[Gllug] Rekindling interest in London LUG events

'lesleyb' lesleyb at herlug.org.uk
Tue May 1 10:30:15 UTC 2012

On Tue, May 01, 2012 at 09:30:13AM +0000, Chris Bell wrote:
> On Tue 01 May, JLMS wrote:
> > 
> > 
> > The thing would be to establish a charity, social enterprise or a
> > similar set up that keeps running regardless and that has the
> > capability of paying 2 or 3 staff and a small venue, then all Linux
> > geekery could volunteer whenever they would have time (coordinated by
> > one of those theoretical employees) or use the venue for devious
> > experimentation, it would become the hub of Linux life in London, Red
> > Hat, Ubuntu, SuSe could come begging for  visibility there....
> > 
>    I have been trying to get the local Ealing Council and/or the Park Royal
> Partnership involved. I am well known to several years of local councillors
> and my MP, I was allowed a five minute chat to a Scrutiny Panel meeting a
> couple of weeks ago which sparked interest among the public attendees, but I
> still have work to do explaining to other councillors.
>    "Park Royal" spreads over several London Boroughs and claims to be the
> largest business area in Europe, and the Park Royal Partnership can call on
> official EU and government backing.
>    There are obviously Health and Safety issues. If you are teaching
> needlework you supply blunt scissors and needles, woodwork requires blunt
> saws and chisels, mistakes in car maintenance can result in death so you
> teach car maintenance with the bonnet welded shut, and likewise you weld the
> computer covers on and threaten dire consequences if anyone attempts to find
> out how they tick.
On the basis of experience, I have to disagree here.  I worked at Access Space
for a little while. ( http://access-space.org/doku.php?id=start )  The whole
project arose after James Wallbank had finished with a stack of computers
gleaned for an arts installation and has become a significant part of the
Sheffield scene.

Briefly, they recycle donated computers, using the best bits for ongoing use
within the project generally, use Linux distrubutions, (was Mandriva when I was
there), and they do take stuff apart.  Watch the video on the front page.

I ran a course, funded by the South Yorkshire Women's Development Trust there,
a simple Level 1 course designed to help women gain familiarity and confidence
with computers.  

On the course, We built a computer from parts, installed Mandriva and destroyed
hard drives as well as introduced people to different software components such
as basic web browser usage with Firefox and OpenOffice.

The centre also attracted a number of artists and geeks using the Space for
everything from collabrative arts or open source projects to creating 3D works
in Blender to advice on email and bulding web pages.

Please do note : Access Space is not a Hackspace (
http://hackspace.org.uk/view/Main_Page or https://london.hackspace.org.uk/).
It is independent of that network and survives through lottery and Arts Council

I think I will be aiming to set up something similar locally - if only to give
all these poor sods on JSA and ESA hope for an alternative existence besides
the moronic grind of box-ticking operations and slave labour that have to be
performed so they qualify for their benefits.  It's just a matter of sorting
out funding to start and some sort of wage arrangement out of it for myself.

>    There are still too many people who believe that the answer to everything
> is to supply new leased laptops, easily damaged, running only Microsoft,
> plus an expensive storage and charging rack, with expensive security doors
> for the storage area to try to stop them walking. These are being supplied
> to almost every local community facility.

That is a problem within most communities.  You have to step outside that loop.
You'll find it's a closed shop involving various 'community business models',
e.g. The Round Table, FreeMasons or an extended family set up where one part of
the family provides the social enterprise/community service and another part
gets the contract to supply the laptops.  Similar existed in Sheffield, and
expecting them to come out of their comfort zone is like getting blood out of a
stone.  It's just not going to happen.

The best you can hope for is some form of support in terms of low/no rent
accommodation - and that is the crux in almost all of London.  There simply
aren't many empty spaces that councils would just have used rather than left
standing empty.  Then there's heating, lighting, electricity, water, garbage
collection and broadband to pay for as well as advertising the place and
getting people's head round the art of self determination and that this is not
a box-ticking operation - it's down to them as a group or an individual to
create something.

Kind Regards


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