The Secret to Jam Making

It's all about the right ingredients...

This email isn't easy to write, as right now I am a little upset. "Why?" I hear you ask. Well the truth of the matter is that Blackpool Raspberry Jam once enjoyed around 20 people, all eager to learn, play and have fun together. But in recent months those numbers have dwindled, and for the past two months there have been only two people turning up, many thanks to them for sticking with it. Also thanks to Pete Green, who came all the way from Manchester just to sit in a very quiet room with me for two hours.

Why did I start the Jam?

When I started the Jam back in September 2014, the goal, as it still is, was to enable anyone to have access to computers, technology and a safe environment where learning would be encouraged and failure used as a way to strive to solve a problem. This is still the case in 2018 and from this Jam we have seen many children who have developed an interest in code, engineering and technology. Blackpool is not one of the best areas in the UK, we have unemployment, substance misuse issues and many families are just able to keep their heads above water never mind able to spend money on a computer, no matter how cheap it may be. With the Jam we offer a way for anyone to try out technology and be part of a much larger world.

Now the purpose of this post is not to berate or moan at those that have stopped coming, at the end of the day coming to the Jam is your choice, and with the recent weather who wants to be stuck in a room when you can be out on your bike, on an adventure, or simply playing in your garden / park.

So what is the purpose of this post?

Well the purpose is twofold...

  • Jams only exist if we have people who want to come to them.
  • I need to know how many are coming each month so that I can plan and arrange kit.

So how can we solve this problem?

Firstly we need people, so I will be advertising via the local network of libraries and (hopefully) schools. I need to advertise more local as advertising in The MagPi and the Jam Map (not a dig or criticism of these fine services so don't read it as so!) is not targeting the people of Blackpool, the people that I want to help. Normally the library will advertise the event on my behalf but the advertising needs to be "kicked up a notch" and a theme for each Jam may be trialled as a way to interest attendees.

Secondly,I need to know how many are coming each month, so I need to have a think on how we handle tickets and enquiries at the library. The library staff are great and field lots of enquiries for me, but they cannot pass on the details of customers who want to come to my Jam (due to data protection laws) and some of these customers do not have access to a computer with which to sign up for a ticket. I think that in the next few weeks I shall be meeting with library staff to see how we can promote and control the attendee details of the event.

Who organises the jam?

Right now it is only Les Pounder who organises the Jam. He has all the kit (PiTop Ceeds, micro:bits, robots, books etc) in his "office" and brings it to the Jam and sets up the morning before everyone arrives. He does have help from the parents and friends who come along to the Jam, but they do not have access to the kit. So if Les is poorly or away then they cannot access the kit. So we need to add some redundancy and see if we can store the kit somewhere accessible just in case Les is hit by a bus (it's called "bus factor" and it is a real thing in the world of computing)

So when is the next Jam?

The next jam is on September 8 and it will be our 4th birthday party, so there will be pizza and cakes and of course a large slice of Raspberry Pi.