In the beginning…

Alan O’Donohoe writes: I’m often asked how Raspberry Jam started, how the jam spread so quickly, and why I was motivated to start this movement. So here’s a little history of the birth of the Raspberry jam movement.

On the 11th February 2012, I organised our very first Hack To The Future event [ film | blogpost ] at my school, Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston. Everyone agreed it was a fabulous event, attended by 365 children, teachers, developers, hackers and computer scientists. In the months leading up to #H2DF (Twitter hashtag), I had hoped that the Raspberry Pi Foundation would be able to attend, but unfortunately, a number of production issues with the hardware on the Raspberry Pi set their launch back considerably and all hands were needed ‘on deck’ in Cambridge. In spite my best efforts, I was unsuccessful in placing an order for a Raspberry Pi on that fabled morning of Feb 29th 2012.

In May 2012, after seeing some of my twitter friends posting photos of their recently delivered Raspberry Pi computers, I grew green with envy. During 2011 and 2012 I was on the lookout for ways to increase access to Computing for all pupils at my school, we had been using Arduino, Picoboards, FIGnition and Shrimps. I was desparate to get hold of a Raspberry Pi so that I could see if this would be the solution I was looking for. I remember in July 2011 receiving a reply from Eben Upton.

So on the 5th May 2012 I hatched a plan… I believed that if I organised a computing event that focused on the Raspberry Pi computer that I would be able to persuade some of the new owners to come along and then finally I could handle a Raspberry Pi and discover first-hand the educational potential of the device.

I wanted to use a snappy name that perfectly described what the event was and I asked Deborah my wife for suggestions. She replied,

“You know how you play saxophone, but not very well. Well whenever you jam with others you don’t sound half bad. So, why not call it a Jam? A Raspberry Jam!” and so the name was born.

So that day, I developed my plans for the event a little further. I knew I had a room at school that could accomodate 30 people out of school hours, so I listed the event on Eventbrite. To my surprise and delight, all 30 tickets ‘sold out’ within a manner of an hour or so. My friend Martin Bateman at UCLan offered me a larger room and so we were able to issue a total of 60 tickets.

On the Sunday morning of 6th May, through the power of twitter, I received a steady flow of messages from Raspberry Pi enthusiasts around the world asking if they too could hold Raspberry Jam events. On the same day, I had discussions with Alec Clews about setting up Melbourne Raspberry Jam and my good friend Ben Nuttall about running Manchester Raspberry Jam events. Manchester can definitely claim the title of ‘1st Raspberry Jam event’, this took place on Saturday 9th June 2012. I couldn’t attend, I was away on holiday at the time, but Dan Hett wrote a review. 

In the months that followed I jointly organised Raspberry Jam events in London, Bristol and Cambridge, and supported Raspberry Jams that followed in Coventry, Milton Keynes, Penzance, Machynlleth, Somerset, Durham, Oxford, and Egham. Raspberry Jam communities quickly established in Germany, California, Africa, Japan, Singapore, CERN, Geneva. Now I’ve lost track of where they are, in fact – it started to take over my life so much that it caused quite a bit of friction at home and in school.

mach_jamRaspberry Jam events come in all sorts of different flavours, so there is not really a strict template that has to be followed. I’ve tried to encourage a mix of playing, hacking and sharing. It’s great to look back at the talented individuals I’ve met at Raspberry Jams and how their passion for Raspberry Pi and computing education has taken them away on exciting adventures, just look at what happened to Carrie Anne Philbin, Ben Nuttall, Amy Mather, and Ryan Walmsley

Characteristics of a jam:

  • Welcoming a mix of people from different backgrounds, age and levels of experience
  • Educating participants about the potential of the Raspberry Pi through sharing projects
  • Inspiring participants to try new projects and ideas, returning to the next jam to share developments.

IMG_9129_2The future: I’ve just secured some funding to launch a UK roadtour starting in November 2014 called ‘Jam Packed‘. It will bring Hack To The Future and Raspberry Jam to the communities most in need, with the intention of forging & developing computing communities in the areas that Jam Packed will visit. There will be another Raspberry Jamboree in 2015 and 2016 where we will be sharing the successes and resources from our Jam Packed UK tour.

Raspberry Jam has now moved: When I started Raspberry Jam, I never realised that I would receive so many emails requesting support from others to start a Raspberry Jam. At first it was a real novelty to receive emails from for example Botswana asking for help, asking me to list their event. Soon, I felt guilty at not replying to all of the emails. Thankfully the Raspberry Pi Foundation have now agreed to host the information about Raspberry Jams including a calendar. You can find it all here –

Coventry #RaspberryJam – Saturday 22.09.12

Mohammed writes about Coventry Raspberry Jam, 22nd Sept. “Participants came early and enjoyed light refreshments including Samosas, Crisps, biscuits, chocolates and drinks were served and made available throughout the event.

We started the event with introduction of myself and our host and sponsor, Matt and We went round the room introducing each person and answering why were here and what we would like to achieve today.

We had an interesting crowd of people. A couple and their kids who teach music education in a secondary school, a programmer with 20 years Microsoft experience and a retired ex-army engineer.

Initially, Matt introduced the Pi and went through the Raspi’s ports and how to get the basics setup of the Pi to get to a GUI stage. He discussed the various programming languages it supports and the difference between the server version of Linux and the GUI. All parties were highly interested in understanding the Terminal and not just the GUI side of Linux.

I then discussed my personal experience with the Pi, the various issues I had, installing Linux and getting the group to understand the Asterisk Open Source Telephony System.

I then went ahead and demonstrated some basic home automation, controlling lighting using a simple web page as seen in my blog ( For the second part of the demonstration, I displayed Asterisk running on the PI and went ahead to show the group how I simply control home lighting using the Telephony Application using just the PI and a simple relay circuit.

One of the group members had their PI with them and wanted to understand how to set up the SD card using a Apple iMac. A set of instructions were given to all users on how to get started with the PI and getting the image on to an SD card using a Mac. We then split the group up. Matt took a couple into his office where an install and setup of the SD image was done using an iMac whilst I discussed with the more technical people the working of server based Linux.

The event started at 4:30pm although people arrived and snacked earlier. We left an open time to end and people chose to leave at different times, the last two people left around 7pm.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience and having a small group of people in this initial event allowed us to understand how to handle the diverse requirements of people getting hold of the Raspi and will allow us going forward to manage a larger groups expectations.

Durham RaspberryJam 12.09.12

On Wednesday 12th September, Durham Johnstone school hosted the first Durham RaspberryJam event. Mark Thornber a teacher at the school has written a review of the evening here. They are planning to host the next one on Wednesday 14th November.

Mark was a little nervous about hosting the event in the first place. Mark says “A very informal event seemed to go smoothly.  We had about 45 in attendance at the peak with a wide variety of expertise and experience. Lots of contacts were made and there were opportunities to experiment with some kit already set up and swap tips in between some (slightly) more formal presentations.”

Bristol RaspberryJam 20.08.12 with HD Video

Oh, we had a blast at Bristol RaspberryJam on Monday. Unfortunately, geeks in the West Country were forced to choose between our jam or the opportunity to watch Doctor Who being recorded in Bristol city.

Now, thanks to the marathon efforts of Matt Hawkins of RaspberryPi-Spy, we have an HD recording of the Jam (not Dr Who). The video shows the entire talks session and obviously does not include the ‘jam spreading’ sessions at the beginning and end of the evening or the demonstration suite. Trevor’s blog post published before the evening started explains what to expect, but his post RaspberryJam post is much more comprehensive and concise, highly recommended reading. It also suggests the next steps forward.

If you’re looking for an entertaining highlight, click here to listen to George, 9 years old asking Rob Bishop of Raspberry Pi a tricky question. The book that Rob refers to is a free download from here, and for those who still want to know, the technical answer is here. George has now started his own blog.

Speakers in rough order of appearance :
0:00:00 Alan O’Donohoe & Richard Pitkin (Innovation Centre Director)
0:06:50 Richard Horne (Heber & X10i)
0:16:00 Keith Dunlop (RISC OS)
0:28:40 Gordon (Basic)
0:40:50 Arthur Amarra (Robot Arm)
0:48:30 Rob Voisey (Pi + Imp)
1:02:00 Paul Hallett (DJangoPi Project)
1:12:30 Rob Bishop (Raspberry Pi Foundation)
1:23:00 Alan O’Donohoe

Here is a link here to one of our final talks, Paul Hallett and his Django Pi project. Click on the image below to watch this segment of the video. He has only 10 days to go for funding this project, he explains he has exceeded his target but hopes to attract more to extend the reach of the project, please support him.

There are some photos taken by John Honniball here and photos by BBSP here. Blog posts by Gordon Henderson and Paul Hallett. This is Bristol wrote a piece about the event.

You can listen to Monique Gionet explain why she came to the event and in this interview with Bonnie Dean and Richard Pitkin they describe what BBSP is and why they are proud to host the RaspberyJam.
Thanks to our sponsors BBSP, Heber and Broadcom

MiltonKeynes #RaspberryJam 19.08.12

Peter Onion, a volunteer at The National Museum of Computing hosted a Raspberry Jam at the museum on Sunday 19th August. Mark Wilson has written a blogpost here for you to read all about it.

Mark also wrote a blogpost about the London RaspberryJam on 20th June that previously snook under my radar. I recommend you have a read of this too. It’s great when people blog, tweet, take photos and record talks at the RaspberryJam events because it helps to spread the jam. If you’re heading to a RaspberryJam, perhaps you would consider sharing the experience. If you don’t have the time to write, record an Audioboo :-)


London RaspberryJam 25.07.12

We held the second London RaspberryJam at the Mozilla space on 25th July.

It was interesting for all sorts of reasons. Luckily, I have managed to recruit a crew of bloggers, tweeters, photographers, video bloggers so that all I need to do is direct you to their pages and you can see what all the discussion was about.

The Scientific Moustache writes about the talks with lots of links to follow

Tom Hannen’s blog features videos of the talks

Miss Philbin’s blog writes her opinions as a teacher and asks for support

Connected Digital World contains photos and comments

Competition winners announced very shortly

Machynlleth Raspberry Jam, 21July12

I was delighted a few months ago to receive a question from 15 year old, Robert Buchan-Terry in Machynlleth, West Wales. He asked me “What’s the minimum age you need to be to hold a Raspberry Jam?“. Well we’ve never had a minimum age. He went on to tell me that he was excited by the Raspberry Pi and that he yearned to develop embedded computing projects. He asked if experts could come along to support his ambitions.

I was over the moon. Up to now I have managed to encourage some children to present at Raspberry Jams. So the idea that a child would want to host one seemed the next big step. However, I thought it best to make sure his teacher was involved as well. It’s clear that Robert makes a superb host. Here is the event page, you can see a list of those who signed up.

And so, it happened on Saturday 21st July, and by all accounts it seems to have been a great success. I love the ‘home made’ quality to this video and how it seems to suggest that you don’t need a fantastic amount of organisation to make one of these happen. There were a great number of people who supported this event. Special thanks go to Hannah Dee @handee who created the video, thereby allowing more people to experience the spirit of the event and she also brought lots of raspberry themed goodies courtesy of BCS Wales.

Hannah has also written a blog post about this.

Cambridge #RaspberryJam 14.07.12

We held a #RaspberryJam in Cambridge on 14th July at the University of Cambridge which was combined with a TeachMeet afterwards. Links to speakers, blogs, photos here. Liz Upton wrote this about the event. I interviewed Rory Cellan-Jones (BBC Technology correspondant) who wrote this and this. Ever wondered where the name Raspberry Pi came from?

This video, courtesy of @RasPiBeginners (less than 1 minute) gives a flavour of the event.

Alasdair Davies & Gary Fletcher of ZSL (London Zoo) gave a presentation on the challenges they face in their work and how they are using Raspbery Pi to help solve these problems.

Andrew Robinson of the Uiveristy of Manchester gave a talk on PiFace, recorded by Leon Cych.

Liam Fraser, the 17 year old creator of Raspberry Pi tutorials gave a talk explaining his motive for creating these tutorials.

Dawn Hewitson, Edge Hill University and Sally Elding, Cambridgshire County Council gave their perspectives on the Raspberry Pi and the Raspberry Jam event.

We had a panel session with many members of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, apologies about the sound.