BANANAS! info and ideas

This page give extra information for the BANANAS! event a The Public in August 2013.

Things we used:

MaKey Makey

MaKey MaKey board

MaKey MaKey board

This is the little gadget that we used for the Banana Synth and the game controllers, it helps you make all sorts of different things into touchpad controllers.

Here is their website:


Here are links to some of the games we played with our MaKey MaKey controllers:

Training your Monkey

Here is a Monkey Language sheet for you to download and print.

The inspiration for this activity came from Dr Techniko.

Things you can try at home:

How to tattoo a banana

Step-by-step instructions for how to make cool designs on a banana.

5-minute ice cream

A fabulous way of making your own ice cream!

Banana recipes

If you have more than 5 minutes and want to make some banana-based food, how about trying one of these BBC recipes?

Initial planning for BANANAS!

This weekend we’re running a load of crazyfun activities themed around bananas and technology.

There’s lots to get ready: from giant fruit and projected video games through to mask templates and novelty synthesisers. But the plus side is that we have to test them all and come up with all the cool ideas (well the first layer, anyway – we’re sure you’ll add plenty more inventiveness on top of what we start off with!).

Here are some photos from our initial planning meeting:

BANANAS! initial planning session

BANANAS! initial planning session

BANANAS! initial planning session

It wasn’t long before other people in the office were coming over to see what was going on. Turns out Dave-from-Marketing’s got some latent musical talent, too!

We’ll be using MaKey MaKey for a couple of the activities and we’re anticipating them being, shall we say, quite energetic, so I’ve also started making an extension/fortification board to a) make things a bit more robust b) make it easier to access as many different inputs as possible and c) provide a way of connecting a variety of different leads.

MaKey MaKey robustified

MaKey MaKey robustified

Today I’ll be making some of the things that will get attached to it. The question is, what will people then attach to the other ends of the cables?! Come along on Saturday or Sunday to find out.

Maker Night #4

A quiet night last night – I think we were all feeling the effects of the muggy weather!

Maker Night 3

A mix of returners and new faces, but all aware that there are only 2 Maker Nights remaining as part of this series at The Public, talk turned again to what made the sessions valuable and what should happen after Many & Varied depart.

We covered a lot of other subjects too including: LibraryBoxes, being able to see Saturn (or not), Iridium flares, harmonographs and giving the rugby-types at school electric shocks.

A nice phrase that came up a few times was “being a bit crap”: the importance of having a space in which you can make the mistakes you learn from; a place where you don’t have to be perfect.

Pi-Lite shield for the Raspberry Pi

A Furby shell awaiting a new face.

For the next session (6th of August) there is talk of Big Red Buttons.

There’s also a general call out for people who may have experience of working with touchscreens – do you know how to programme them? We also have someone who’s interested in using either ethernet or wi-fi connected Arduino for home automation – if you have any experience with either of these and can feed into his thinking that would be great.

Maker Night #3

For the third Maker Night at The Public we had a nice mix of returners and new faces.

I remember looking up from the middle of a stint at trying to figure out some code and being very impressed at the range of activities going on around the table: drawing, mask-making, traffic control (a nice Arduino model of some traffic lights with a pedestrian crossing), illustration, morse code and aspirations for tai-chi tracking kinect sensors!

traffic control


We’re starting to get some nice link-ups between people’s projects too: with inspiration and know-how flowing in different directions. Another recurring theme is how Maker Nights are proving to be a really nice ring-fenced space that people are using to get on with the creative activities that they normally don’t get around to.

We’re halfway through our run of Maker Nights as part of our stint at The Public. The next one is on Tuesday the 23rd of July, drop-in and join us any time between 5 and 9:30pm.

Jamboree feedback

Just gathering a few bits of feedback from the day…

It all went swimmingly. Or at least as swimmingly as things can go without anything getting wet. Which was in itself an achievement, given the amount of indoor cycling.

I can now correctly identify the absence of birds from a field; various people now appreciate whole new linguistic dimensions to beer-spilling; my Macgyver-spec swiss army knife no longer bears the blunt (see what I did there) of two decades of impromptu wire stripping, while Macgyver himself saved the world from sulphuric acid and terible 80s shoes. I smoothed dead vegetables without the aid of abrasives; got improvisational with XLR cables; wished I’d brought an oscilloscope; introduced various people to the Dark Side; successfully picked some locks (one of which was a fiddly bastard); ate the correct number of poppadoms[1]; received a hands-on practical demonstration of harmonic oscillation from a two-year-old; got oil on my head; somehow managed to acquire a Rasperry Pi and at no point fell out of a hammock.

Really, what’s not to like?

[1] Too many

Lots of interesting stuff going on, and a great space to invade for the day.

[...]we went to the Big Skills Share Jamboree, on Saturday, and it was great fun. Morgan was kept busy playing with the other two kids who were there, plus beanbags and squishy balls and giant lego, so Mom & Dad got to do some interesting things. Was nice to not just be teaching locks all day! I did an hour session and taught 7(?) women how to open a basic lock, and one lady opened all the way up to a 6 pin lock in short order!

9/10 – Would definitely recommend. Could have been easier to find the place, and the car parking, but that’s not Nikki’s fault – who puts up the road signs from the dual carriageway, then doesn’t put one up at either of the last 2 roundabouts?!

I really enjoyed it as well! I was too engrossed in my circuit bending to get involved with other stuff, but even then I had lots of fun and help from some great people!

and possibly my favourite from someone who missed out:

Holy shit thats amazing! …there’s loads of stuff I need to know in there, shame I’m busy all day tomorrow. Never even knew stuff like this existed

The Great Big Skills Share Jamboree

<-- This way to the skills

We did it!

I’m not going to attempt to list all the things that happened, all the skills that were shared and all the new things that were discovered, as I would inevitably leave too much out – there was a lot!

The Great Big Skills Share Jamboree

The photos are probably worth the several thousand words that would be required…

Many, many thanks to all the people who came and contributed in their own unique ways. (Also those who supported the event from afar.)

We’ll be doing this again at some point!

Maker Night #2

Coming in the same week as The Great Big Skills Jamboree, the write-up’s been a little slow, however here are a few photos from our 2nd Maker Night at The Public…

The first wave of Makers get started:

After a quick lesson in how to solder, one chap (sorry, I can’t remember everyone’s names!) embarked on this project – a shield for a Raspberry Pi computer:
soldering project

Antonio’s on a mission to learn how to glitch visuals through sound input. Here are a few of his early experiments using live images from a webcam and tone generated through PureData:

glitch patches

Many & Varied Maker Night

Many & Varied Maker Night

The second wave of Makers wanted to do some drawing. So they did!


This is, I think, the key thing about Maker Nights – they are what you want them to be. Bring whatever you’re interested in along on Tuesday the 9th of July and join us for the next one!

Preparing for the Skills Jamboree


We’re very excited about The Great Big Skills Share Jamboree; here’s how it’s shaping up in terms of the menu of skills offered and requested so far…

Skills on the share list:

  • Basic electronics
  • computer programming
  • bicycle maintenance
  • British Sign Language
  • aperture, shutter speed and ISO numbers for the photographically challenged
  • greenwood carving / knife skills
  • chemistry
  • making clay animals and figures out of self hardening clay
  • WordPress
  • editing Wikipedia
  • identification of garden birds
  • using Linux and unconventional methods to create generative art
  • soldering
  • microcontroller programming
  • hardware reuse
  • lockpicking

Skills on the requested list so far:

  • Juggling
  • knitting
  • magic / card tricks
  • Arduino
  • Raspberry Pi
  • becoming a billionaire
  • making music using either hardware or software
  • sewing
  • playing guitar
  • learning another (human) language
  • interfacing electronics to the real world, radio (xBee) remote control
  • British Sign Language
  • soldering electronic components

How cool is that?!

So if anything on either of those lists takes your fancy, or if you’d like to contribute something completely different, OR if you’d just like to come and soak it all up, you’d be very welcome to join us!

The day will evolve around who comes along and what direction our interests and curiosity take us, so don’t feel you can’t contribute, because being there and getting involved is really the only requirement…

It’s a free event, this Saturday, 10:30 for an 11am start, finishing at 6:30 followed by an optional curry and MacGyver session afterwards.

Register at:

See you there!

Our first Maker Night

We’ve just got back home after our first Maker Night at The Public: a night that involved story-telling catalysts, learning to solder, spaceblanket interfaces for jumping monkeys, “ooh! Do you remember when we did that!” devices, a TOP SECRET project, and, importantly, not letting the mains get into your cup of tea. That last one’s important – never let mains electricity get into your cup of tea.

Here are a few images from the evening – more can be found in this Flickr set.

The early-birds settle in for a night of making.

The early-birds settle in for a night of making.

A short time later the thinking faces and solder-sucker come out...

A short time later the thinking faces and solder-sucker come out…

A story-telling catalyst - his son tells a story and touches the different foil strips to trigger the noises he wants.

A story-telling catalyst – his son tells a story and touches the different foil strips to trigger the noises he wants.

Learning to solder in a totally non-competitive manner.

Learning to solder in a totally non-competitive manner.

Ian thinks he's won with this abstract expressionist sculpture capturing the physical immediacy of metal, plastic and the juxtapositions inherent in contemporary Western society...

Ian thinks he’s won with this abstract expressionist sculpture capturing the physical immediacy of metal, plastic and the juxtapositions inherent in contemporary Western society…

...but then Anne made this really nice butterfly!

…but then Anne made this really nice butterfly!

Taking a break from carpentry.

Taking a break from carpentry.

Trying out the MaKey Makey. First impression: but a keyboard is so much easier! Changing to: this is a lot more fun than a keyboard!

Trying out the MaKey Makey. First impression: but a keyboard is so much easier! Changing to: this is a lot more fun than a keyboard!

Serious discussions about interfaces, play and discovery.

Serious discussions about interfaces, play and discovery.

Seriously! You don't want the mains getting into your cup of tea!

Seriously! You don’t want the mains getting into your cup of tea!

Thanks to everyone who came – we had a great mixture of people learning skills like soldering and basic electronics for the first time as well as more practised folks bringing in their interesting projects. By the end of the evening we had made various sculptures, some code that talks to Flickr and numerous blinky lights.

At least two people are now remembering broken things they have at home and thinking “if I bring that in next time, I can fix that!”. Here at Many & Varied we consider that to be a very big win!

The next Maker Night is on the 25th of June.