Meet The Makers – Neil Morrin & Francis Irving – Cosy Conference

Ahoy hoy! It’s Monday and it’s time for another Meet The Makers interview. This week I caught up with some old friends. Neil Morrin and Francis Irving are organising the very first Cosy Conference section of Liverpool MakeFest. In addition Neil tells us about the regular Ignite Liverpool events, how to submit talks for that and also for Cosy Conference, Francis tells us more about how you could apply to win £500, yes £500 from Awesome Foundation at Liverpool MakeFest.

Applications for the £500 need to be in by June 20th so there isn’t much time. Get yours in now!!!

As always you can LISTEN TO THE FULL AUDIO of this interview on the podcast, which I recommend. Or you can read a shortened transcript below.

Let’s get to it…


DAN: Welcome guys, you’re organising the first every Cosy Conference at MakeFest this year, so what exactly is it?

FRANCIS: Cosy Conference is a fantastic new talky, speaky, chatty bit of MakeFest. It’ll be downstairs on the ground floor, near the back in a new area which can seat about 30 people. It’s a talking conference track but in a really cool way with 2 interesting aspects that we’ll come on to talk about in a minute.

DAN: OK cool, I believe it’s going to be in front of the game hub, that little building on the ground floor. So it should be easy to find. What kind of things are people going to be talking about then?

FRANCIS: We’ve got 2 main strands, the first is a series of Ignite talks which Neil will explain in a minute, and the other is a series of Awesome Foundation pitches, which is people trying to get £500 for their maker project. So 2 very different things.

DAN: Ok Neil, this is gonna be funny because we’ve both been involved with Ignite for about 8 years now but what exactly is it?

NEIL: Ignite Liverpool events run quarterly and it’s normally at LEAF cafe on Bold St. MakeFest asked us to run a special Ignite as part of MakeFest, we thought about it for about 5 seconds and said “yeah ok that’ll be a laugh”. So Ignite is a series of 5 minute talks, individuals use 20 slides which last 5 minutes after which times up. We get all kinds of different talks as you know, really diverse topics which are always interesting. This one is gonna be a little different because we’ve decided to put talks into topic areas. So they are: Education, Privacy and Security, Diversity, The Economics Of Being A Maker, Manufacturing and Imaging.

FRANCIS: There’s 2 super important things about the Ignite format for talks which are… 5 minutes works really well because it means if you get bored you just wait a few minutes and you get a new speaker. It means you can drop in easily and listen to a talk for 5 minutes. The other thing that’s really fun is the slides automatically advance every 15 seconds. So the speaker has no control over that, the talk IS going to take 5 minutes. The slides always tick along and if they get behind they have to catch up.

It actually makes it easier. I’ve spoken at a few of them and it sort of makes it easier because the format is structured, you know you can’t hesitate, it makes you power through. It makes it more fun and engaging I think. I’m excited to see what talks we get about Making and how they link together.

DAN: Ok so you’ve had some talks submitted but I assume you still want more?

NEIL: Oh yeah we want more, there’s still loads of time to submit a talk. I think a lot of people are being put off at the moment because they’re running stalls and they think “what’ll happen to my stall while I do a talk?” but we’ll have people to cover your stall while you talk don’t worry. MakeFest are arranging volunteers to do that.

FRANCIS: It also gives you a chance to get attention for your stall because you’re speaking. People get to find out what you’re doing and what you’re passionate about of course. They might visit your stall because of hearing your talk.

NEIL: ….Yeah I agree with Francis.

FRANCIS: Oh and I should have said we’re going to have panels as well.

NEIL: Yes! So within each of those tracks we’ll have panels. So say manufacturing for example. If we have 5 people lined up to talk about manufacturing they’ll be on a panel together at the end to answer questions from the audience. That’s a great opportunity for people who are just starting out to ask questions and find out more. So it’s kind of like a mini mini Barcamp crammed into an afternoon in a corner somewhere.

We are still looking for speakers so if people head to there’s a big red banner which says “next event June 30th”, click on that and it takes you to a page with more information, there’s FAQs too. There’s a link there to the sign up form which is just a simple Google Form.

DAN: Sounds great, so we should talk a bit about the Awesome Foundation as well. What is it?

FRANCIS: So every month we give away £500 to a project we think is awesome, that’s the bottom line. The money doesn’t come from a company or the government or anything, it’s grass roots. There are 10 of us in Liverpool who put in £50 a month. It’s called micro granting, it’s basically for the early stages of a project. You have a crazy idea and that £500 will get you started, you know make you go out and do it. We’ve been doing it for… oh it might be 5 years now.

This month we’re switching it around a bit and we want applications from Maker type projects particularly. We’ll be doing the pitches to win at MakeFest as part of the cozy conference.

DAN: So is it gonna be like Dragon’s Den with you all judging pitches at the event? <laughs>

FRANCIS: No we’re a lot nicer than that! We judge them on being awesome. Ideally they have some kind of benefit, ideally they’re to do with making, normally they’d have to be local but we’re stretching that for MakeFest. They have to have a budget, so have some idea what they’re going to spend the money on, preferably an accurate idea. Most importantly though they have to bring joy. That’s the awesome element.

So just thinking of some of the previous ones we’ve had. We had some musical shoes that when you dance they sing and someone just literally needed they money to buy the components. That’s just one example.

DAN: You’ve funded MakeFest itself in the past haven’t you?

FRANCIS: Yeah the original MakeFest. It was literally the week before it happened and they had no power extensions and no lunch for any of the Makers or volunteers. They came up and said “we’re doing this festival” which sounded amazing and we gave them 500 quid to help out. The one a year later I think we also supported but it’s a more organised now MakeFest. That’s the idea though, we help things get off the ground and get going.

So what we really want is lots of cool applications. If you just search for “awesome liverpool” you’ll find our website and you can apply through there. It’s really easy. You mainly just have to say what you want to do with the money. Why it’s Awesome. If you’ve got a business you want to start, or a wacky project you want to make, some kind of new educational idea maybe or anything really, if £500 would help you do it then apply! The trustees vote on the ones we think are the best to make a shortlist. The best 4 or 5 will do a pitch on the day.

The pitching is a 5 minute talk, the slides don’t automatically advance on this, it’s just a normal talk. You do that and then you have 10 minutes of questions from the board, so you don’t have to make sure you cover everything in the 5 minute talk, we’ll make sure you have time to chat to us. It’s quite informal. Then we go away and pick the best project, we immediately give the cheque out there and then. It’s very straightforward, there’s no paperwork, you don’t have to report back or anything. You just get the money. Obviously we like to hear how it went on social media if you want, but it’s not a requirement.

We need applications to be in by JUNE 20th so we can make the shortlist and let people know. So it’s important to do it now!!

DAN: So the message here for anyone listening is you’ve got 3 jobs. Apply for an Awesome grant, submit your talk for Ignite and most importantly get yourself along to MakeFest on the day!

Thanks very much for joining us guys.

NEIL: Thank you Dan.

FRANCIS: Thanks!


Thanks to Neil and Francis for having a chat with me. Can’t wait to see some talks and panel discussions at the Cosy Conference. It sounds fun. Submit a talk, apply for a grant and generally get involved people!

Speaking of getting involved. If you’d like to volunteer to help out we could really use your support on the weekend. Fill out the quick Volunteer form here.

Also sign up for some tickets if you haven’t already, it helps us gauge numbers and also get support for future events.

I’ll be back next week with another final Meet The Makers podcast before the big day. It’s so close now eeeek! Don’t panic anyone, don’t panic!

See you then,


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