Later this month our hosts at Plant are relocating to a new site. We are using this as an opportunity to take a break from running a community space in Manchester, instead channeling our efforts towards other projects in the region and internationally.

When we first opened our doors on Edge Street in 2009, launching a dedicated space for makers, developers, and creatives to come together and build communities was a radical decision. Our movement has since gone mainstream: the number of meet-ups taking place is at an all-time high, attendee numbers are growing, co-working is taking over, and there have never been more host spaces willing to accommodate groups. Moreover, the value of community-building is widely recognised outside of the communities themselves.

As operator of the first and most active space of its type in the UK, MadLab has undoubtedly played a defining role in building the region’s ecosystem – growing to host 60+ meetups monthly, and welcoming thousands of participants. Whilst our community space will be sorely missed by many, organisers now have a great deal more choice when searching for somewhere to host them, and the decision to focus our efforts elsewhere is no longer the “community killer” it once was. As a non-profit that has always had an eye on the bigger picture this makes us very happy indeed: mission accomplished.

But other long-standing challenges remain, and as the region’s digital ecosystem goes from strength to strength the most persistent of these is inclusive growth.

Over the past few years MadLab has helped move the dial on digital inclusion, with the help and enthusiasm of many of you in our wider “community of communities”. Programmes like Make Stuff and Digital Skills for Women have received widespread recognition, inspired others, and made a life-changing impact for those taking part.

There is still, however, much more to be done, and later this month we are launching a new inclusive growth community fund. The fund will be open to groups and individuals who are looking to reach out and make a difference in building richer and more diverse digital communities. Keep an eye on the usual channels – our newsletter, Twitter etc. – for the announcement.

What the Future Holds

One important part of MadLab’s physical infrastructure will retain a presence in Central Manchester – the MadFabLab makerspace. This will follow Standard Practice to their new and soon to be announced NOMA location.

Otherwise, work continues away from the city centre with a number of exciting developments in the pipeline.

In partnership with Stockport Council we have been final shortlisted for the Arts Council’s Cultural Development Fund. Ours is an £8 million project to launch a new independent digital, creative, and startup neighbourhood in the heritage-rich area around Stockport’s Market Hall. If successful, we will be hitting the ground running early next year and inviting wider collaboration.

Further afield, our long-standing partnership with Numaish Arts and Habib University continues, with a new digital public commission due to be unveiled in the Walled City of Lahore in early 2019, and a further trans-national ‘education meets blockchain’ project – inspired by the concept of ‘The University of One‘ – in the works also.

Closer to home, our workshops programme continues uninterrupted, with a new season of short-form learning and experience sessions planned in the new year, at libraries and community centres around Greater Manchester. We are always looking for new volunteers, and potential new ideas from across the region for this – interested? get involved now!

A final thanks…

To all of our community organisers who have been with us over the past several years, especially those who have helped lay the foundations for this next chapter in MadLab’s development. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.