On 22 September, local projects and organisations across Plymouth opened their doors as part of the first Fab City Plymouth Open Day, celebrating Plymouth’s status as the first, and currently only, Fab City in the UK. Co-hosted by Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens Programme and the University of Plymouth’s Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Laboratories, the Open Day saw 12 local hubs come together to share access to and information about their work relating to the Fab City initiative, which champions local production, circular economies, digital social innovation and global collaboration.
Over 300 local people, businesses, entrepreneurs and students visited the Fab City hubs, to discover more about Fab City and take part in a range of free activities and tours. The hubs celebrated multiple themes, including digital innovation and technology, food, art, nature, sustainability and business support. Bringing together such a diverse range of sectors, the Open Day was the first large-scale Fab City event to be held in Plymouth, showcasing how organisations, projects and local people can work together to make a truly Fab City.
Visitors explore Fab Lab Plymouth on the Open Day
Sustainability and Collaboration
The Smart Citizens Programme based at Fab Lab Plymouth in Plymouth College of Art, the Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Laboratories at the University of Plymouth, and the Market Hall in Devonport, all opened their state-of-the-art venues for the Open Day. Hosting free activities for members of the public including 3D scanning and laser-cutting, the hubs celebrated the range of ways that local people and businesses can access cutting-edge digital fabrication and immersive technologies to realise innovative ideas and develop sustainable solutions for the city and planet.
Eli Zahoui, Smart Citizens Programme Manager at Plymouth College of Art, said: “When Plymouth applied to join the Fab City network in 2019, there was a lot of support for the idea, but initially it wasn’t obvious how other individuals and organisations across the city could get involved. The Fab City Open Day was all about opening our doors to demonstrate what a great community we’re growing across Plymouth, of individuals, local businesses and bigger organisations, all working together towards the same common goals of using innovative thinking to promote sustainability and really make a difference for the future.”
Visitors of all ages explored Fab Lab Plymouth at Plymouth College of Art and learnt about the Smart Citizens Programme
Vanessa Crosse, a community development officer and BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices student at Plymouth College of Art, said about her visit to Fab Lab Plymouth: “During the Open Day I discovered the incredible design and fabrication possibilities at the Fab Lab and how these digital technologies are supporting Plymouth to become a Fab City. The Smart Citizens team were very approachable and knowledgeable. Their enthusiasm for their work and their commitment to sustainability clearly showed. I loved the opportunity to laser cut my own coaster, which was great fun!”
Open Day visitor, Vanessa Crosse, with Fab Lab Principal Technician, Ian Hankey at Fab Lab Plymouth
Food Plymouth offered foraging tours in Blockhouse park, while in Central Park the Green Minds Living Lab and Pollenize CIC shared how they use digital technologies to monitor and protect the environment and wild species such as bees. Sophie Paterson, Sustainable Food Places Coordinator at Food Plymouth, said: “Our team were able to speak to people of all ages and invite them to consider new ways of engaging with sustainable food, learning how to safely forage in Blockhouse park, sampling delicious local apple juice thanks to the All Ways Apples initiative and exploring how to get involved with a forthcoming campaign to put Plymouth’s #BestFoodForward.
“Collaborating with The Village Hub in Stoke as a venue for the day resulted in the joy of getting to know their fabulous team even better and the unexpected privilege of hearing some beautiful poetry, courtesy of volunteer and talented poet Sarah. It was a day that felt rooted in community at every level. Thanks to all who made it happen.”
The Green Minds Living Lab team at their stall in Central Park
Brittany Clarke, Marketing and Communications Assistant at Pollenize, said: “We spent a glorious sunny day at Central Park with our E-Cargo bike, talking to members of the public about pollinator decline and what they can do to get involved. We were really pleased to have such a positive reaction to our work across Plymouth, in particular the community beekeeping and rewilding projects!”
Brittany Clarke, Marketing and Communications Assistant at Pollenize, with their E-cargo bike and decorated beehive in Central park
The University of Plymouth Sustainability team showcased how they are tackling climate change through the research and testing of a range of low carbon solutions, and working with the creative industries on the low carbon agenda. Dr Paul Hardman, Manager of the Sustainable Earth Institute (SEI) and Deputy Director – Sustainability Hub: Low Carbon Devon, said: “Participating in the Plymouth Fab City Open Day was a great opportunity to welcome visitors to the Sustainability Hub after an extended period of ‘closed doors’ due to the pandemic. It provided a valuable forum to share opportunities, with organisations and individuals, to collaborate with the University on projects working towards a more sustainable future.”
Promoting Fab City values of circular economy, open data and digital fabrication literacy, the University of Plymouth Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Labs showcased community-oriented student work created at the labs.
Bethany Holmes, a student of the University of Plymouth MSc Integrated Design Innovation programme, displayed her work at the Plot. Bethany, making use of her Computing background, links material flows and circular sustainable processes around Plymouth. She demonstrates the cross-disciplinary potential of Fab City as well as its distributed nature across a range of companies, social enterprises, research organisations and civic institutions. Her work at the Plot involves working with local residents and community organisations on the co-design and prototyping of products and ideas using digital fabrication tools such as 3D printing and CNC cutting.
Bethany Holmes, a student of the University of Plymouth MSc Integrated Design Innovation programme, displays her work at the Plot
Mat Holmes, a University of Plymouth MA Design student, delivered hands-on printing workshops using an iconic piece of technological heritage – the printing press. A culmination of several years of Mat’s close collaboration with printing experts at the University of Plymouth and wider community, Mat has translated and adapted the iconic machine design for the faithful recreation, using the full range of tools and processes available at the Digital Fabrication lab. The symbolism of Mat’s work in the context of the Fab City digital literacy agenda is particularly strong considering the transformative role on society brought about by the invention of the original Gutenberg printing press.
Both students made extensive use of the new outreach toolkit, Lab in a Box, which comprises a complete set of digital fabrication tools with the focus on accessibility and user-friendliness.
Visitors explore the University of Plymouth’s Digital Fabrication and Immersive Media Labs
Creativity and sustainability combined at Precious Plastic Plymouth, where waste plastic was transformed through injection moulding into new objects like soap dishes, while at Plymouth Scrapstore CIC, visitors created their own artworks from materials saved from landfill by the Scrapstore initiative. Ocean Studios, where Precious Plastic Plymouth is based, also opened their doors as part of the Open Day. Jane Hembrow, Volunteer and Co-Founder of Plymouth Scrapstore, said: “We offered the opportunity to rummage and chat about how we give waste material a new life through creativity, and have a tour of our site. We welcomed our regular visitors and some new faces, one of which completely fell in love with what we do!”
Visitors to Precious Plastic Plymouth saw how waste plastic was transformed into soap dishes through injection moulding
Social enterprises Bikespace CIC and Nudge Community Builders opened their doors to celebrate the different ways that they support local communities. Visitors to Bikespace’s workshop learnt how they offer training for young people outside of mainstream education, vulnerable adults and supporting refugees. At The Plot, one of Nudge Community Builder’s sites, visitors explored how the previously disused site is now a thriving hub for local businesses.
Hannah Slogget, Co-founder of Nudge Community Builders, said: “The day brought some interested parties looking to learn more about how digital manufacturing might benefit them. It was fantastic to meet so many motivated people in Plymouth and the surrounding areas who want to do their bit, socially and environmentally.”
AJ Bishop, Workshop Manager at Bikespace, said: “Through the Open Day we made useful links with other organisations - we hope this is the beginning of future collaborations with Fab City projects across Plymouth!”
Leading the way for the Fab City initiative in the UK
Plymouth is the first Fab City in the UK, in 2019 joining the global Fab City network of 38 cities committed to producing nearly everything they consume by 2054. Together, Plymouth College of Art, University of Plymouth, Real Ideas, Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Culture worked jointly on the citywide commitment to become the UK’s first Fab City. Originally growing out of the Fab Lab rapid prototyping movement, the Fab City manifesto covers everything from farming and manufacturing to making and culture, asking how we can make the best use of the resources on our doorstep and fully realise the social, economic and environmental benefits of a more circular economy.
Through the Fab City initiative, cities are challenged to enable an urban transition towards locally productive and globally connected cities. By embracing strategies in circular economy and digital social innovation, Fab Cities foster collaboration between a global network of cities and territories to meet the planetary challenges presented by climate change and social inequalities.
The Fab City Plymouth Open Day marks the start of Fab City events in the city, which will invite even more organisations, projects and people to realise the incredible potential of the Fab City initiative and implement strategies for sustainability and local and global collaboration into their practices, supporting Plymouth to achieve its Fab City aims by 2054.
This activity is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.