Festival of Code 2015: call for centres

The Festival of Code is a UK based (but open to all countries) event, run by Young Rewired State (YRS) that happens every year in late July/early August. This year it starts on the 27th July with the finale weekend happening the first weekend in August.

It is for every child aged 18 and under who has learned how to programme, to whatever degree of skill, it is free to attend and all are welcome. Really it is the graduation programme for those who have learned how to do it, but need to put their coding skills to test against real world problems, and learn how to take the next steps.

We run it with a host of voluntary people who manage local centres during the week, then the centre lead brings their YRS team to the Festival weekend, and corals them through the showcases, flash hacks and maker fair – before everyone attending the finale showcase on the Sunday with the top YRS talent presenting what they built to a panel of judges and peers.

Here is a taste of the event, recorded in our Manchester centre in 2013, probably easier to watch than read!

Our centres are the lifeblood of the event. They can be businesses, civic spaces, schools, Universities, basically anywhere with wifi and power, mentors and a person willing to be a centre lead.

This year we have already stormed away with 29 centres already signed up across the UK and Northern Ireland, have a look at the map and list here: http://festival.yrs.io/centres but with an expected 1800 young people signing up we need more and we need to cover the white bits with red Ruby bugs!

We need more centres across the UK, we will celebrate you, support you, help you and find you your local coding geniuses – but it is not a light commitment. I cannot pretend that all you need do is unlock a room and let kids in and out. Over the seven years we have been running the Festival we have learned a great number of lessons, one of which is to make sure that we have centres everywhere, but also centres who totally understand what the commitment is before they jump in.

The only thing worse than having to tell a child that they have no local centre, is telling them that their allocated centre has dropped out just before the Festival and so they cannot attend.

As a result we have published this page of information, and written up this MOU. This may seem a bit over the top for a voluntary thing, but we do not take your role lightly, and we know that the success of this depends on the willing collaboration of a huge network of centres and centre leads as partners and primaries.

But if you register to be a centre we promise you the following:

  • we will find your local coding youth
  • we will support you every step of the way
  • you will be able to build on the community of young people we find for you
  • you will be pro-actively helping the mission to give our young people a supported digital future
  • your mentors will be inspired by the Festival and the young people they meet through it
  • you will want to come back

This call, therefore, is for those who really are serious about helping this movement, who want to engage with their local coding youth and who want to be a part of the future of Digital.

To everyone, I say, please can you point people you know at these post, especially those who may be able to host kids in the areas where we currently do not have centres (the map is everything!!), thank you!

And of course, if you know of a child or group in the UK who would want to come and be a part of this, then they can sign up here, international participants can register here (it costs nothing to attend).

What the flip is going on?

There I was being all quiet on my social media channels *cough* with occasional worky updates, then on one day – I saturate my feed with all things Rewired and Young Rewired State – “What the hell”, you may well ask, “are you thinking?”

So, I have been removing myself as CEO for the last three months, Dan Bowyer came in and did some brilliant work getting the ship in order and ready to be run as two officially separate organisations, no longer tied to each others (or my) apron strings. There was a *lot* of tidying to do! And now he has moved on to new pastures that need his genius sorting and winning skillage.

So now we are ready to come out as it were. I am officially on the boards of both organisations, and Ruth Nicholls is the Managing Director of Young Rewired State and Julia Higginbottom the CEO of Rewired State. Today sees the launch of three exciting things:

  1. The crowdfunding campaign for the Festival of Code 2015 (please give generously)
  2. The new brand for Young Rewired State and Ruby (our bug)
  3. The new websites for both Rewired and Young Rewired State. (albeit they are resting places for now before the final POW launch of both in December)

All of these things mark a very big second step for both organisations, and I am really excited for both of them, hugely proud of the team and count myself extremely lucky to have two such competent, passionate and dedicated women running them.

Please can you share the crowdfunding site as widely as you can with your networks, and please if you can afford to donate, do so! It really is a mammoth effort to raise £50,000 this way!!

Interactive film to be made by the attendees of the Festival of Code

Those people leading a centre at the Festival of Code this year are about to receive the following message:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 15.12.59This excellent idea was born by Nat and Julia Higginbottom of Rebel Uncut, who have both been very closely involved with the Festival over the years, and are filming most of it this year. Last year we had Rewired Art in Birmingham, where art students in Birmingham Uni joined the Birmingham Uni centre for the week, to create digital art projects. This was great but we felt too focused on one centre. We wanted to find a way to break this Festival better by including the arts for everyone.

One of our VIP judges and speakers is Yoni Bloch and I am *so excited* that he is coming. (I asked him by scribbling on a napkin and slipping it to him just after he came off the stage in Cannes – he appreciated the analogue approach I believe!)

He has created this insanely brilliant platform called Interlude which is what we will be using. To give you an idea of how it works, here is Yoni’s own song video, put together using the Interlude technology: Pretend to be happy

I am really looking forward to this year’s Arts project, to how the film will turn out, also – inevitably – how the YRSers choose to use the Interlude platform themselves, outside of the scripted film!!

This Festival is just going to be huge amounts of fun, I am sure it will be technically challenged, but it wouldn’t be a Festival of Code if the wifi didn’t fall over and someone rewiring the AV so it doesn’t work on the day of the finale.

If this inspires you or your child to join in on the Festival week, then I know there are a few spaces left in a couple of centres, you can register here. And if you want to mentor, we always need people to swing by and help – all across the UK. Sign up as a mentor here.

Thank you everyone! AM so excited, do watch the action on the Eventifier machine




Five ways to support the Festival of Code

The 6th annual Festival of Code kicks off on the 28th July, with over 1000 young programmers, mostly self taught, building apps, games, websites and writing algorithms using open data and solving real world problems. It is always an insanely high standard of output and the winning entries can be relied upon to really blow the minds of the audience watching.(See the winners from last year here and watch the video of you programmers from 2012).

But that is just the coding activity.

After a week of programming in centres across the UK, these kids (some of whom are flying in from Europe and the US) all gather for a weekend of show and tell, culminating in the Finale on Sunday morning. At this weekend we will also have Bubble Football, a Skate Park, digital graffiti wall, a Photo booth and a night of chiptune artists playing live music – plus acres of food and ice cream.

There are challenges in putting something so fabulous on, not least of which is ensuring that every kid who would really benefit from taking part knows about it and can come. So we make it free to attend but rely on the social networks and physical posters to let every child know about it.]

If you would like to help out there are five practical ways you can do so:

1. Mentor in your local centre (sign up here): if you can do any of the following, you will be handy: code, assist with presentation preparation, ideation, design, research, open data, agile projects, hardware hacking

2. Download and print this poster(1), then put it up (legally!) in all communal areas near your home and work, if you have a notice board at work, please put it up there – parents are the key, if they have a child (aged 18 or under) who they know is glued to their computer and coding, they will love the Festival. (This blog post details where we still have spaces available.)

3. Share the existence of the Festival on your social media, with the hashtag #YRSFoC (Stephen Fry is going to be doing this on twitter tomorrow morning, so we are all set and prepared for the website to stand up to lots of attention – also… Stephen Fry! He is such a great supporter and does this every year – it’s great but we still need your networks too!)

4. We are currently running at a £25k deficit, but have raised enough to make sure we can put it on, we just need a final push and either one big sponsor or several little ones. If you work for an organisation, or own an organisation even(!) that you believe would be completely up for supporting this with cash, then please point them to ruth@rewiredstate.org, our Head of Partnerships and Sponsorships. There are many ways we can deliver ROI for our partners and sponsors and most of the times these are bespoke, so Ruth’s the girl. (see our list of sponsors already on board here)

5. Come and watch the finale on the Sunday. We have secured Plymouth Pavilions for the show and tell this year, so there is masses of room. You will meet the Young Rewired Staters, see the magic and just experience the next generation of creating/making/inventing – something we are so good at in this country. Bring hankies, you will laugh and cry, I guarantee.

That’s it! So exciting


Breaking things better at Young Rewired State

It is year six for Young Rewired State (YRS), and it is growing into a great, international community of young people who have taught themselves how to code. We remain relentlessly focused on fostering the peer to peer nature of learning, and solving real world problems through code and community. We like to call this “Breaking things better”.

Earlier this year YRS separated completely from Rewired State, enabling it to focus on community projects and the the local/everywhere programmes. I also announced my intention to step aside as CEO of YRS/RS.

Excitingly, things have moved very fast since then and Young Rewired State has moved naturally into being its own entity, we have hired some great people to manage the YRS community and projects, and soon we will be able to announce the new Head of YRS. I shall share all of this staffing news when everything is all in place. This is us in Buckingham Palace…


But the headline news is that I have invited an extremely select and active group of people to join me on the Board, and am going to move to Chair of YRS at the beginning of July. The Board members are as follows:

Annika Small:


Annika is the CEO of Nominet Trust, but I have asked her to join the Board in a personal capacity, as she has been great at monitoring the growth of Young Rewired State, and gently steering us in the right direction and keeping me focused on the right things – in a completely positive way of course! I trust her judgment and know that she understands this space completely, and is far more knowledgeable than I in growing global communities and projects. Annika is the absolute rock YRS needs.

Bill Liao:


Bill is a successful entrepreneur, VC and is the founder of CoderDojo. He has been invaluable in guiding us through the restructuring of YRS and RS and it is hugely important to me that there is someone on each of our Boards who is experienced in taking social organisations to global communities, and who has serious creds in the Venture market. Not for YRS (that will remain a non-profit organisation) but for the members of the community. We want them to have the aerial cover from Bill. Needless to say, CoderDojo and YRS have much in common.

Ian Livingstone:


The Legend, as he is known in my house! Ian has long been a great shoulder for me to collapse on over the years of growing YRS. He has either made me laugh, got me drunk, or told me off but he has always got me through whenever I have yelped for help. He is also a towering inspiration for young programmers and has fought a long battle to bring gaming into many peoples’ lives, and took on government in a very serious capacity – fighting for changes in education (and winning). Being a success himself, and also slightly baffled by some of the things that have happened to him, the board is complete by having him shoulder to shoulder with Annika and Bill.

And finally… we have our very own Angelina Jolie, our Ambassador and friend to the Board: Kathryn Parsons.


Kathryn has been a pal of mine for a while, and she has been hugely successful with her own Decoded adventure. We kind of fell forward in this space together and she and I have learned a lot from each other. So Kathryn is our Ambassador, a very important female role model for the girl entrepreneurs in YRS – but also a successful entrepreneur and actively scaling, a great example for all YRSers. Kathryn is ace.

And that is it.

This is not a passive Board/Ambassador. I will be meeting with them all every month individually, and then we will have quarterly board meetings to make sure we are doing the best we can by this rapidly growing community.

It is exciting.

Calling all bedroom programmers – everywhere!

It is that time again, the beginning of the build up to the 6th Festival of Code!!

MainIt is an unbelievably exciting time for us, and we have really stepped up our game this year – just wait and see. But I can tell you that as well as code and community there will be poetry, art, skateboarding, laser graffiti and list of speakers so fine you will feel dizzy sharing the same space as them. On Saturday we will have heats, semi-finals and then an entire evening of music curated by Pixelh8 before the Grand Finale on Sunday – where the finalists will show and tell to a panel of judges I am just ITCHING to reveal, but we need a few more weeks before they will be completely nailed. You will be delighted, I promise.

For those of you who have never heard of the Festival of Code before, go and check out the site http://festivalofco.de It is a week of coding that takes place across the country where people aged 18 and under, at all levels of digital skill, work with open data and mentors to build websites, apps, games or write algorithms. On Friday 1st August they all come together in Plymouth for a weekend of talks, show and tells, music and festivities, celebrating their skills and encouraging them to learn more.

Here is the story from one of our centres from last year in Manchester Digital Laboratory

This year we have young people taking part from around the world: the US, Singapore and Europe and we are really looking forward to bringing you all together and seeing what you are up to.

As ever, we run this all through sponsorship and it is all totally free, thank you sponsors!! But I have one ask left…

It is notoriously difficult to reach some of the young people who would benefit most from coming along to this. Many of whom are teaching themselves how to code in their bedrooms, who might not know that this exists. So we have this wish:

Please could every reader of this blog post download this poster from the Festival of Code website and print at least ten copies out. Then put them up in your work, your school, your local library or community centre, anywhere really. Parents, friends and family members may see the poster and pass it on to their bedroom programmer and completely change their lives. Tell everyone, and they can change the world.



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