TOYBOX at TROVE, Friday 15th June

The show that I’m curating with TROVE opens to the public on Friday June 15th from 6pm


Artists include: Rosie Curtis & Steph Bryant, Emilie Crewe, Claire Davies, James Gill, David Lee, Maria Mattos, Duncan McKellar, Kate Morrison, Richard Peel, Daniel Salisbury, Kate Spence and Sam Underwood

In June 2012 TROVE, with Antonio Roberts, are hosting an exhibition about toys. This project leads on from the discovery that the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, where TROVE is based, used to produce more ‘toys’ than jewellery, guns or pens during the industrial revolution; all things it is now more famously known for producing. When researching what toys were produced in this area of Birmingham it was discovered that the term ‘toys’ was used to describe items such as buttons, cuff-links and belt buckles.

With the misinterpretation of the word ‘toys’ TROVE are presenting an exhibition of the contemporary understanding of the word. With a mixture of performance (preview night only), film and modified/hacked toys, this group exhibition is lively, fun and playful.

Preview: 15th June 2012 6-8pm
Open: 16th, 23rd and 24th June 2012 1-4pm

or by appointment
email for further information

TROVE, Newhall Square,
Off 144 Newhall Street,
B3 1RZ (map)

TROVE call out for toys

In June 2012 I’ll be co-curating an exhibition about toys at/with TROVE and Daniel Salisbury. More info, including how to get involved, is below:

Toy Box at TROVE

Image by Daniel Salisbury

TROVE is an independent art space in Birmingham, UK, which run a monthly changing programme of contemporary art exhibitions/events.

In June 2012 TROVE are hosting an exhibition about toys. This project leads on from the discovery that the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, where TROVE is based, used to produce more ‘toys’ than jewellery, guns or pens; all things it is now more famously known for producing. When researching what toys were produced in this area of Birmingham it was discovered that the term ‘toys’ was used to describe items such as buttons, cuff-links and belt buckles.

Calling all hackers and Circuit-benders

With the misinterpretation of the word ‘toys’ TROVE are looking for actual toys, as is the current understanding of the word, that have been altered, hacked, modified or electronically changed, rather than ‘toys’ meaning belt buckles, buttons etc.

Sound like something for you? Email me with your hacked creations ( and include:

  • your CV and a short personal statement
  • a short description of the work/toys
  • links to online footage of the toy is available
  • max 6 photographs of the toy/s you are proposing

The deadline for submissions is 6th May 2012

Notes for application:

  • please make sure you can deliver and collect your toys from TROVE (map); 11th/12th June for drop off and 24th June for collection.
  • If the toys require power, only applications where toys are battery powered will be accepted

This exhibition is also looking for films about toys to show. More info on that is here.

Happy hacking!

Circuit Bending at Fargo Hack Play Space

On Sunday 27th November I did a one-day micro-residency at Fargo Hack Play Space in Coventry. I was asked to bring unfinished projects, completed projects or something completely new that I wanted to start on. I have a fair bit of Pure Data and Processing code and ideas that need(ed) a lot of attention but I had serious doubts of whether they could be completed in six hours.

To say I had absolutely no idea what I was going to achieve in one day would be quite an understatement.

Fargo Hack Play Space

In the end I took along my laptop, the unfinshed audio cable hack, an Arduino, and the Vtech Learning Alphabet Classroom Toy toy that I had previously bought for a fizzPOP Circuit Bending Hack Session:

My previous attempts to hack it back then were largely unsuccessful. I was able to cut out the audio completely and break the toy on several occasions, but what I was after was a way to control or glitch the audio and LCD screen.

Fargo Hack Play Space

Part of my problem was that there were very few components to play around with. Aside from the buttons themselves all I had was a circuit board that had very tiny components.

Thankfully, with the help of Dom and Ashley I was able to locate the resistors and attach a potentiometer. Results varied throughout the day, but I was able to get it producing something out of the ordinary!

But then it borked.

Regardless, it’s progress! I’ll be continuing work on it soon, and may even try hooking up the buttons to an Arduino or my computer to trigger other things.

Thanks to Dom and Ashley for inviting me down there for the day, and for the pizza 🙂

fizzPOP presentation at Brumcon 9

Brumcon 9 LogoBrumcon 9 is coming up this Saturday and I’ve been asked to give a short talk about fizzPOP and hackerspaces.

BrumCon is a regular event organised by Brum2600 regulars, featuring a wide variety of talks, discussion, demos and most importantly, alcohol. Incorrectly but neatly dubbed a ‘blackhat thinktank’ by NTK, The Register – ‘We have your water supply, and printers’, BBC Midlands Today – ‘Spooky’, By you lot as the UK’s biggest underground Hacker con, By hotel staff as ‘scary’ but nice people and I’m scared I’d get my ass so electronically kicked.
We welcome all kinds of phreaks, geeks and other technologically interested people from all sides of the fence (as long as hats, badges and warrants are left at the door).
The entrance fee this year is 8 UK Pounds per delegate. Corporate packs are available that includes entrance, T-shirt and receipt contact us at to book.

Entry from 11am Talks Start 12 noon.

I think it’s interesting that I will have delivered a talk on the same subject but to two different groups. For example, for the talk at Eastside Projects I talked about it more as an artist led space wheras at this talk I’ll more than likely talk about it more as a hackersapce.

Anyhow, my presentation is from 12:45, the full schedule is available on the Brum2600 website

Chiptune Marching Band

On Saturday 24th October I was at Space Studios in London to attend the Chiptune Marching Band workshop. I was really excited to go to this as I haven’t had a chance to dedicate my time to a single project with my breadboard and Arduino board.

Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood)

After introductions we got down to making our noise making device. Essentially we were following instructions from a booklet, but more in depth explanations to how the different parts work were available if requested. My device had a light sensor which altered my sound, as shown below.

Once we finished our devices, which happened rather quickly, we took to the streets of Hackney to engage the masses in our noise!

Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood)

There was a performance from pixelh8, Dave Giffiths (who I saw at OpenLab earlier this year) and others later on in the evening, but a slow train back home meant I had to miss it.

As usual this is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to see happening in Birmingham and the West Midlands. fizzPOP, which I run with help from Nikki and others, and 8Bit Lounge are going some way to filling this void and hopefully there’s some good news coming up in the next few days.

fizzPOP socials

I mentioned in a previous post how I wanted to get more people doing social things that related to hacking, like going to the Micromouse event last Saturday. I thought it’d be a great opportunity for people to see what else is available to the community and to link different micro communities that would eventually encourage more discussion and collaboration between the groups. Well, it looks like I’m not the only one with that idea. Several members of the group have been rather vocal on making the meetings more than fortnightly. My only concern with a move like that is that there’s a risk of exhaustion and people may feel under too much pressure to come. This is why I liked the suggestion of one member to have social meets in between the hacking sessions. In this way discussion can still continue and it may be a great way for new members to get better acquainted to other members.

Now the next task is to seek out of technical events in the West Midlands that we could go to and also to just chill over brew! If people interested in attending a social next week have a preference over day vote here

Thoughts on fizzPOP

Since February I have been running a hackerspace network called fizzPOP. The aim of this is to eventually acquire a permanent space for people to come and share ideas and collaborate on their projects. THe benefits of having a space include actually getting out of the house and, having a space with materials that you may not have .e.g. a lazer-cutter and just generally being in a friendly environment to bounce around ideas with other people.

Aside from the obvious issue of acquiring a space, which we recently (kind of) rectified, one of the problems we’ve had is in defining ourselves.

I think the UK is generally new to the idea of a hackerspace. They’ve been around Europe and America since modern computing came about. It has its roots in the DIY movement and the activities at a hackerspace can be anything from learning a programming language to learning how to construct and use a sewing machine. The key element is the sharing of skills and exploration of technology.

Laptop Fire

Back to the problem, how can you define something that covers such a broad range of topics? Many of our members, upon coming to a meeting have asked, “So, what do we do?” The answer to that is usually to do whatever you want, but perhaps some boundaries or instruction might be needed. People may respond better if there is a set task for them to focus on. The danger in doing this is that you may then alienate those who do not want to take part in the task.

Overall, what I would like for fizzPOP is for there to be tutorials/workshops on a particular subject that run alongside the usual ‘anything goes’ activities. For this, however, you need people who want to run workshops. How do you encourage this?

WXWM late roundup

Courtesy of Ms McQuillan

On Saturday 14th March I was at Kitchen Garden Cafe to take part in WXWM as a panel host. My 5-minute talk was a short introduction to hacking. I wanted to dispell some myths about hackers and hacking, show how fun it can be and also promote the Birmingham Hack Space at the same time. You can download the slides from my presentation for free (available under GNU FDL) and you can listen again to all of the presentations over at Rhubarb Radio

My favourite talks included Charlie Pinder’s talk on Pervasive Technology, which she illustrated using the medium of cake

My talk on hacking (with a little bit of promotion for the Birmingham Hack Space) took place near the end, but none the less was still well received. I was a little nervous but everyone seemed to enjoy my use of hats to illustrate the different sides of hacking.

Keep watch on this space for more hackery goodness soon!