Dorkbot Anglia 30th June 2011 - brief report, and an announcement. Answered
It was a very pleasant evening, once I got parked (a lot of Bury St Edmund's car parks close early). Only about two dozen people came to hear the speakers, but many more would have been cramped in the main room of the small gallery. Bowls of snacks were out, along with a small "bar" (a table of bottled beers, available for a donation to the evening). Unfortunately, whilst I remembered to take a notebook, I forgot to take my camera...
Sitting with a beer, surrounded by Art and listening to enthusiastic Makers in the company of like-minded folk. Mmmmmmm.
Smith's Row curator, Rosie Grieve, kicked off the evening with an outline of how and why she ended up offering to host Dorkbot and arrange speakers for the event.
The second speaker, and the main highlight for me, was Fraser Reich of Kore Technologies, showing off his mass spectrometer in a briefcase. It's not a brand-new technology by any means (the machine he brought had been under constant vacuum for eleven years), but I am old enough to remember when samples had to be sent to dedicated buildings, and results came back days later, and Fraser's enthusiasm for the machine (it's largely his baby) was a joy to listen to, as he did a live test of the air in the room (benzene! toluene! silicone!) and the vapours given off by an orange, turning out useful results in only ten seconds.
The third speaker, Lee Patterson, is a sound artist who works with recordings made "in the wild". He attaches cheap piezoelectric microphones (so beloved of makers of cheap electric guitars) to street furniture, or makes his own hydrophones and records the lives of invertebrates and event weeds in the urban ponds of his native Manchester (MP3 files available here). He talked us through his work, and also gave a live performance of nuts and seeds burning, attached directly to two of his microphones - the sound was... weird. It sounded like tunnel-traffic, trains and room full of over-boiling kettles. Although Fraser was the better speaker, Lee inspired in me more ideas for future projects. I took notes.
The final speaker, Anton Woodward, talked us through his work on stage automation - the sort of bespoke-built devices that fly actors through the air, lift scenery out of the stage, and don't quite drop chandeliers on the audience (yes, that was his). He took us through a brief history of stage automation, from the early days when each motor had to be controlled by hand, live, by an operator as well-rehearsed as the actors, to modern systems that can automatically throw tonnes of equipment around the theatre with hundreds of motors, all under computer control, and showed us video of the kit in action. His work includes Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, and he has now moved into screenwork in Bollywood and X Men: First Class (he created the mechanics of Banshee's flight sequences, which involved hanging the actor stationary in a harness, then shooting the camera towards his face at 40mph...).
A very enjoyable evening, I shall continue to get to Dorkbot Anglia events whenever I can.
For future notice, the event was compered by John Bowers of the Curiosity Collective, who have a show coming up in Ipswich soon, an exhibition of "interactive curiosities" with the general theme of "time".
I don't know if I'll get to that one, but if I do, I'll definitely take my camera...