Farset Labs 2.0: Expanding, renovating, improving

It’s been over seven years since Northern Ireland’s hackerspace opened its doors to the artists, engineers, and makers of Belfast. Farset Labs has spent that time delivering STEAM education, providing a space and tools for the tech and creative scene, and being a focal point for events and meetups. We’ve had a blast, and grown immensely, both as an organisation and – more importantly – as a community.

Many will have noticed that, over the past couple of years, it’s been getting rather cosy in Unit 1, our home in Weavers Court Business Park. There’s just not quite enough room for everyone, the event space is regularly used for overflow from the co-working space, and the workshop is, well, regularly used for overflow from the event space!

We do, however, have some news to share (and some awkward weeks ahead of us).

In the middle of November last year, we got word from our landlord that the other tenants in building, who occupied the first floor, were departing and we were asked if we wanted to take it on. This scenario had been long discussed within the Farset Labs team, but now we had first refusal on occupying the entire building.

While the thought of more than doubling our floorspace was a daunting one, we sharpened our pencils and kicked off the due diligence, and have been working with the team at Weavers Court for the last eight months to bring this dream to reality.

After many, many delays, complications, surveyors, consultations, and long weekends of planning, shuffling, and boxing, we’ve set in motion both the biggest and riskiest manoeuvre that the charity has attempted yet.

The next few months are going to see major changes happening at your community hackerspace, as we begin a programme of renovations and expansion that will stand us in good stead for the next eight years and beyond. Our current location, Unit 1, will be shut to members in the coming weeks and completely emptied by Friday 19th July, while our new temporary premises, Unit 5E, will be available for use from the week beginning Monday 1st July.

We hope to take possession of Unit 1 again in late September and, following a period of internal fit out, have it fully open again in Early October. We know that this will cause disruption to many of the usual activities that take place in Farset Labs, but we are seeking to minimise the impact where possible, and Farset Labs will remain open throughout, though in a substantially smaller space

We’re very excited to share the new space with the community and if you’d like to know more about what is planned, please read on.


Further information:

The renovation and expansion of the hackerspace is a large project that involves Farset Labs more than doubling its floor space by taking possession of the unit above us, making us the sole tenants of our beloved old Victorian schoolhouse, just five minutes from Great Victoria Street and on the doorstep of Weavers Cross, the new transport hub.

Our building, which was once used as the schoolhouse for the old linen mill

This gives us the opportunity to do the following:

  • Provide up to 40 additional dedicated desk spaces upstairs in a bright and airy environment
  • Expand our workshop, adding a new fire exit and access control
  • Increase the size of our flexible event space and improve AV facilities
  • Create a new multipurpose space suited for art projects, teams, startups etc
  • Move the lounge upstairs and create a new dedicated meeting room
  • Add call booths*, a second kitchenette, and additional toilets upstairs
  • Provide lift access to the new floor so everyone can use it
  • Finally, we will now have a single, unified entrance hallway for both floors

There are many other small tweaks and additions, too numerous to list here, from new bench tops in the ground floor kitchenette, to improved sound proofing between floors, and furniture storage for the event space.

This improved canvas has also prompted us to reevaluate the equipment and facilities in the space. Since we’ll be redistributing member storage spaces from the workshop to across the building, we can now access-control the workshop and certain tools within it. This means training will be required to enter it, and further training will be required to energise and use certain tools, which will enable us to accommodate more advanced equipment and processes than we’ve been able to support so far.

We have identified the following as priorities and will be seeking further input from the wider community soon on shaping this list:

  • New workshop equipment:
    • Small laser cutter*
    • Small vacuum former
    • Small CNC router*
    • Benchtop small lathe*
    • FDM and SLA/DLP/LCD 3D Printers*
    • Benchtop power supplies*
    • Oscilloscopes
    • Logic analyser*
    • PCB stereo microscope
    • Dust and fume extraction
    • Heavy duty sewing machine
    • Hot wire cutter*
  • Event space:
    • Updated ultra-bright projection*
    • 1.2kW RMS surround sound system
    • Event recording/streaming equipment*
    • New lighting and backdrop options
  • Elsewhere:
    • New information displays
    • Access control throughout
    • Systems for smart management of heating, lighting etc in the space
    • Teleconferencing facilities
    • New plants and eco friendly features
    • Fixtures for displaying art and member projects

This list is not exhaustive and is dependent on reaching our target level of funding (items highlighted by an asterisk* indicate inclusion in our fundraising drive).

Accessibility was a key consideration in this expansion, and despite many difficulties with providing it in the structure of the old building, a lift will be installed to allow wheelchair/reduced mobility access to all spaces. In addition, key doors are being replaced and widened, improving flow throughout the space for all users. Certain doors, where possible, will also be electromagnetically held to eliminate the need to open them.

The new spaces have been designed to make it as easy as possible for members with accessibility needs to access them, with Farset Labs providing high contrast surfaces, induction loops, and Braille signage where possible. We remain firm in our commitment that people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds should be able to enjoy our space, and we are doing our best to provide this within our means.

(Presumptive) FAQs:

I have stuff in Farset, what’s gonna happen to it?
All member storage boxes will still be available in our new, temporary location, Unit 5E and will be moved over with the rest of the equipment and furniture. If your stuff isn’t in a box, you can either collect it or let us know what you would like done with it via email or Slack.

What’s going to happen to [insert event or programme here]?
We’re going to try our best to keep “Minimum Viable Farset” going in the time being, but that’s going to be mostly co-working/hot-desking, as we’re moving from 2000 sq. ft over multiple rooms, to circa 600 sq. ft over a single room. We’ve shut down the CoderDojo for summer, as well as a few other regular events, and we won’t be taking most new event bookings for the period that we’re in our temporary location. However, these will all be coming back after the move!

Who’s paying for all this?
The reason for the major renovation is related to the building (which hasn’t been fully renovated in about thirty years), rather than our tenancy, so the work being done to the fabric of the building is within the purview of the landlord (although they’ve kindly integrated some of our ideas and requests into the building plans). As for all the office furnishings, decoration, equipment, etc, we’ll be using core funds for that from members dues, so it’s still “our” space. However, we want to do this right, so we’ll be raising funds to make the transition as smooth as possible, and leave us with the best space we can manage.

What’s the network like in 5E?
We’ve worked with our good friends at Tibus to make sure it’s almost as awesome as the connection in Unit 1. A couple of years ago, we invested in some additional FTTC equipment as part of the Super Connected Communities programme and we won’t be able to migrate that over with us to our temporary location, so it’s not exactly the same, but it’s still a very solid and performant connection.

How is access going to work in Unit 5E?
We will be fitting a mechanical code lock this week and distributing the sequence to members, so access will be largely the same as in Unit 1 once it is set up.

How is this expansion going to effect membership dues?
We hope it won’t directly, however, we haven’t changed membership dues in over five years, so as part of the “settling in” period, we’ll be consulting with the membership on the charity’s cashflows and revenue calculations, so that we can make decisions about the long term sustainability of the community together.

One of the major motivations for the expansion is to increase the number of hackers, makers, and breakers that we can accommodate, and this increase in membership will offset the increased rent/electricity/heating costs so that Farset Labs can continue to be core-funded by the community

Further questions?

Please direct any enquiries to info@farsetlabs.org.uk or to @managers on the Farset Labs Slack and we will be happy to answer them. We have been trying to keep members updated through our Town Hall meetings and external event organisers updated via email, but if you have any specific concerns, please get in touch.

Acknowledgements:

This project to enhance the hackerspace is in association with our landlords, Weavers Court Business Park, and we have received additional support from our awesome fibre internet sponsors, Tibus, for which we are ever grateful. We have a fundraising strategy constructed and we are hoping to elicit additional support from the tech and creative community in Northern Ireland – if you’d like to hear more about this, please email admin@farsetlabs.org.uk.

A few notes on Farset Labs:

Farset Labs is a hackerspace, non-profit company, and registered charity based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It opened its doors in 2012 to respond to a demonstrated need for an independent, charitable community of creatives and technology innovators. Farset Labs provides this community with an open space and shared resources to experiment, explore, and grow themselves, their projects, and relationships locally and globally. Farset Labs stands as a valued part of the technology, entrepreneurship, and STEAM outreach communities, conducting collaborations with academia, government, and the private sector across Northern Ireland. It is entirely volunteer-run, member-funded, and has an open governance model, with no salaries or profit-making – all funds generated are reinvested in the charity and the community.

NI Game Awards 2018!

Experience the best Northern Ireland has to offer from a Year in Games and meet the hardworking heroes behind the scenes that made it happen.

The NI Game Awards is hosted at Black Box on Hill Street and organised by committed, enthusiastic members of the NI tech and design community. The awards party is a fully catered event with complementary prosecco and a wide variety of locally-made games and virtual reality to experience. Some of the most anticipated games to come out of Northern Ireland this year are being demoed. The categories include NI Game of the Year, NI Most Anticipated Game, NI Game Studio of the Year, NI Rising Star, NI Community Award.

The awards party gives game developers, enthusiasts and students the chance to network and socialise while celebrating the amazing local talent of the NI game developer industry. Developers will have the chance to let people demo their creations and get advice from some of the most experienced and talented developers in Northern Ireland. Anyone is welcome – whether they’re interested in creating games, or simply getting their name out there in the community. All that is needed is a desire to hang out and chat with other developers.

Brought to you by NI Game Dev Network, with support from NI Screen and Farset Labs.

Vote for the various categories: bit.ly/2RsIVSg 

Tickets can be booked at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ni-game-awards-2018-tickets-54040118449

Additional Details

Dress Code, though not strictly enforced, we think such an event would be a great opportunity for us to class it up a bit and dress in black-tie. So, dig out your finest suit or dress and let’s feel fancy for the night. Monocles optional.

Mentors include Unity 3D and Unreal experts, multi-award-winning developers, and multi-talented artists. This will provide you with a brilliant opportunity to get some insider tips on improving your graphics and code, getting funding and making a profit, and even on how to get your game published.

Do you want to bring your GAME DEMO? That’s awesome, but please check with us in advance so we can talk about space and time. Send the organisers an email at events@farsetlabs.org.uk for more information or ask via the Facebook group and someone will get back to you as soon as they can.

As the venue will be serving alcohol, you must be over 18 by the date of the event for us to be in accordance with the licensing laws. We are really sorry if this means you won’t be able to join us this time, but please do follow us to keep up to date with other events in the future.

Questions?

If you’re travelling by BUS Customs House Square, next to Mc Hugh’s is the closest bus stop, which includes a Glider stop and is a 4 minute walk from the venue.

If you’re travelling by TRAIN, Lanyon Place (Central Station) is the closest station to the venue and is a 16 minute walk, so leave plenty of time to catch the last train home.

If you’re travelling by CAR, Dunbar Street and Exchange Street are the closest car parks, just 4 minutes away.

As per our standard, any profit or remaining finances will go to the NI Game Dev Network community, passing forward to future events and to supporting the NI game community.

For any more information or if you have any questions about attending/demoing at the event, please contact events@farsetlabs.org.uk

New Year, New Dojo, New Platform

Farset Dojo is changing; we’re skipping December and moving from Eventbrite to Zen; restarting on the 8th of February, running every fortnight.

Hello followers and supporters of Farset Dojo and awesome Guardians of the Ninjas.

We had planned to run our next event on Friday the 7th of December but have decided to postpone the Dojos until after the New Year! This is to allow the champions and mentors (and the ninjas!) to enjoy the holiday season with their families and friends. We’re also moving from EventBrite to Zen (the global Coder Dojo website).

Zen has fantastic resources available to ninjas and mentors, and it gives us a nice change when it comes to registering who will be attending.

Sign up to the new and shiny Farset Dojo here if you want to attend any future events. We’ll be back to running every fortnight from Friday the 8th of February at 7pm!

If you want to mentor you just need to register at Farset Dojo or email dojo@farsetlabs.org.uk.

We’re super excited to get back into it in February, and we look forward to starting an awesome year with the ninjas.

______________

Happy Holidays, from Zoe & Andrew

xxxx

Have a very Farset Seasonal Pot Luck 2018 – 15th December

Greetings members and friends!
Time to hack together some comfort foods and share them with others!

The Plan
Bring something tasty, or at least something edible, to Farset Labs for an evening of sharing food with good company, and swapping stories of your 2018.
No matter your connection, the evening is open and welcoming to all who have and will frequent Farset, and who have come with us so far.
There will be some accompaniments of the musical variety, suitably decorative decorations, and waves of seasonal lighting 🙂

The Date
The date for this is Saturday 15th December, from 7pm to 10pm. We can carry on as we see fit!

The Cost
No cost other than your company and some form of shareable foodstuff or drinks (cold/hot, liquid/solid).

We do ask that non-members of Farset contribute a small donation to the venue charity for the evening. (Suggested donation: £3)

Pro-Tip
Easy-to-share party foods, drinks, or tray-bakes are often the simplest, but if you have a speciality you want to share that’s even better! We will have microwaves in the kitchen if you need them and a little fridge space, however there is obviously very limited space for cooking on-site.

For more information, join us on the Farset Slack.

Global Game Jam Belfast | 25th-27th January

Update 22/12/2018: An early Christmas gift – you can download our jam poster to print out, with a brilliant illustration by local street artist, Friz.

Global Game Jam at Farset is back again in 2019, in partnership with Northern Ireland Screen. The Game Jam will run from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th, and is a chance to meet some great people and develop a fun game in a weekend. With a party atmosphere from Friday night, there will be plenty of people there to team up with, create something interesting and, most importantly, to have fun!

HOW DO I ENTER?

We ask that you reserve your seat at Farset Labs on Eventbrite, so that we can get accurate numbers for food and requirements, and you can get some nice swag.

You can then complete your Global Game Jam registration at globalgamejam.org on (or before) Friday 25th January.

Global Game Jam is always very popular; so to avoid disappointment, book early!

Tickets this year are £6 each – buying a ticket will reserve your seat for the weekend as well as helping us to provide you with catered meals for the full weekend and unique GGJ Belfast loot!

The game jam’s theme will be announced at 5pm on Friday 25th January so we recommend all participants to be in Farset before that time, or send word if you will be arriving later on. We look forward to seeing you all, as it will be a great weekend!

Download our event poster to print out and keep, or share it around. Thanks to Friz for the excellent illustration this year!

WHAT IS GLOBAL GAME JAM?

Global Game Jam is a hackathon focused on games of all sorts, from full-scale console productions to mobile, web-based and embedded games, as well as non-digital productions like board and card games. Some will be frivolous, others developed for solid causes, such as social impact in the case of the Games For Change movement. There are already a number of large sponsors involved in this year’s global event, including Facebook, Unity and Github.

The first Global Game Jam ran in 2009, and this year there are already over 500 individual Jam sites registered around the world, and Farset Labs has been running Northern Ireland’s only public GGJ site since 2013. We will be live streaming video from sites all over the world during the 48hr event. There will also be an opportunity to see and play other teams’ games at the end of the event. The details of the venue are also available on our Global Game Jam listing.

WHAT DO I NEED?

There is no required skill level or barrier for entry; we welcome programmers, artists, musicians and anyone else who might be interested in being involved! Bring yourself and your equipment – the organisers recommend that participants wait until the beginning of the event to form teams. We have found that this worked well in the past and gives interesting results.
Please note: You must be over 18 on the 25th of January in order to participate.

More information will be provided in the run-up, but please feel free to contact events@farsetlabs.org.uk or ask us questions via Facebook or Twitter with the #farsetggj18 hashtag.

Brought to you to in partnership with Northern Ireland Screen.

NI Screen Logo

VITAL INFO

Start/End: 25/1/18 @ 16:00 – 27/1/18 @ 20:00

Location: Farset Labs, 1 Weavers Court, Belfast

Farset Seat Reservation: [Here!]

GGJ Site Listing: [GGJ 2019]

Facebook Event: [facebook.com/farsetlabs]

Hashtags: #farsetggj19 #ggj19