Inventors! STEAM CO. Day

We were over the moon when we were asked to work with a range of creative, business, educational and community organisations to launch STEAM Co. across the whole of the North East of England.

Artist, inventor and Inspirator Dominic Wilcox invited us to run the INVENTORS! STEAM Co. Day - a day of short talks and creative activities at Monkwearmouth Academy in Sunderland on Friday, 29 January 2016.

The rest is history.

Our aim

To inspire tomorrow's inventors, innovators and creatives. To power Sunderland and the North East to inspire its children with creativity by running STEAM CO. Days. 

This event marked the end of INVENTORS! - help us ensure we deliver on its legacy.


Gives you the background to the INVENTORS! project and a report on the day with links to all the photos, the great press coverage we had and, soon, films of all the talks that you can use to run your own STEAM Co. launch events.


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Follow up event

We want to run a follow up event, a short afternoon/evening event w/c 6th June to share this day with everyone who missed it to give them the inspiration and resources to go and run STEAM CO. Days in their own primary schools, which will include the INVENTORS! activity pack, developed with Dominic Wilcox.

If you'd like to attend or just find out more, do sign up on the form opposite.




CREATIVITY IS GREAT Britain has been written on bill boards all over the world to celebrate and showcase our legacy of creating ideas and bringing to reality. From steam engines to difference engines. Just look at this film here with Jarvis Cocker to see where we've come from and where we're going to.

But where are tomorrow's inventors and creatives going to come from? Who will have the next big idea for industry, make the transformative step in healthcare or come up with the disruptive innovation we need to make clean energy?

We need to sow these seeds in our children. We need to power communities to inspire our children with creativity. 



'Inspiring tomorrow's creatives, innovators and inventors' 

Did you know that self-raising flour, phone boxes and even the light bulb were all created by North East inventors?

In the Autumn of 2015/16, Sunderland born and internationally renowned ‘Re-inventor of Normal’ Dominic Wilcox was commissioned by the Cultural Spring on an Arts Council England supported project to inspire young people across Sunderland and South Tyneside through INVENTORS!

From October 2015 Dominic worked with schools, community groups and the public across Sunderland and South Tyneside to inspire as many new Inventors! as possible.

A selection of these inventions and designs were then chosen by Dominic and a panel of local makers, expert trades people and manufacturers and made in to real life inventions to feature in a special exhibition in a Pop-Up shop in Sunderland Fawcett Street from Sat Jan 16th - 30th.

Read more about INVENTORS! and see the amazing ideas on Dominic's website here.

The climax of this project and the start of its legacy was the INVENTORS! STEAM Co. Day.

Inventors! STEAM CO. Day

We wanted to use the opportunity to launch STEAM Co. in the North East and power the community there to inspire their children with creativity by giving them the inspiration and resources to run their own STEAM Co. Days across the region.

A day of inspiring short talks and a sampler STEAM CO. Day, staged by local artists, creatives, parents, teachers, businesses and the community.

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The day was held at Monkwearmouth Academy in Sunderland and consisted of two elements:


A programme of talks to celebrate and showcase creativity, education and community in South Tyneside. All of these will be made available for use in community STEAM Co. launch events.

The talks included a programme of keynote talks including  Sunderland born inventor and global UK creativity ambassador, Dominic Wilcox and Nick Corston, Co-founder of STEAM Co. The programme also included short talks from a number of national and local speakers to showcase local creativity, community and education. See the complete line up below.

We were delighted that the keynote talk was given by Sir Peter Bazalgette, who as chairman of Arts Council England and whose great grand father engineered the London sewer system is better placed than many to talk about STEAM, art and culture. He said "Of course arts and science mix'

Chi Onwurah gave a particularly inspiring talk about her life as an engineer before becoming shadow culture and digital economy minister and said "I am STEAM, creativity is key to engineering".

In a unique link up between a regional community event like this and the arts institutions of the UK's capital cities, Ann Coxon the co-curator of the Alexander Calder exhibition at Tate Modern collaborated in a short film on Calder's life as an artist and engineer that was shown in the talks to introduce a talk by local artist Paul Merrick who gave a talk on the Calder inspired activity he was running on the day.

A short film showed the amazing work that Nissan do in their UK training centre in Sunderland to inspire 5,000 primary children every year to become engineers and David Gowans of Barclays talked about their Digital Eagles and Eagle labs.

The event was closed by an inspiring and very personal talk but Martyn Ware, of Illustrious and co-founder of Human League and Heaven 17. Later Martyn agreed to be our next Inspirator.

Finally he led the audience and Monkwearmouth Choir in a moving rendition of Heroes by David Bowie.

"STEAM Co. Days - where we can be us, where we can be heroes, just for one day"

All talks were filmed and will be uploaded to our YouTube channel soon and linked below.

Click here to see all the photos from the day, most taken by

Speaker programme

Here's the final programme we ran through: K = keynote, T = 6 minute short talk, F = 2 minute film

Art and SOLE (T)
Melanie Horan : Teacher, Broadwood Primary School/SOLE Central, Newcastle University

The Creative Teacher (F)
Carol Allen : Advisory Teacher ICT and Inclusion, North Tyneside Council

Summary and Q&A (T)
Iain Watson : Director, Tyne & Wear Museums

Anne-Marie Imafidon : Head STEMette, The STEMettes

Dominic Wilcox : Inventor and Inspirator, Dominic WIlcox Studio

Growing up on Tyneside (F)
Prof. Paul Younger : Professor of Energy Engineering, University of Glasgow

Make More! (T)
Tony Canning : Director, FabLab Sunderland

Sunderland Cultural Partnership Learning Group (F)
Kathryn Brame : Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art

Litre of Light (T)
Mick Stephenson : Artist, Mick Stephenson

Alexander Calder - Artist and Engineer (F)
Ann Coxon : Co-curator, Tate Modern
Paul Merrick : Artist, Paul Merrick Studio

Summary Q&A (T)
Emma Pace : Manager, House of Objects

It takes a whole village… (T)
Nick Corston : Co-founder, STEAM Co.

Creativity & Collaboration (F)
Bryn Llewellyn : Director, Team Tagtiv8

Bowie : Artist, Inspiration and Legacy (T)
Martyn Ware : Founder, Illustrious, Co-founder Human League and Heaven 17

Building community through stories (F)
Steve Drayton : Mr Drayton's Human Jukebox

Sunderland's Cultural Spring (T)
Rebecca Ball : Director, Cultural Spring

The INVENTORS! Project! (T)
Dominic Wilcox : Inventor and Inspirator, Dominic Wilcox Studio

STEAM powering communities (T)
Nick Corston : Co-founder, STEAM Co.

Welcome to Monkwearmouth Academy (T)
Steve Wilkinson : Executive Head, Monkwearmouth Academy

Art at Monkwearmouth Academy (F)
Pamela Duff : Head of Art, Monkwearmouth Academy

Culture and the Digital Economy (K)
Chi Onwurah : MP, Shadow Culture and Digital Economy Minister

Nissan in education and community (F)
Ian Green : Head of Training and Development, Nissan

Who needs Art and Engineering? (K)
Sir Peter Bazalgette : Chair, Arts Council England

I'm a Maker Mum (F)
Claire O'Brien : Mum, 

What? When? Where? (T)
Paul Callaghan : Chair, Sunderland MAC Trust

Creative Enterprise Progression (F)
Jennifer Barrett : Director, This is Creative Enterprise CIC

Digital Making and Microbits (T)
David Gowans : Director, Barclays Digital Eagles

Where are we going? (F)
Prof Bruce Montgomery : Professor in Design Craftsmanship, Northumbria University

Have a look at the film on the right to see a snapshot of a similar regional launch event we held in Liverpool in 2015 to get a feel for the inspiration and creativity we unleashed on Sunderland!

Everyone attending these talks will be given access to inspiration and resources to go away and run their own STEAM CO. Day, featuring an activity we are developing with Dominic Wilcox, as a STEAM Co. Inspirator. It is intended that this activity will ultimately be used in every Primary school across the UK as part of the nationwide roll out of STEAM Co.


At the same time, during the day a number of children came in from selected local schools to sample a STEAM Co. Day for themselves. After an introductory talk from Dominic Wilcox, they will were able to choose from up to 20 creative thinking and doing activities staged by 18 groups of local artists, technologists, makers, companies and other artists/creatives working with parents.

Highlights included a range of engineering and making activities staged by the training team at the local Nissan plant and the chance to work with light artists Mick Stephenson whose Litre of Light project featured at the Lumiere light festivals in Durham and London recently.

Will Alexander, who had previously made a life size cardboard model of Stephenson's Rocket loco ran a cardboard modelling activity and Emma Pace of House of Objects led an activity making sculptures from reclaimed materials.

Local artist Paul Merrick ran an activity 'Taking a line for a walk', inspired by the work of Alexander Calder, currently on show in London's Tate Modern whose curator sent a film to show in the talks above.

Barclay's Digital Eagles team came in and gave every child the chance to learn to code the new BBC Micro Bit computer. A world first.

If you're a local artist, designer, inventor, tech head, crafts person or one who is otherwise capable of inspiring creativity young minds in some other way, click here to join our database for future events and STEAM CO. Days in the North East or anywhere in the UK come to that!


We've had great press coverage:

"Of course arts and science mix", said Sir Peter Bazalgette of Arts Council England in the Newcastle Journal.

An article  in the Sunderland Echo had an interview with Sir Peter:

“We believe arts and culture has the power to really drive urban regeneration in ways that change the culture of a place and how we feel about the place we live. It can drive employment and growth and Sunderland is a poster child for this,” Sir Peter Bazalgette.

'The STEAM revolution goes home – to Sunderland' read the headline in a detailed write up of the event which appeared in in the education blog Agent4Change,

The INVENTORS! Project had some great press in Wired UK and the US online magazine Slate.


STEAM Co was conceived five years ago in 2011 by three parents in a school in Paddington, London to power communities to inspire their children with creativity.

The initiative ‘powers communities to inspire children with creativity’ by giving them the inspiration and resources to bring outside creatives, technologists, engineers and businesses into schools to work with parents and teachers. Together they stage a STEAM Co. Day, a school day like no other, an adrenaline shot of creativity, a day of up to 20 thinking and doing activities across the spectrum of STEAM subjects. 

Inspirators : Real role models for our chidlren

The ‘Inspirator’ aspect of STEAM Co. Days will see world class UK creatives like Dominic Wilcox go into schools to inspire children either live in person, or on film in activity packs with films, resources and materials to enable every UK primary school to be inspired by and engage in their work. 

Let's end this event page for the Inventors! STEAM Co. Day with an image that the UK Government released to tell the world that CREATIVITY is GREAT Britain, a point they chose to illustrate so perfectly with a photo of  Dominic and his Stained Glass Driverless Sleeper Car, the creative product of a seed subconsciously sown in a young boy's imagination on a family trip to Durham Cathedral many years ago.

Dominic Wilcox. The pride of his mam and dad. Pride of Sunderland. Pride of our country,  Help us celebrate his creativity for 'all our futures'.

STOP PRESS: We were delighted that, after his keynote speech at our day,  Martyn Ware of Illustrious and Co-founder of Human League and Heaven 17, agreed to be an inspirator for us.

Above, STEAM Co. Inspirators : a film featuring Dominic Wilcox.

And do take a quick look at this film of a Pop-up STEAM Co. Day run by and at the Spinney School in Cambridge and see what a mum had to say about an early test version of the Dominic Wilcox Inspirator activity and how it inspired her daughter.

Finally below: 'The Reinvention of Normal', A film about Dominic Wilcox by Liam Saint-Pierre.

If you can't wait to start getting inspired by Dominic's work, get a signed copy of his book from him here now

'Dominic Wilcox's drawings aren't just witty and beautifully drawn, they are serious challenges to the real world to keep looking at itself with innocent eyes, wondering what else is possible.' 
Thomas Heatherwick, 
Designer, architect, creator of the 2012 olympic cauldron amongst other brilliant things.

'Really bad jokes... I love them! Really great illustration... I love them!' 
Sir Paul Smith, Fashion designer

'I love this book, a brilliant mind at work, Laugh out loud funny.' 
Harry Hill, TV comedian