A Selection of Past Workshops & Events

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

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



Well done Bow Arts for creating a magical space in a neglected part of London – the farthest eastern end of the Royal Docks, which are the world’s biggest area of impounded water. It’s a 15 minute cycle from end to the other. Fire the Inventor was invited to be the first Artist in Residence there, from May to September 2017. The RAW Lab, as it’s known, became a kinetic art exhibition and workshop. We bonded so much with the area we’ve relocated to a new studio a stone’s throw across the water.



Local Korean TV presenter plays with the FTI Ensemble Automata 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. Seeing the unexpected ways the brain perceives colour and movement had everyone enthralled.



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 run workshops. We did the Robox workshop to tie in with their reading of the superb Hugo Cabret book.

At the invitation of the Institute of Physics, our Ensemble workshop and travelling exhibition of mechanical curiousities appeared at the popular Norwich Science Festival in October 2016 and the Chelmsford Physics Festival in December 2016.

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 is currently touring the UK.


Gap HK July 16GDSC 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, we went Hong Kong’s Inter-Continental Hotel to do a corporate team-building session for Gap 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.

BriSciFest-small We added cams, friction drives, gearing and engineered arts to the science at the lively Brighton Science Festival that took over the town in February 2016. We made a second appearance in February 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,
Mad lab, Manchester, May 2013 London Winter 2013/14P-McPherson-Gallery
A programme of different automata-making
workshops for adults, children and families,
such as the two hour Wired Up Evening Workshop.

   Mad Lab, Manchester 2013
See the video

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.Stubnitz

Introduction to Automata-making
for Adults on board MS Stubnitz 
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.