interview / news

The Man Behind Nambour’s New Maker Movement

The Occupy Ambo Makerspace is the brainchild of local John Bourke and is currently running at The Old Ambulance Station on Howard Street in Nambour. It’s an eight-day event comprising of artists, artisans, performers and crafters playing and tinkering with old and new technologies. John has spent the last few months putting together the makerspace at The Old Ambo, and the past two weeks solely dedicated to organising this event.

John says that this week long event came out of a need to link-in with people.

“[It was a] necessity after putting the maker space together. We need a way of engaging with the community.”

The makerspace provides an opportunity for people to meet and network with others. If the Makerspace wasn’t here, they’d be reliant on the internet.

Having travelled around Europe, he has seen the possibilities of spaces and events like this.

“’I’m originally from the UK. I’ve travelled in some European countries, namely Germany, Berlin… places like that. There is culture where people are being innovative.”

“A good example is Christianshavn, a town in Denmark, they started off one of the first collectives of artists.”

“Maker movements are starting up [all over], [they] originally started in Brooklyn, New York. Now the thing is, in New York, you don’t have a lot of people who work with their hands, it’s people working in the services industries or working in office blocks. I mean, we do actually have a lot of people who work with their hands.”

One of John’s ideologies behind this event, and his makerspace, is to make innovation something accessible, and to open doors for young people.

“That’s why I made the skate board deck. It’s so that kids down at the skate park can come in here, put them on one of the pretty straight forward programs that already has a skate board on it. They can go in there, change the logo, stuff like that, then we could cut it out, teach them how to actually glue it. And open their eyes to other options.”

“I have a strong desire to create a culture where young people can actually stop being consumerists – stop being dumb consumerists – and take control of their futures. Not everyone can go to university, there are probably people out their half way in-between. I think you’ve got to create your own job these days.”

John also touched on want to keeping the space accessible to men and women, “I don’t want it to turn [..] into a boy’s nerd club”.

John is on the board at The Old Ambo, and has been in the Arts on and off for the past twenty years. He spent over a decade in programming.

“I spent twelve years doing programs. There wasn’t a lot of satisfaction in the end, there was a lot of excitement at the beginning, trying to learn it, but after that, you do get some satisfaction but its only your peers that really see [your work].”

He says having jumped between careers throughout his life, it’s given him a holistic view, “which allows me to make these [machines]” that are throughout the Makerspace.

“If people have a mild understanding of electronics, a little bit of programing knowledge, and just a desire to do something like this, and make one of these machines. This is where innovation comes from.”

In the future, John sees the Makerspace going the way of a Bauhaus school.

He wants to put artists and artisans, “someone who makes something to a level of skill”, in the same space, and allowing them to collaborate and produce.

“Bauhaus was a movement where artists and artisans got together and they created things that changed our lives really. They invented the plastic cup, they invented the fitted kitchen, the plywood chair. They did a lot of masonry things.”

A desire for something more on the Coast…

“The Sunshine Coast has an interesting demographic. Our industries are agriculture, tourism and building. With building you’ve got a lot of small cabinet makers, they’re highly skilled artisans. You’ve also got a very high demographic for a place with artists, because artists come here to choose the lifestyle. Now, some of those cabinet makers are getting pretty bored with making the same old kitchens and that. If they can value-add their stuff, if artists could give input into their designs and the cabinet makers bring that design to reality – take care of the nitty-gritty thing of actually making it – you could end up with industries that make high quality bespoke like you’ve got in Italy. I mean, if you’re going to buy an Italian sofa, it’s going to cost you ten grand, for a pretty nice one. We on the coast, we have all the people to make that. The employment outcomes that come out of that would be amazing.”

“That bespoke quality stuff, we’ve got the skill base. To me this is just a thing I’m passionate about. I love doing this stuff, and saying ‘Hey you can do this’.”

View the Old Ambulance Station’s Facebook for more details on what’s happening the rest of the week.


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