Myths of legends

Why you should say goodbye to rockstars and say hello to Leila Johnston

Hello. I’m Leila, and I’ll be the new Commissioning Editor here for the next few months. The Makeshift team have asked me to find some new voices to add to the mix on this site, so I’ll be marshalling a new gang of contributors as well as editing pieces by the posse you already know and love, and writing some articles of my own. As there’s enough preaching and unfounded reckoning on content platforms already, we’re kicking off with the theme of Mythbusting.

Back to reality

There’s a lot of cod-philosophy written about start-ups. A lot of people quoting from the same out-of-date books, bowing down to the same internet rock stars, a lot of people trying to sell things… a whole cloud of stuff that might sound exciting but amounts to an aspirational lifestyle. But we haven’t seen many people talking sensibly and currently about what’s happening in technology and business now. Who’s talking about the reality of failure? Who’s addressing the maker impulse in the kind of makers who want to make businesses? Who’s talking to London


I’m looking for informed, original takes on real issues for start-up entrepreneurs, however surprising these ideas might sometimes seem. We’ll feature makers and entrepreneurs telling you things they haven’t told anyone else about their process. We’ll attempt to unearth the industrial-sized fibs and train our laser beams on the fuzzy values like luck and commitment. From time to time, we’ll definitely feature ideas you don’t agree with.

Be more interesting

Words are tools too

We’re not just looking for clicks. This isn’t the place to find your One Amazing Tip To Shift That Belly Fat. In the same way Makeshift makes things for you out of code, we want to make something useful out of words that the start-up community can use. We think tools should be used first by the creators, and content platforms are nothing without great content.

Make things so we can make more things

…is something I’ve been saying for a while, and a sentiment that I wholly share with Makeshift. In fact, to help you to understand where I’m coming from, it’s probably worth letting you in on a bit of my own story. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to make a range of things out of words, people and ideas in recent years, including humour books, events about apocalypses and time travel, and even a column for BBC Comedy. For your basic non-geek, I seem to get caught up with a lot of geek culture stuff. Here’s how it breaks down…

Make Things Fast

In 2012, I was one of the Happenstance technology residents (along with Makeshift’s ntlk, amongst others). Very basically, it was an ‘agile’ experiment supported by the Digital R&D Fund, Nesta and the Arts Council, mashing up arts and tech people to improve working relationships and knowledge and generate ideas on both sides. At the time, I must admit I thought of it chiefly as a way to have lots of excellent fun. We experimented with physical computing at the Site Gallery in Sheffield and produced all sorts of stuff on the spectrum of very useful to very daft (and I continued to apply my extensive learnings since). Seriously, the project was a creative turning point for many of the people involved; most of us continue to feel really inspired by the boost we had during that very free time. 

These days I talk a lot about Making Things Fast, and practice what I preach as much as I can by producing things alone and with friends that make me laugh and feel emotions or slight embarrassment. I also talk to a lot of slightly intense people for money and for free, and I love it.

Commit to the ridiculous

At the end of 2013, I launched a quarterly glossy magazine and event series about the fringes of possibility, usefulness and invention, called Hack Circus. As you can imagine, I am currently particularly invested in Makeshift’s fascination with the moment you commit to things. I also share Makeshift’s impulse to continually produce new stuff – throwing ideas overboard to see what swims. I like the boldness of generating with anticipated wastage: just keep creating and you will get better at creating things that survive.


Have an amazing insight to share? We’re planning to maintain a constant stream of fresh high-quality content, so get in touch with your own ideas and pitches. Send feedback and ideas to leila@makeshift.io.