A network of French fablabs in the works, 50 fablabs and 5,000 visitors were present: The Toulouse Fablab Festival passes the test of its first edition with flying colours.
Toulouse, special envoys (text Carine Claude, photos and videos Quentin Chevrier)
There was a large crowd under the Artilect exhibition hall for the first Fablab Festival. From the 6th until the 10th of May, the event concocted by the fablab from Toulouse welcomed more than 5,000 people who came to discover the maker movement and the projects of the 50 fablabs that responded to the call. To the point where the free event was full on Saturday afternoon. A surprise, even admitted the organisers.
360° view of the Fablab Festival (click on the picture to take a stroll):
A festival organised in DiY mode
“It was a challenge, because we didn’t really know how this first festival was going to unfold,” says Nicolas Lassabe, co-founder and president of Artilect, who was able to count on the support of a hundred or so volunteers to direct the public towards the multitude of micro-events, workshops, conferences and demos occurring during the 5 days of the event. At the back of the exhibition hall, a 1,000 m2 flying area even hosted the first Drone Festival.
“The Fablab Festival itself was organised in DiY mode,” explains its co-founder Claude Soria. The budget of 50,000 euros, he adds, a rather modest amount for an event of this dimension, were concentrated on interior design and the welcoming of participants.
Gone are the times of the authentic broom cupboard of Toulouse university where Artilect was born. The most ancient French fablab, structured as an association in 2009, now generates revenues between €150,000 and €200,000. Not to mention the €80,000 generated by Artilect Lab, a company created to meet the requirements of businesses.
Mitch Altman, historic figure of the movement and founder of the Californian hackerspace Noisebridge, made a surprise visit to the FabFest, meeting the public, assembling and dismantling his TV-B-Gone over and over again.
Express interview of Mitch Altman at the 2015 FabFest:
« A historic moment »
Apart from the know-how for the general public, the other concern for the FabFest was to bring together in a single place a majority of French fablabs to think about structuring a national network. Forty fablabs (out of the 50 present) put their names on the list, shaping a future federation at the end of a marathon day on May 7th planed to examine the issues encountered in fablabs.
Values, governance, lobbying… Although the majority of labs present agree on the merits of a national network, there is no lack of stumbling blocks. Yet, working groups were established before the end of the festival and the first step meeting was set for the 8th of June so as not to thin out good intentions over time. “It’s a historic moment” sums up one of the participants.
If the success of the Fablab Festival and ambitions are confirmed, why not imagine Toulouse as a host city for a future Fab Conference? “It’s true, admits Nicolas Lassabe, that it would be a nice challenge to host the FAB14 in 2018…” With maybe, by then, a national federation in working order.