[Update May 2014] Sadly Open Shed closed in May 2014 due to the inability to grow membership enough to meet costs.
For the last six weeks I have been doing something a little bit different. From a friend, I heard that a small group of people were setting up a hackspace to provide a place for people interested in and working with technology to get together to work on projects. It would include a hot-desking (coworking) area for people working at home to escape and work in a more sociable way, whilst sharing skills and knowledge, a room for events and courses. There would be an electronics lab, a workshop, and a small café, and the chance to meet with like minds. I was excited at the prospect.
The hackspace was to be called Open Shed, and I signed up to the email list as soon as I could. A scout through the list archives revealed the prospective premises, the ground floor of Champions Yard in central Penzance, so I popped round the next day to have a peer through the window. The space looked huge, but two thirds full of junk and old machines from its former days as an amusement arcade, and one third full of the remains of a video library. But what a space. Loads of potential. Whilst looking through the murky glass, David, a member of the core group setting up Open Shed, cycled up behind me and asked me if I would like to look around - he was just about to get the keys. Well, the premises were spacious, but divided up with stud walls and absolutely full of junk. Potential and challenge in equal measure! I asked to help out there and then - this had to be made a reality.
Fast forward six weeks, and Open Shed opened for its members. As a social enterprise it also provides premises, equipment and training to help people take control of the technology that surrounds us, and helps to recycle unwanted equipment. There's still a lot to do, and equipment to acquire, but the team of hackspace volunteers have done vast amounts of work. Stud walls have been ripped down, opening the space up again, wood and abandoned equipment has been recycled, and we have equipped a comfy café made up from reused furniture. The major hacking done so far has been to fix a professional coffee machine (using parts taken from a broken fruit machine), some welding, some bike fixing, building a café countertop, rewiring, and making a website. We've got four Raspberry Pi computers, lots of donated broken computers which we're fixing, and our first event coming up.
I now volunteer on a regular basis, and when the coworking space is ready, I intend to work here most days on my own projects and treat it as my workplace, as well as helping to run it as a cooperative member. Not bad for £50 a year - the price to join Open Shed as a member.
Rather than repeat all of the information about Open Shed, visit the website and find out more. We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money to buy equipment to further fit out the space, so if you can help (and you're reading this before October 2012) please watch our video and read our pitch, and donate if you can.
If you're a self-styled geek, nerd, or are just enthusiastic about technology, and you find yourself in Penzance, Cornwall, drop by our hackspace in Champions Yard (to the right of the cinema on Causewayhead - see Google for a map) for a cup of coffee, some wifi, or join us!