‘My job feels like an extension of who I am, and I’m passionate about it,’ says Microhomes’ Sally Gilford


Sally Gilford is an artist and print-maker, working on a number of socially-inclusive projects across the north. She is one of the Openmaker finalists, partnering with Salix Homes Developments and Islington Mill Arts Club to fit out three experimental microhomes.

Co-founding print specialist One69A at Salford’s Islington Mill, with Mark Jermyn, Sally’s responsible for looking after the education side of the business. She works with groups from primary schools to secondary and university, alongside a variety of other institutions and groups including 42nd Street, an organisation working with teens with mental health issues, and on Kew Gardens’ ‘Go Wild’ project in Liverpool. One69A also works on a commission basis with galleries and museums including the Whitworth, Leeds City Art Gallery, Museum of Liverpool and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Sally Gilford and One69A collaborator Mark Jermyn…

Sally also develops her own textile and printing practice, producing original textiles and patterns. She is currently working with the Welcome Trust with the University of Manchester and often collaborates with other artists.

Studying interactive art at university has made her a ‘doer’, she says. ‘My degree was an “ideas-based” course, giving me practical skills to problem solve, which was an important aspect of my learning.

‘You have to trust your gut and go for it when you run a business,’ she says. ‘When we started One69A neither of us had ever run a business before, but we both had a passion for what we were doing, and energy. We worked really hard, but it’s worth it. My job feels like an extension of who I am, and I’m passionate about it. I’m lucky – I never experience that Sunday night dread.’

Sally was introduced to the OpenMaker project at Islington Mill. ‘I want to manufacture on a larger scale, but it’s always seemed impossible as an individual maker. It’s an interesting way to explore approaching a company.’

Sally’s work often involves groups that have a social impact, and she’s looking forward to taking part in a conscious design of people’s environment. Microhome is partnering with Salix Homes, constructing small spaces for live/work space, for the homeless, or in places where people are being pushed out by development. It considers how conscious design impacts on peoples’ lifestyle and health, and three micro-homes are planned for the National Housing Federation showcase.

Sally points to Liverpool’s Granby Workshop – the winner of the 2016’s Turner Art Prize – as an example of socially conscious manufacturing, rather than ‘a mindless churning out of goods for capital profit,’ she says. ‘I want to work more with products that last, have quality and would like to do some of the type of things Granby do, perhaps working with a larger manufacturer to enable access to equipment and distribution scale. The key is finding the right manufacturer who is willing or interested in working this way.’

The biggest challenge, says Sally, is to ‘fend off imposter syndrome! I also want to make sure I’m always being creative and encouraging others to be creative, and to see the positive impact and affect on people’s happiness and wellbeing. I need to achieve a better work/life balance, with more sleep, and would like to develop my own textiles and products, and be recognised and successful at this. I need to devote more time to it… I think OpenMaker will help me do that.

‘I’m hoping it will help develop the socially-engaged practice. My plan is to work with manufacturers, so that companies can produce my products, like a digital manufacturer for the fabrics/textiles. It will bring the different elements together, and into my ‘practice’, giving me more knowledge of the sphere of manufacturing and strengthening collaboration with other artists.

‘The proof will be in the pudding – if we have developed three successful micro-homes. I think the real assessment will be further down the line though, when they’re actually put into use.’

Kick-start your startup with tech event access

Startup Sesame, Europe’s largest alliance of tech events, has launched its Season Four call for entries. If you haven’t come across Startup Sesame yet, it runs acceleration programmes which grant promising entrepreneurs premium access to 30+ global tech events, and supports startups by offering resources and insights into tech events. You’ll find more information in this presentation about them – here.



This year, Startup Sesame is running accelerators to access tech events in four different sectors:
  • mobility programme focuses on transport and mobility startups
  • entertainment programme is dedicated to creative entrepreneurs, including music, video, gaming and publishing
  • DeepTech programme is for IP intensive companies like lifesciences, aerospace, clean energy, robotics, agtech and computing
  • Europe programme is for all startups focused on other areas


Each of this year’s selected startups will receive a personalised curriculum, which will help them identify which conferences are most relevant according to their business objectives. Teams will also benefit from pre-event coaching, including event strategy guidance and networking best-practices.
Season four startups are invited to connect and collaborate with a pool of more than 30 mentors from around the world.
In its annual report, Startup Sesame surveyed 3,500 entrepreneurs – and 91% said that they believe tech events generate benefits, so apply here before March 1st.

‘We need to find commonality’ says Liverpool AquaFarm’s Jimmy Haughey


Jimmy Haughey is a graduate of Liverpool John Moores University, originally from the North West of Ireland. He has worked in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, China and Vietnam, in varied roles including as executive director of a FTSE100 company, ground management and business acquisition.

His vision for Liverpool AquaFarm is to demonstrate a modular, off-grid, aquaculture centre, to produce food in urban locations, using disused space. The test bed will be at Clarence Graving Dock in North Liverpool, carrying out R&D and producing fresh fish, seaweed and shellfish. Its future phases will focus an SME cluster and visitor destination to promote innovation and raise awareness of the sustainability agenda.

Jimmy’s family has a long-running farm in the west of Ireland, which farms seaweed and cut turf alongside animals and land. The seaweed, he says, is mainly used to feed the ground and for animal fodder, which he began to think of as an untapped resource.

Setting up Seaweed Alchemy in partnership with the universities allows farming of seaweed from the family farm in Ireland, which can also be used for research purposes. ‘There are diverse prospects for products,’ he says. ‘Engagement with different species of seaweed allows different approaches to its use in health and wellbeing, in food and in wound management. Nature is a great healer and it can be used in the treatment of ulcers, which is a particularly expanding area with an ageing population. We’re now looking at how to improve these and create market products.’ Seaweed Alchemy is also involved with the Institute of Integrated Biology and transitional medicine.

Jimmy’s skills are honed from his experience working around the world, and as an employee of one of the largest drinks companies in the world. Living and working in Africa and Asia has ‘culturally complemented’ his skills, he says, operating in cultures that are more innovation-led, often where smaller operations leading to innovation. He also talks about his journey from Irish coast farm to engaging with technology and a move to the city, which has given him direct access to a relatively untapped resource – the raw material of seaweed.

Seaweed Alchemy currently collaborates with a number of organisations, including two institutes – charactering different types of seaweed, and in transitional medicine – and works alongside Liverpool City Council and Peel Holdings on Liverpool Aqua Farm, his OpenMaker finalist. OpenMaker, and the establishment of a LES (Local Enabling Space) is ‘the glue to take it forwards’, he says.

‘I was invited to an innovation workshop when I came to Liverpool. It allowed me to become part of enterprise partnerships – meeting Alex Kelly from Make Liverpool gave me an insight into what they were doing in the North Docks, and I came across OpenMaker through her. I appreciate the chance to meet like-minded people and new ways of working.

‘I’m interested in looking at personalised health as a long term approach, and at managing food sustainability and health and wellbeing in the shorter term,’ he says. ‘OpenMaker is a mechanism for taking the next step, and also enables long-term thinking with all the stakeholders in the process. It ratifies our thinking, and provides a positive badge.
‘In assessing whether we’ve been successful in the next nine to 12 months, our main criteria are the delivery of a demonstrator on the dock as a world first; creating a governance structure to align something that respects players as well as entrepreneurs, using communication and engagement as a business, and a proposed festival in June, giving us a wonderful place to shout about our project.

‘The opportunity,’ says Jimmy ‘is a real positive. The funders – whether they’re coming from government, regional or private – want something to happen. But universities have to get more involved – they need to have more conversations and impact. We need to “dirty the gown” and cut out bureaucracy. If we can keep it fluid we can keep it moving,’ he says.

‘We need to have an “aligned objective”, that is not coming from one of us. For the dock, we have to prove it’s a win/win situation. It is beneficial – it is in North Liverpool; it gets the universities out of their institutions and wearing “dirty clothes”; it places private, public and third sector together, which has a more cohesive impact. We need to find commonality and grow when you don’t know what you’re growing.’