing all manner of things

Maker Night

Or the weekly Maker Night which provides free access to everything in the workshop.

Linux User Group

A variety of tech (and non-tech) meetups, like the Liverpool Linux User Group

Plastic Playgroup

Some of which, like the Plastics Playgroup, are more hands-on.

'Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene.  It is the communal form of the concept of the genius' Brian Eno

We want all sorts of people to use DoES Liverpool. We know that a diverse community of more than just geeks and techies will bring greater benefit to all of us.

Rather than give you loads of numbers of people who’ve used the space, etc. I want to give some examples of the folk in the community…


Startups like Axon Vibe, who make an iPhone transit app.

Product designers

Product designers like Jade Noon Designs.


Spin-outs like Aeternum, who’ve expanded downstairs in the Tapestry, making air quality sensors.

Remote workers

We’ve had people working remotely since we started, like Zarino who works for the charity My Society.


Artists, such as Laura Pullig.

All ages

And people of all ages, like Baylee here who came and 3D printed herself a new prosthetic hand.

Not just geeks

As I said, we don’t just want to be a space for geeks and techies. Society isn’t just made up of geeks and techies, and we’d like to be just as diverse.


We haven’t had one since the pandemic started, as it’s been trickier to get us all into a room together, but we periodically hold our “Future-gazing” sessions, where we brainstorm ideas and thoughts about how we’d like the community to evolve and what sort of impact we’d like to make to the lives of community members; to the Fabric District and Liverpool and the rest of the World.

What DoES stands for

After the last session we drafted our set of DoES Liverpool Values. In typical DoES Liverpool style we got on with doing things first, and wrote the manifesto later.

Space to grow?  More workshop space.  More co-working.  More separate offices.  Meanwhile use?

Getting back to the future, we’ve been wondering about ways that Fabric District Board might be able to help our plans. We’re really happy here in the Tapestry — it’s been a fantastic move for us — but we’re also running out of space, and there isn’t (currently) any other room available in the Tapestry for us to expand into.

With more space we could do more of what we currently do, but it could unlock new facilities too — expanding our wood- and metal-workshops would be excellent; maybe there’d be room for screenprinting; or a kiln…

Are there any spaces available in the area? We might even be open to buying somewhere, or at the opposite end of the scale taking somewhere on a meanwhile use basis.

Thank you.

The DoES Liverpool three-step plan for success: 1. Do Epic _____ 2. Tell people about it  3. Go to step 1

"Accessing DoES Liverpool During COVID-19"

A lot has happened since our last update on how we’re handling the pandemic at DoES Liverpool (including the community helping to keep NHS staff and key workers across the North-West safe by supplying over 24,000 visors!).  We hope you’re staying safe and keeping well.

With the visor project winding down (although still supplying visors to anyone who needs them) and the Government starting to slightly ease the lockdown we’ve been looking at how to reconfigure the space for better social distancing.

Our recommendation is still to work from home wherever possible, and only visit the space if you need to use the equipment which isn’t available elsewhere or collect post or other items.

Our landlord, Jason, has installed hand sanitizer stations in the communal areas for people to use on arrival.   We have handwash in the toilets and handwash and disinfectant in the kitchen area.  You should wash your hands immediately on arrival at the space, and wipe down any desk areas or equipment that you use at the start and end of your visit.

To help with social distancing we’re restricting access to some areas of the space.

Restricted Occupancy Areas

Everywhere is still usable, but certain areas where there is less room should only be used by one person (or people from one household) at a time.  These areas are marked with signs, like this one on the CNC room:

Door with "COVID19 maximum occupancy 1 person" sign

The restricted areas are:

  • The laser-cutter room (we have taken Sophia off the bookings calendar for now so that the room doesn’t get double-booked, but either cutter can be used)
  • The CNC room
  • The kitchen
  • The recess with the vinyl cutters and sublimation printer
  • The corner workshop desk and textiles area
  • The corner workshop desk and electronics workbench

These last two areas are marked out with tape on the floor, and are chosen so that you can either use the workshop desk or you can use the equipment (knitting machines, soldering irons, etc.), but there shouldn’t be someone at both at the same time.


Given that our desks are too close together to allow people to maintain a 2 metre separation when sat at adjacent or opposing desks, people should stagger the desks they use relative to others.

To make that easier for people hot-desking, we have taped off some of the desks which shouldn’t be used.

Desk criss-crossed with tape to show it shouldn't be used

And have marked out the desks which are available for hot-deskers to work from like this:

Desk with a "Desk Available" sign

People with permanent desks are welcome to use their normal desk, and in most cases this fits in with the marking out of hot-desks that we’ve done.

However, in some cases you’d end up sitting next to, or opposite, another person at a desk.  If that happens, please work with each other to work out a sensible option.  Either using one of the other available hot-desks, or asking the person if they can move instead.

Finally, where possible open the windows to keep the space well ventilated.

If you have any questions about access, or any other issues relating to this, email  We are responding to communications, but only staffing the space on an ad-hoc, only-when-necessary basis.

As part of our preparation of the space, we developed the DoES Liverpool COVID specific risk assessment, which is reviewed on an ongoing basis as the situation evolves.

"The DoES Liverpool Three-step Plan for Success"
Mug showing the three-step plan animating through

Step One: Do Epic Sh**

Do. Lots of people talk about amazing things, but then don’t make a start on them. We want to focus on and encourage the doing.

Doing is hard. We’re a community that helps and supports each other to do. We understand that sometimes it’s you pushing forward while someone else answers emails or empties the bins, because next week it’ll be the other way round.

Everyone wants to save the earth, but nobody wants to help with the dishes.

Photo: Copyright Dr. Laura James

DoES Liverpool isn’t providing a service to customers who pay us money, we’re a community that spreads its costs between its members.  Recognising, appreciating and acknowledging that all that behind-the-scenes, less sexy support work is what allowed the epic headline-grabbing sh** to happen.

What do we mean when we say “epic sh**”?

Julian experimenting with new control systems for CNC mills; Hex Ceramic developing new techniques for clay-work using laser-cutters; Patrick helping social enterprises to thrive; Ross scattering card reading stations along Hadrian’s Wall to build a distributed RFID card text adventure; Baylee coming along to 3D print herself a new prosthetic hand; Jax helping others level-up at coding through Ladies of Code Liverpool…

As you can see, “epic sh**” is many things to many people. It matters less what everyone else thinks about what you’re doing, and more that you’re pushing yourself into new ground.

Step Two: Tell People About it

If you’re putting the effort in to do the work, you owe it to yourself to tell people about it. This is often as hard, if not harder, than doing the work but it’s important.

At the very least, post something about it to any social media accounts where you hang out (if that’s Twitter then include “#weeknotes” so it will get picked up and shared in the next weekly blog post).  If it’s something you can take a picture of, or film a short video of it in action.  Show the thing.

Social media is great for short-term sharing, but things quickly disappear into the stream.  The next step is to have some sort of home on the Internet where you can collect things.  That could be a portfolio website or a blog, whichever is easier for you to set up.  Having your own domain is even better because it gives you some protection for when you need to change the underlying service.  If I want to recommend you to someone, or show them your projects, I should be able to send them a link; not suggest they sift through your social media profile looking for the important bits.

Make the time to write up a blog post about the project at the end. Get into the habit of taking photos and videos of things as they progress. Write things yourself and find your own voice, or make room in the budget to pay someone to film it or write about it for you. Or both.

It’s not about Marketing, at least not what anyone imagines when they think about marketing with a big M. It’s just about talking to people about what you do. Don’t worry about repeating yourself, just find different ways to talk about and show what you do rather than posting the same tweet again and again. We’re humans, not robots.

We’re also a community. One full of people doing amazing work.

We should support each other in sharing our work.  Remind and encourage each other to post photos or write things up.  Shout about others’ achievements: it’s always easier to talk about someone else’s work than your own, so we should do that for each other.  It’s not about mindless retweets, but sharing good work and interesting projects when you see them.

Step Three: Go to Step One.

Success isn’t about discovering “this one neat trick” to short-cut the work.  It is built on lots of small steps and achievements.  The next big thing is a lot of small things.

"Liverpool Hannah Directory Collection Point Launch"

Join us for the launch of a Hannah Directory collection point at DoESLiverpool. Over the next few months our community will help distribute the sixth edition of Hannah Directory, which launches during the week of Monday November 25th 2019.

In the afternoon of Friday the 29th November, Andrew Wilson will be delivering our batch of Directories which anyone can come and collect from our friendly co-working and makerspace and meet our community.

Hannah Directory highlights people and organisations doing great things in places in the north of England and we want our community to use the directory to build upon our links with other interesting and exciting individuals and organisations within Liverpool

DoES Liverpool exists to support people to do their best work, grow into the lives they want to lead, and to explore and create ways of working and living for the modern day in a just society; spreading making, tech, and the new possibilities of digital tools throughout Liverpool and beyond. We have a networked, rather than command-and-control, mindset which matches the ethos of the Hannah Directory. Our networks don’t just exist within the community, we link with people and organisations in other networks to achieve more collectively.

Hannah Mitchell who inspired the directory, talked of the “beauty in civic life” and for us beauty is something to watch unfold around people making things.

The six editions of the directory have so far featured well over a hundred people and organisations with the same enterprising spirit and this year it includes artists, musicians, community groups, digital technology companies, policy think tanks, a music festival and a volunteer-run cinema.

They are drawn from a huge geographical area from Barrow to Sheffield and Newcastle to Liverpool. Bringing them all together in one directory means ideas and inspiration can be exchanged between people and places in the north for the common good.


Hannah Directory is named after an inspirational figure from the north of England, Hannah Mitchell (1872–1956), a suffragette and rebel who tried to create ‘beauty in civic life’ in her work on public libraries, parks and gardens.

Images from DoESLiverpool are attached. More images are available on request.

For more information or comment contact

Twitter: @DoESLiverpool
Instagram: @DoESLiverpool
Facebook: doesliverpool

For more information or comment on Hannah Directory contact directory coordinator Andrew Wilson on

Twitter: @hannahfestival
Facebook: hannahfestival
Instagram: hannah_directory

"Civil Society and the Fourth Industrial Revolution"

Last week I spent a day at FACT, attending the #LabOfLabs symposium that they’d convened with Leeds University’s Cultural Institute. We explored what cultural labs are, what they could be, and how we might better connect them (and those of us involved with things-a-bit-like-a-lab).

As part of the proceedings some of us gave Ignite-style presentations (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide) responding to the brief of “my lab is special because…”

I tried to capture the essence of DoES Liverpool’s cross-section-of-society where we have professionals and hobbyists, learners and experts, techies and makers and neither-techies-nor-makers; our enthusiasm-tempered-with-critical-thinking for new technologies; and our space run by and for the community, and paid for by the community.

However, I’m not sure I did the best job at it, although it did result in this ace animated gif!

A pair of DoES Liverpool mugs cycling through a series of completions of the phrase 'Do epic...', ...writing, ...3D printing, ...research, ...code, etc.

One of the points raised during the day was that we should focus less on numbers and outputs, and tell more stories about what the people in our “labs” get up to (and go on to do).

I’m all for that. At the end of the day, in the Twitter stream for the #LabOfLabs hashtag, Steve Dobson shared this tweet:

It occurred to me that my instinctive response to that—the thought that Nesta need to hang out at DoES Liverpool more—provides a perfect example of how “my lab” is special.

The “fourth industrial revolution” is predominantly robotics, the Internet of Things, AI and VR. Julian Todd and Martin Dunschen have been writing CNC software (that’s how your “robots” are controlled) for well over a decade and sold their company to Autodesk a few years back. I’ve been working in the Internet of Things since 2007, wrote a book on it in 2013 and am one of the leaders in that globally. Alex Lennon is a similarly experienced IoT veteran, and is also responsible for the fancy VR rig that anyone in the space can try out and use. Our AI game isn’t quite as strong, but we did bring it together with the CNC work when Chris Thompson and Jackie Pease wrote software to algorithmically generate poetry, trained on Wordsworth’s corpus, for a performance by our drawing robots.

Where civil society already meets technology the DoES community includes the people who made The Public Whip—Julian (again) and Francis Irving (although he’s recently been tempted down to London)—one of the first big civic tech projects alongside mySociety. Speaking of mySociety, two former members of the community are also former mySociety employees, and we still have Zarino Zappia, who still works for them. There’s also a wider interest in the community for civic tech, with initiatives like #CodeForLiverpool.

Moving beyond the tech, there have been discussions about the place of unions in these developments, sparked when Jackie and I attended the conference on 40 years since the Lucas Plan; a conversation that Ross Dalziel and I are continuing to pick at.

Just as importantly, we have members coming at it from the other side. Patrick Hurley provides business support to social enterprises, as well as being the local councillor who chairs the Council’s Employment Committee. Helen Campbell is a researcher helping charities assess their impact, and Steve Matthews works with social economy, sustainability and regeneration.

There aren’t formal connections or projects between all of these people, but they all share a space and a community, so the influences are small, frequent and unplanned.

The Nesta article talks about the need for new institutions to draw these strands together. In my more bullish moments I think that DoES Liverpool is one of those new institutions, which is mostly overlooked by people like Nesta because it doesn’t have the form of a traditional institution; that its network of interests and actors is the form that 21st Century institutions will take. We tend not to make such bold claims, however: judge us on what we do, not on what we say.

All that said, I do think that the DoES Liverpool community is a solution saturated with an increasingly wide range of ideas and expertise around technology, making, and society. It just needs the “right” people to join (or maybe it just needs time…) for that to crystallize into more projects and activity.

Nesta (or any other researchers/funders/civil-society-organisations…) could do far worse than coming to talk to some of us; or renting some desks to embed some more people into the space for them to tap into the expertise; or commissioning some projects to make some of those connections of influence explicit (and documented).

Not that we have to wait for anyone else. If you think you’d be a good add to the mix then you should definitely come join me and the rest of the community – Adrian.

"Festival of Maintenance slides: Culture and Tools"

Recently I gave a talk at the inaugural Festival of Maintenance. It was a day-long celebration of all things fixing and maintaining, organised in part by DoES Liverpool community members Jackie Pease and Ross Dalziel. It took place down in London, but thanks to help from Matt Croughan and Alex Lennon, it was also live streamed at DoES Liverpool.

My talk was about how we (ab)use Github issue lists to help with communication and management of all the maintenance tasks that need to be done in order to keep the space running. You can read through my slides and the notes of what I planned to say here…

Or if you’d rather watch me (and see what I actually said…) then watch this video.

The talk immediately before mine was from the Guerilla Groundsman, a civic-minded individual who has been fixing up things around Cambridge. As a result, at the end of my talk I briefly mentioned the experiment I’ve been running to take the Somebody Should issue list idea and apply it to all of Liverpool.


After the talk there was an interesting discussion on Twitter about whether Github is too geeky a tool and so a barrier to entry for non-software-developers. I didn’t get chance to join the conversation at the time, but figured I’d add some of my thoughts on it here.

I can totally understand that Github isn’t very user-friendly. I’m not especially wedded to Github itself, but I do think the issue list has some big advantages over tools focused more as to-do lists (and I say that as someone who spent a couple of years failing to build a business around a web-based to-do list tool, but thinking lots about it as a result).

We chose Github because a sizeable chunk of the community already had accounts, which reduced one of the barriers to entry during bootstrapping, and we already had some code hosted there. However I think most issue trackers would work – the Labels feature is an important one in the way we organise things (unsurprisingly that—although called “tags”—was a big feature of my to-do list app). Ditto an API for building custom scripts on top of it.

Github is far from perfect, but I think there’s a risk of the perfect being the enemy of the good enough. I also think that we should be applying the same attitude to our software tools that we do to our other tools and enhancing, reworking or replacing them where they don’t suit our particular needs. We’re taking a first step in that to improve the granularity of email notifications.

I also think there’s a balance to strike between making the system easy for non-geeks and helping the non-geeks get to grips with the system. Again, we have a culture of helping people learn how to use tools they’re not familiar with, be that a 3D printer or a hand plane. Software tools shouldn’t be any different. It’s 2018, needing some help and guidance to familiarise yourself with digital tools is fine, refusing to “do digital” is not.

"MakerNoise Talk: We Don’t Need Another Hero"

At the start of the month I was over at Edge Hill University along with a bunch of others from the DoES Liverpool community (including some of the conference organisers!) and a host of others interested in making and education, for the MakerNoise conference.

I gave a talk about maker culture and how it’s important to pay attention to that, as well as the shiny tools, when setting up a makerspace.  You can read my slides and notes below…

"Maker Brunch on Sunday 1st July"

The main room at DoES Liverpool

A couple of months back, when he was visiting to help us fit out the new DoES Liverpool space with a stint of floor-scrubbing, Jo Hinchliffe and I were discussing the wider maker community and reckoned it would be good if there were more opportunities for us makers to just meet up and hang out.

With Liverpool MakeFest coming up that gave us a perfect chance to host a get together.

So, on the Sunday after MakeFest (let’s hope heads aren’t too sore after the Saturday evening after-party here at DoES too) we’re going to have a Maker Brunch.

It’s nothing grand, just a chance for anyone who fancies getting together with some fellow makers.  No presentations, no obligations, all deliberately  low-key.

I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do for food.  There are a few cafes round the corner from DoES Liverpool which do bacon butties and the like; the bakery in the nearby Lidl does a good range of pastries; there’s also been the suggestion of scones.  I’m sure we’ll work it out on the day.  As ever, there’ll be good coffee and tea.

We’ll open the doors at 10:30am (I’m assuming that’s early enough – if you need to check out of your hotel before that, let me know and we can work something out) and be there until at least 3pm (and probably a fair bit later).

If you’re worried that you won’t know  anyone, you should come anyway, find one of these four people and say “Hi, I’ve just arrived.  Can you show me round?”  They’re all friendly people who’ve agreed to welcome any newcomers

Chris Huffee Jo Hinchliffe
Adrian McEwen Steve Upton

See you on the 1st!

"Is DoES Liverpool Moving?"

More important news here! – 22nd November 2017

You might have seen in the news, or heard on the rumour mill, stories about Gostins Building (DoES Liverpool’s current home) being sold. It’s been on the cards for ages and is part of the reason why we’ve been looking to move and expand, but a planning application to turn the building into a hotel doesn’t sound like a new owner who wants to keep the building as a hive of alternative and interesting entrepreneurial activity 🙂

So, what does this mean for DoES Liverpool?

In truth, not a massive change.  On a practical note, the new owners have changed the opening times for reception, so the front doors will be locked after 5pm (from Monday 3rd July 2017).  We’ll have to sort out keys and a doorbell for evening meetups – more on this once we’ve worked out the details.

As to the bigger picture, it’s not ideal, but we’re weighing up two options for a move at the moment and either of those will work as a new home for us. One is the same size we are now and well within our budget. The other is twice our current size, which would let us fit more businesses in and expand the workshop (separate wood and metalwork workshops anyone?) and who knows what else? But we’d need to find something like an extra £1000/month to fund it. That’d be easy as it fills up, but we need a plan to get there.

How can you help?

Obviously we’re really excited about the bigger space and aiming for that. I’m sure we’ll be back with more concrete tasks as the plans develop but in the mean time there are two ways you can help out.

Firstly, become a Friend of DoES Liverpool. This is our bottom level membership, for people who want to support what we’re doing financially but don’t need any of our paid services. Either set up a standing order for £9/month (bank info is here) and ping an email to to let us know, or click the button below to set up a recurring payment with PayPal:

Secondly, come and take a desk in the current space. That’ll help our cashflow and forecasting plus you’ll get to hang out with an amazing community of people and (most importantly 😉 ) get first dibs on desks when we move. If you don’t need a desk yourself, tell whoever you know who might.

And if you want to keep abreast of developments, join the community discussion group or our (lower traffic, a handful of emails each year) announcements mailing list:

Subscribe to our announcements mailing list

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