How BarCamp changed my life
In 2011 I attended my first un-conference. BarCamp Blackpool 3 was probably one of the best things to happen to me, and it changed my life.
The concept of a BarCamp was sold to me by a colleague and old friend, who described it as a geek conference with plenty of talks on not too techy stuff, but you’re supposed to prepare a talk yourself to do when you’re there. I pretty much chickened out of this bit straight away, but the idea of going somewhere with a bunch of other geeks, talking about geeky stuff, sounded like my idea of fun!
Highlights of my first BarCamp were Alex Martingdale’s talk on a history of error messages, and Werewolf. I attended quite a few good talks that year but Werewolf actually made this conference for me. Played after the main event was over we sat there until the early hours of the morning playing a game of lies and deception, and I loved it! Overall I met some amazing people, and had a great time.
Of course this meant that the following year I attended BarCamp Blackpool 4. It was nice to see a lot of the people I had met the previous year again, and there were some brilliant non techy sessions such as an intro to Roller Derby and a Fencing Lesson! One of the great things about BarCamp Blackpool was the social aspect of the event. I got to meet new people and make new friends, and this year I even made the effort to stay in touch with some of those amazing people I had met.
The next year saw me become a regular at both Leeds and Manchester Werewolf games, and Preston Breakfasts. I stayed in touch with many of the friends I had made, and one of them has now been my
boyfriend of almost 2 years fiancé! I also attended BarCamp Liverpool, which was a great conference, but lacked a bit of the social side for me, and made me realise that I get just as much out of the evening social session of a BarCamp as the conference itself. BarCamp Blackpool had a venue that allowed us to stay late and play games, whereas at BarCamp Liverpool we headed out after the conference, and it wasn’t quite the same.
2013 had me back at BarCamp Blackpool, amazing as ever, and I was now about to move to Manchester, where I was looking forward to getting even more involved in the tech community. I don’t work in the tech industry, I work in finance (boring) but I have always had an aptitude and interest in maths, science and technology, so with me also being a lover of social events, being able to meetup with like minded people in my spare time was an opportunity I really looked forward to, and the tech community was definitely one I wanted to be more involved in.
Now living in Manchester I go to get really involved in the tech community. I found MathsJam and the Manchester Girl Geeks, I started to learn how to code and found Python North West, and I still played Werewolf every month with the same friends I had met 2 years ago and played my first games with at BarCamp Blackpool.
2014 saw Manchester host its own ‘BraCamp‘ organised by the Manchester Girl Geeks. This was another amazing event, but again slightly lacked a strong social side as we had to leave the venue after the conference. Following BraCamp, the community was hit with some devastating news; BarCamp Blackpool would not be happening that year! With the biggest un-conference in the North being cancelled, a huge gap was left in the North West tech community, and something had to be done about it.
In the background, Manchester GeekUp had also been revived, and I was helping out with organising bi-monthly meetups. Manchester has a flourishing tech scene and having somewhere geeks of all backgrounds could meetup was long overdue.
The success of the Manchester Girl Geek’s BraCamp showed just how much of a need there was for the BarCamp, and in an attempt to fill that gap, BarCamp Manchester was resurrected. After a long hiatus Ian Forrester requested volunteers to help organise BarCamp Manchester 2014, and I decided to get involved, and give back to the community that had given me so much. throwing myself in the deep end, I ended up taking the lead and making BarCamp Manchester 5 become a reality, and it was everything I hoped it could be. We had an amazing attendance of over 150 people, over 100 talks, 4 sponsors, 60 pizzas, 16 games of Werewolf, and 0 fatalities (except in games of werewolf where there were many fatalities).
After getting the buzz for organising tech events, I have since helped out with Hack Manchester, which I will be getting even more involved in for 2015, and I have co founded CodeUp Manchester, a mentoring program for adults wanting to learn how to code. I am also about to become a STEM Ambassador.
Now we’re about to buy our first home together in Manchester, and I’m starting to plan for BarCamp Manchester 6, and I love my life. In a way, I can honestly say that I would not have the life I love if I had not gone to that first BarCamp in Blackpool 4 years ago, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love being part of the Manchester tech community, and I’m proud to be able to give something back to the same community that have given me so much.
UPDATE: As of March 2017, BarCamp Manchester 6 was a HUGE success, with over 200 people attending across the two days. Arran and I have moved into our first home together, and we’re recently engaged. I changed jobs and went to work for MadLab, a digital innovation organisation in the Northern Quarter, where I run the office, and deliver digital skills workshops to children and adults across Greater Manchester.Thanks for reading!
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