How to build community with invention and creativity


A bar fight changed Stephen Gray’s life for good. He woke up in hospital, and resolved to live differently. What troubled him more than the daunting prospect of his gruelling physical recovery was the realisation that, had things gone any further, he could have left this world without leaving a dent in it worth mentioning.

Just 19 at the time, Gray set to work on working out his life. His immediate desire was to create, to generate something that he might be remembered for. But the feeling was bigger than he was – whatever he crafted must include others. The manifestation of what he saw in his mind and felt in his heart was a space for creators to come together and express themselves: The MakerSpace. Kitted out from floor to ceiling with everything from 3D printers to laser cutters, Gray’s workhouse in Durban welcomes all who have the desire to dabble. “At the end of the day it’s all about community and doing things with technology that you never expected,” he says.

In The MakerSpace, innovation is emphasised as much as self-expression. Gray believes that it is this type of environment from which South Africa’s next world-changing entrepreneurs will emerge. His vision is to facilitate the setup of 200 similar hubs around the country, where anyone can access the equipment needed to make whatever their imaginations conjure. It’s a space for everyone, regardless of skill level – we can all learn, and we can all teach. Whatever their reasons for entering, commercial or personal, each person who comes to create experiences the joy of making something with their own hands. The sensation is primitive and invigorating. It’s beautiful.