A Selection of Past Workshops & Events

Video clips of a variety of past workshops can be viewed on You Tube

Royal Docks Ensemble, London
The Ensemble Mechanical Workshop came out for the London Royal Dock’s Family Weekender in October 2021, which was the closing event in their spectacular Originals Festival.

A new venue for me in summer 2021, Phoenix Studio is run by the inimitable James Ort. The playful automata workshops were for adults seeking to learn or hone their making skills. Something must have clicked as James has booked me again for this summer.

The buzzy Brighton Science circus is one of my favourite regular events, where pre-Covid I often ran The Ensemble Workshop and provide interactive automata for visitors to play with.

Fire the Inventor facilitates one-day taster workshops for First Year Scenic Arts students to dip into engineering basics and the theatrical potential of mechanical movement.


Looks like I’m becoming a regular at West Dean since 2019 when I ran my first automata-making course there. Situated in sumptuous English countryside and gardens, this beautiful college with superb workshop and resources, has to be seen to be believed.

I’ve run workshops and demonstrations at the marvellous Sligo IT’s Engineering & Science Festivals now since 2019, including by Zoom during the Covid era.



Craft Central, Isle of Dogs, London
Craft Central hosted an exhibition of my work in 2019.

I ran several workshops at Craft Central in 2018 and 2019, for children, adults and for local school George Green’s. Students themed their automata and exhibition on local docklands history.

At the invitation of the IoP I run workshops at their annual Physics Festivals in Chelmsford, Ipswich, Norwich and King’s Lynn, UK.

We teamed up with the Institute of Imagination for a day of mechanical workshops in October 2018 at their incredible HQ in an old disused fire station in Lambeth, London.

Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, UK, September 2018
Adult masterclass one day kinetic art workshop themed with Hauser & Wirth’s Alexander Calder exhibition ‘From The Stoney River to the Sky’, which drew its energy and insight from Calder’s workshop in Colerado and his playful ingenuity, not least in making everyday domestic objects. Calder’s playfulness inspired the workshop.

There She Was All Dressed Up by Stephen Savage

Tate Exchange, London, June 2018
Fire the Inventor experimental workshop applying Pardhan Gond design style to a new medium – kinetic sculptures. In collaboration with Gond artists Rajendra Shyam and Venkat Shyam from India, Warwick University, Tate Exchange and the Advasi Arts Trust.

Tower Bridge Museum, May 2018
Drop-in workshop in the museum area surrounded by the huge and beautiful Victorian steam-powered machines that lifted the bridge before electric motors replaced them.

Hackney City Farm, London, 2017-18
Community project with Fire the Inventor to build sculptural wind powered machines to generate electricity and to turn mechanisms (to power  small whirligig sculptures in future projects).  The broader context was to draw attention to alternative power sources and how to save energy. Funded by the Peoples Postcode Lottery, supported by Hackney City Farm, made possible by the input of volunteers and volunteer architecture students from the University of East London.


Hastings Pier, 2017-2018
Community automata building project with local ‘Craftivist’ groups, organised by Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and Culture Shift as part of an exhibition of automata on the prize winning pier.



 Stratford Discovery Centre, London. Fun Palace, October 2017
The Discovery Centre’s Children’s Forum took over and ran the Ensemble workshop installation themselves. The children adapted it for a science & storytelling workshop for national Fun Palace Day.

Artist in Residence, Bow Arts RAW Lab May-September 2017
Well done Bow Arts for creating a new arts presence in London’s Royal Docks. They invited me to be the first ever Artist in Residence there. With Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, we created an exhibition and workshops for the duration.



Local Korean TV presenter plays with the Ensemble Automata installation workshop at the National Science Centre, Daejeon, July 2017. Latest stop as the educational workshop arm of the impressive Cabaret Mechanical Theatre-Sharmanka travelling exhibition.


In June 2017, we were invited back to the rather luxurious (such high class food in the Green Room!) Cheltenham Science Festival 2017, this time to run a new mechanical colour wheel and animation workshop, exploring how the brain perceives colour and movement.

The East Asian tour of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, Sharmanka and Fire the Inventor stopped off at the Shanghai Science Centre for four months, opening on Christmas eve 2016.

AccessHE Year 8 Expo at Lewisham and Southwark Colleges, London: worked with Rose Bruford College to encourage and inspire Year 8 students to pursue HE in STEM subjects, through STEAM pathways (in other words, trying to open their minds to the creativity and possibilities of STEM subjects).

Eleanor Palmer Primary School in London is one of a number of schools where we regularly run workshops. We did the Robox workshop to tie in with their reading of the superb Hugo Cabret book. In June 2018 we participated in the school’s STEAM week, using their superb brand new STEAM Lab building.

Fire the Inventor was commissioned in 2016 by the Crafts Council as an exhibition consultant and to produce two hands-on learning machines for the A Curious Turn automata exhibition, which toured the UK for two years.


GDSC July 2016It was quite an adventure taking mechanical theatre, automata and learning interactives to the Guangdong Science Centre, July 2016. A tour de force of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, Sharmanka and Fire the Inventor. ‘We’ve never had anything like this before in China’ was a common refrain.


On the same trip, I went to Hong Kong’s Inter-Continental Hotel to do a corporate team-building session for a Gap (that’s the clothing chain) conference of 400 senior managers from around the world. Forty or so teams competed to solve the puzzle of assembling a mechanical kit in the shortest time.

Cheltenham SF June 16
The Cheltenham Science Festival, June 2016. A wonderful contingent of volunteers helped us run the single cam box workshop at this most civilised, welcoming and superbly catered of science festivals.

Big Bang 2016

The Mechanical Ensemble workshop was unpacked from its travelling suitcase for the huge four day The Big Bang Fair at Birmingham’s NEC in March 2016, laying down an island of improvised mechanical theatre snugged between the stands of Network Rail, HS2 and a row of university engineering departments. We were invited back the following year, March 2017.

Hermitage Community Moorings, London, December 2015Christmas-boats
Christmas and boat themes merrily crossed in this mechanical art workshop at, and in partnership with, Hermitage Community Moorings on the River Thames, a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge.


Wilton’s Music Hall, London, February 2015
P1160529Five days of mechanical indulgence at Wilton’s fabulously charismatic Music Hall, the oldest one still in existence. The event was a mix of day time school and public workshops, two evening adults-only making-as-entertainment evenings with drinks and music, and the chance to press buttons and turn handles with the Mechanicals Exhibition. And we broke the world record for building the longest linked automata at 57 machines which stretched across several tables at 8.5 meters.

Read our favourite account of the event by Morbid Frog

Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2013 & 2014
ADSF-workshopP1140207Probably the world’s biggest science festival. For two years we’ve run the cardboard box cam workshop there.  It’s madly busy and popular: we set a new record of 937 people in a day (and that’s without acompanying family members). Over 4000 cardboard box automata kits were made at each event, over ten days. See the video.


Filming for BBC Two Design Challenge October 2014P1150758-copy
We provided specialist expertise and mechanical resources for a production of BBC Two’s Design Challenge, a design and technology series aimed at teachers and schools. In this project children learned about cams and cogs by designing and constructing a motorised moving window display for a toy shop themed around Roald Dahl.   Watch the production here (be patient, it seems to be a slow link!).


Brighton Maker Faire September 2014
Wow, this Maker Faire was marvellously hectic, a single giant hall jam-packed with technology and construction stalls, and a buzzy crowd keen to get making, learning and sharing ideas. Very much hope we’ll be back in 2015.

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre at the Paul McPherson Gallery,
London Winter 2013/14
A programme of different automata-making workshops for adults, children and families, such as the two hour Wired Up Evening Workshop.


Mad Lab, Manchester, UK 2013. Victorian themed automata making workshop for all ages in Mad Lab’sbrilliant high street shop-turned-mad lab.


Henley Youth Festival 2013 & 2014
Over 60 young people had their first experience of making automata. The results were brilliant, many participants being surprised at their talent in engineered creativity. By the end of the session, the words cam, camshaft and cam follower were to be heard everywhere.


Introduction to Automata-making for Adults on board MS Stubnitz 
2013.   See the video


The Rise of the Robots 2013
Fantastic robots using boxes and cam mechanisms made by Year 5 pupils from St John’s Catholic Primary School, as part of a wider school project called ‘The Rise of the Robots’.  The robots were linked together to form a single machine. See video


Enginuity-Olympic-ProjectOlympic creativity project ‘Enginuity’ for Camden Community School 2012
Two day end of term mechanical making and art workshop for 20 students of mixed ages and abilities, with the design themed around the Olympics. Using some pre-made components, students made individual crank and cam driven automata, experimenting with and developing further mechanisms and linkages.


Bits ‘n’ Pieces Automata Workshop 2011FTI parrot
Fire the Inventor’s first ever one-day automata-making workshop. For adults, we provided a workshop space, tools, materials and a collective mechanical-making vibe, not to mention a robotic parrot which kept everyone well entertained. See video

Make it Move workshops at the Science Museum, London
“We were at the Science Museum this week and made with our children your models. Our kids absolutely loved making the moving models, as did we.”  Fiona Oliver and Anna Colton See video




Theatre & Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Conference 2011
The Ensemble automata workshop turned intellectual and academic at a TAPRA conference at Kingston Uniiversity. Theatre and performance academics and practioners gamely participated in the workshop and afterwards gleefully theorised on the experience, including  whether a making workshop could be a performance.


Launch Event, 25 March 2011, V&A

“What a great event you all put on Friday at the V&A so much energy and enthusiasm
it was contagious I went homebuzzing, so thank you for that. It was such a thrill to observe
people engaging and getting stuck into making stuff

Tamara Violaris,  artist.