women

DRIVING A BUS AROUND BLETCHLEY PARK #BUCKETLIST @SAVINGBLETCHLEY

There are so many interesting people on Twitter, and once you have your own network up and growing usually people will let you know if there is anything or anyone around that you might be interested in. For example one evening in January 2010 I was looking through tweets and chatting to friends on Twitter when a Twitter friend @HD41117 put me in touch with @beckie_williams. It turned out that Beckie’s great-grandfather recruited Kim Philby. How amazing is that?

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It is also a great place for things like book recommendations

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@SteveHills who I didn’t really know at the time of tweeting, but is now a great friend, recommended Agent Zigzag by Ben McIntyre to me. I ready it when I was away on holiday and it became my favourite book ever. It is the amazing story of Eddie Chapman, an English double agent who is an absolute character. Another great connection on Twitter was connecting to @herokate a year or so later. Kate’s boyfriend is a great guy called Michael who runs a famous Soho bar, a bar that Eddie Chapman use to frequent. I had a great chat with Michael one evening at my friend @Daren140’s birthday drinks. Daren introduced me to Kate who introduced me to Michael, and Michael told me stories from when he sued to hang out with Eddie Chapman. I love my Twitter friends 🙂

Something else very cool that happened because of Twitter at around the same time was that I got to achieve an ambition that I had had since I was five years old. I had really wanted to drive a big red London bus. I had tweeted this in to @davegorman in response to a request from him to everyone listening to his Absolute Radio show on a Saturday in January 2010. Dave had asked everyone to tweet in their childhood ambitions, so I duly tweeted saying that when I was five I wanted to drive a London bus. Dave was choosing some of the ambitions and trying to connect people up to help make them happen. Luckily for me I didn’t need Dave to help my ambition come true as Kelsey at Bletchley Park had seen my tweet, contacted the local gay nightclub Pink Punters in Fenny Stratford and asked them if I could drive their bus around Bletchley Park. How exciting 🙂

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Kelsey arranged for the bus driving to coincide with the next Station X social media cafe.

To make sure that I was a fit driver we needed to have a practice, so we all turned up for Station X and then got on the bus together to be driven to the Milton Keynes stadium car park. It reminded me a bit of the film “Summer Holiday” with Cliff  Richard. I was really excited and the bus was buzzing with everyone chatting about what they had been up to since the last Station X and whatever the latest was in our Twittersphere. It didn’t take long to drive to the stadium. Once there I was given a quick overview of what I needed to do, and then we were away. It wasn’t actually as different to driving a car as I had expected. The steering wheel on the bus was massive though and that took a bit of getting used to. I drove around the car park a few times, then had a go at a few different manoeuvres like driving backwards between two traffic cones. After 20 minutes or so the lovely guys from Pink Punters were satisfied that I was able to drive. I got back into the back of the bus and they drove us all back to Bletchley Park.

Once back, the driver parked the bus in front of the mansion house and got out of the driver’s cab. I went around the front and got in to drive. I was slightly nervous. What if I crashed into one of the huts? Just imagine how dreadful that would be.

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Photos by @9600 Andrew Back

I got in the cab, started the engine and off we went to cheers from the Station X crew on the bus. The roads at Bletchley Park are pretty narrow so it wasn’t as easy as driving around a massive car park. I did a couple of circuits around without any major problems, and then started around for the third time. I was getting a bit cocky, so I drove a bit faster the third time. Half way around I managed to hit a traffic cone when taking a corner, but that was fine, what’s a traffic cone between friends? We were almost around and it was all going well, I slowed down gradually to park in front of the mansion, and as we slowed pulled over to the kerb slightly so that the bus wouldn’t block any other vehicles that wanted to go past. I slowed right down almost to a stop, and then managed somehow to take the bus up the kerb and stop on the kerb. Awww. I had driven really well until the very last few seconds and then mucked it up. Ah well. I’d not injured anyone or anything, I’d managed not to crash into a hut, we had all had a bit of a laugh and I had achieved an ambition I’d had since I was five years old.

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Here’s a video of my efforts shot by @mikistrange on the day.

I got in touch with @davegorman afterwards to let him know that because of him I had remembered and now succeeded in fulfilling a childhood ambition. I got to meet Dave in person some time after that when he did his “Powerpoint Presentation” gig at the Royal Festival Hall, and then again when we both appeared on the Infinite Monkey Cage with Robin Ince, Brian Cox and Simon Singh in 2012. He’s a lovely guy. He helped calm me down just before we were about to go on stage when Brian Cox had jokingly said something like

“Is it alright if I ask you complicated technical questions during the show?” to me.

I almost had heart failure, though of course I tried not to show it. Dave did a great job after that backstage of making me laugh and keeping me calm. What a great guy 🙂

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This is an excerpt from the pre edit version of Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black which is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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UK/US Special Relationship – Winfield House roundtable

Enjoyed contributing to an extremely interesting round table discussion about the UK/US Special Relationship this morning at the U.S. Ambassador in London Matthew Barzun‘s residence Winfield House in Regent’s Park 😀  The conversation ranged from women to technology, from art to Bletchley Park and beyond. Looking forward to some practical next steps to take things to the next level.

#STOPJECTIFY – An exhibition, highlighting the damaging effects of objectification, imagining & creating CHANGE!

An exhibition, highlighting the damaging effects of objectification, imagining & creating CHANGE!
Do check out #STOPJECTIFY fabulous #girlpower #sexpositive exhibiTion curated by the incredibly talented Jess De Wahls, on for this week only in Percy Street, London this week. Don’t miss it!!!
 
 

Women of Silicon Roundabout conference – “If I can do it, so can you”

Sometimes I get lovely messages that just make my day. Here’s one that I received recently after I gave my “If I can do it, so can you” talk at the Women of Silicon Roundabout conference last month:

“I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how lovely it was to listen to you talk yesterday – I found your journey and background really very inspiring. I came away thinking about all the things I’m scared of, starting my own business on the side being the main one, something that for two years I say I don’t have time for when I know I am passionate about it and just need to do it! You made me think I can, and now, I will.”

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By telling our stories we really can help inspire each other to go on and do things which we might not otherwise. Many people have inspired me to do the things that I do, I’m so delighted to be able to inspire others.

DAVOS – Where are the women??

2 years ago Davos who say they are “committed to improving the state of the world” knew there was a problem with having so few women participating. Two years later in 2014 the figure is 15% female participation. That doesn’t sound like committment to me…..

Davos and WEF you are in a unique position of really being able to do something about this situation. You say you are committed to improving the state of the world. Having only 15% women participating means you will NOT achieve your aim.

Please be SERIOUS about your committment. Take bold, brave and dramatic steps to increase female participation. You CAN do it. If you need help I and many others will help you. You know where to find me…..

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Starting a STEM revolution #BAInnovate

Next Wednesday 12th June 2013 I’m going to be part of “Team Altitude” on a ground breaking flight from San Francisco to London.

The idea is to get 100 top innovators on a plane, set them a challenge when they get on the plane then get them to present their solution to the G8 summit when they arrive in the UK.

Check out the video explanation of the flight

Our challenge is all around the issue of the lack of women in STEM, something I’ve been interested in and campaigned around for the last 20 years. I’m so excited to be part of it. Apart from anything else I get to meet Kimberley Bryant who set up Black Girls Code, an awesome organisation, she has been a great role model for me.

It is so wonderful to finally see that trying to do something about the lack of women in STEM become a problem that everyone cares about rather than “creating a ghetto for women” which is what I was told when I set up BCSWomen, an all female network for women in tech in 2001.

Our latest project at my startup The Foundation is called #techmums and is all about helping women to empower themselves through technology. I think that role models and confidence building are absolutely crucial in this space and the main issues to tackle. If we help women to become more confident they can take control and own their lives.

With initiatives like this #BAInnovate #Ungrounded flight, getting really smart, passionate and innovative people together focused on this problem I can really see my dreams starting to become reality. Technology is creating a better future for all of us. Hallelujah! 🙂

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