A tale of three Raspberry Jams

In today’s post, I’m going to share the tales of three Jams: how and why they got started.

Norwich Raspberry Jam

Norwich is a place where I’ve always hoped there would be a Jam. It’s a tech city in the East of England and there’s plenty going on there, but so far no one has been running a Jam. I met Archie Roques at the Jam I run at Pi Towers, and was thrilled to discover that he was planning to set one up with Claire Riseborough.

I wanted to start the Norwich Jam for a few reasons. Firstly because I really love visiting other Jams (CamJam and Pi Towers Jam) and wanted something closer to home. Also because there’s a great tech community in Norwich, so we want to use that to help encourage more young people into tech and digital making. As one of the founders of the Young Makers’ Tech Club, I’ve seen how much tech potential Norfolk’s young people have. It would be great to have a place where we can have more of them getting involved, and somewhere where those who are interested can learn more skills and show them off to others.

I had the idea brewing in my mind for a while. I visited a few Jams and Pi Parties, and started by helping out at the Pi Towers Jam to get a feel of what running a Jam involves. Then Sarah, who works in education at the Forum (a big public building in Norwich, which amongst other things houses the main library and does lots of tech stuff) got in touch, as she’d heard about the idea and wanted to have a Jam as part of their Norwich Gaming Festival. We got a few other people on board and it’s been all go from there!

Finding a venue can be tricky, but sometimes you find the  perfect place, with a vested interest in running a community interest event, especially if it’s for young people. And you never know, they might lend a hand with organising it, too.

The Forum has been really helpful in getting us a venue. They couldn’t host the Jam themselves as they’ve got other events on that week, but they booked us another venue, the fantastic OPEN Norwich.

The Forum has also helped with the organisation – they are overseeing the ticketing, and helping to promote the event (which is good, as they have 33,000 more Twitter followers than I do!). They also are helping with some of the less exciting stuff like insurance and safeguarding, and organising some events for schools and educators to go alongside the Jam, which is great. Claire Riseborough, who has founded a social enterprise with the aim of helping kids to reach their tech potential, has also been instrumental in getting people in the tech community on board and getting the word out. Lots of other people have helped in their fields of expertise, which is great!

I asked Archie how he planned the Jam’s activities, and how he decided what to put on.

We knew that we wanted to have some talks, stalls, vendors and workshops: when we’d been to events like the Pi Party, those were the bits we liked best. We did a quick social media call for volunteers and we’ve had a pretty good response (though there’s always room for one more!).  We’ve got a nice selection of talks and workshops, and we aim to have some more informal general activities for people who don’t want to do anything too formal. The most important thing for us is having as many awesome people there as possible, whether they are visitors or volunteers.

I’d really like to see the Jam continue, probably on a quarterly basis, as there are lots of other more frequent tech events in Norwich. The Norwich Science Festival is coming up in the Autumn, so it’s possible that a science-themed Jam will be on the cards for then!

The first Norwich Jam takes place on 27 May. Tickets are free from Eventbrite. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Raspberry Jam Berlin

James Mitchell is a Scotsman living in Berlin. I first met him when I gave a Raspberry Pi talk in a furniture showroom, and somehow that led him to start a local Jam.

After owning a Raspberry Pi for a few months I started to search for tips, tricks and tutorials online. I then started to notice Raspberry Jams being set up all over the UK. We didn’t have these events in Berlin, so I decided to start a Jam of my own. Thankfully I had loads of support from Jam leaders and even got the chance to meet Ben Nuttall when he visited Berlin shortly before he joined the Foundation. He was a great inspiration!

After getting started with the Jam, lots of things started to fall into place. I started to build a lot more projects, mainly using the Camera Module. I have a little obsession with photography, and I am particularly fond of time-lapse. My kids also started to get involved with the Raspberry Pi. They are still a little young yet but I love that they stay enthusiastic.

James felt that he was missing out on the Raspberry Pi community vibe.

It really was the lack of events in and around Berlin that got the Jam going. I wanted to attend one of the UK Jams, as it seemed full of like-minded people willing to help each other and learn new things – something we sorely lacked here.

I did later manage to attend the Raspberry Pi Birthday Party in Cambridge. While the event was considerably larger than most Jams I had heard about, it was totally amazing to meet the community. It reinforced the sense of belonging I had been looking for.

I held the first Raspberry Jam Berlin in a co-working office that offers their space at weekends for free if you don’t charge for tickets. I had some Pis set up with various add-on boards and we also gave a few talks about the Raspberry Pi.

My favourite thing about the Raspberry Jam is meeting different people and seeing those projects that are getting pushed beyond my own understanding, but also being able to help new people get interested in the Raspberry Pi. It’s very satisfying to know someone has left the Jam inspired!

I asked James what advice he would have for someone setting up a Jam in their area.

Start small, and have a clear outline of what you want from your Jam. Invite a few friends and maybe the local school’s computing teacher. Find your like-minded corner of the community, and with their help expand if you want.

Don’t be intimidated by the size of other Jams. They come in all shapes and sizes and some can be really large. Just keep in mind you are in it to have fun!

You never know how many people will show up to a Jam. Will it be too many, or too few? Here’s James’ take on the dilemma:

It can get a little stressful when you have low numbers, but the key is to ignore the numbers and just enjoy the moment. If one person shows up and they walk away inspired, it’s a job well done.

Wimbledon Raspberry Jam

Cat Lamin went to Picademy in July 2014. She got really excited about the teaching possibilities of the Raspberry Pi, but didn’t know where to start, so she reached out to the community to create local networks for teachers to share their skills. She started a Coding Evening in Twickenham, and helped organise the Wimbledon Raspberry Jam.

Albert Hickey, who organises the Egham Jam, approached me to see if I was interested in helping him run the Jam in Wimbledon. He had been offered a venue and wanted me to be involved from the start. Wimbledon is close to the school I taught in and I knew this would be an excellent opportunity to give some of the children from school the chance to help develop their passions. What I really enjoyed about the Jam was seeing all of the families there. Several parents asked if we could let their children’s schools know about the next one because they were keen to bring more families down!

I was really lucky with Wimbledon Jam, as loads of helpful people were really keen to offer up their time as volunteers. If I’m honest, I took over a little bit, but Albert seemed quite happy to let me handle the actual event while he dealt with the venue. By the end of it, I felt that we had been the perfect team. While Albert negotiated the space, I took on the role of organising the timetable of events. I had to figure out timings for workshops and who was available to run them. We were really lucky that so many people offered their help almost straight away, and it was great having Ben along as a representative from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It added a sort of official stamp of approval to the day.

I really like having workshops, talks and show-and-tells going on, and we were really lucky that loads of people were interested in doing everything. One of my highlights from the day was watching the Mums creep over to Whack-a-Pi and sneak a go while their children were taking part in workshops – it was very funny!

Cat and Albert have run three Jams at Wimbledon library now. It’s great to see it continue on from the initial event I attended.

Why do people run Jams?

People run Jams for many reasons. I started the Manchester Jam so that I would have a group of people to learn about Raspberry Pi with, and it ended up benefiting hundreds of other people. While organising an event can be a lot of work, it is good fun. It all seems worth it in the end when you see how you can positively affect people you’d never otherwise have met. Here are some more insights from other Jam makers:

Read more in this excerpt from the Guidebook.

If you want to run a Jam, wherever you are, just remember that all these people were once where you are now. If they can do it, you can do it. Find some helpers, share ideas, make arrangements for your first event, and have fun. Be sure to check out the Raspberry Jam Guidebook for tips from other Jam makers, and lots of practical information on organising an event.

There are plenty of Jams coming up in the next month, including Oklahoma, Bogotá, Virginia and Melbourne, as well as lots in the UK, from Egham to Blackpool, Huddersfield to Belfast. Check out the Jam calendar for more.

I’ll be back next month with another Jam round-up, so if you have a Jam story to share, please get in touch! Email ben@raspberrypi.org. I really want to hear about all your experiences.