Cakes, me and commscampnorth

My first experience of an unconfernece was a geeky “barcamp” in Newcastle in 2007. It was a two day thing, were we actually camped indoors in the venue overnight. Indoors. with tents.

Unconferences are all about community, collaboration and making things happen to share knowledge. I’d never been to anything similar before and I was apprehensive to what I was letting myself in for. I was a bit shy to speak on anything very technical so decided to talk about something that at work we had started to do in our team – which was to take turns in cooking for each other. I’m trying to think of the title of my talk, I think it was called something like “Banana bread and bonding”.

On day two I managed to persuade one of the sponsors (Yahoo) who had a bit of budget to give me £20 to nip to the local supermarket and get the basic ingredients. I returned with a carrier bag (and a grin) and gave what I will loosely call a workshop, to a load of willing fellow geeks.

The session taught how easy and cheap it was to create banana bread from any old browning bananas, the type many people might be tempted to throw out. My sales pitch was the gross aged browning ‘nanas were the PERFECT ingredient to use. The subtext was about the similarities with coding (combining and crafting), the great bond that our team had created taking turns of making lunch for the team and eating together plus how easy and quick it is to turn ingredients into a delicious treat.

I (in all my randomness) had also managed to source a nearby oven, in the kitchen of the parish priests communal kitchen in the next door building! I remember having a very lovely chat with the victor about the delights of unconferences. So just as the event was drawing to a close I turned back up with bundles of breadyness wrapped in grease proof paper and sealed up with stickers. I think I got a cheer when I was handing out the remainder at the pub for the after party.

Years later a guy at a tech conference recognised me and told me he had taken two pieces and put it in his glove compartment. A week later when him and his girlfriend were taking a trip away then noticed a lovey smell from the car and remembered it was there. Apparently it keeps well. I put it down to the fact it was baked with love and in the ovens of saints.

My heroics on the cake front (I hope) have lived on for years to come … Many will remember me as the tiffin lady at UK Govcamp … Or the feeder local gov camp in Leeds when I managed to kidnap and initiate a number of councillors from Cumbria into the world of unconferences and technology. I was one of the official tasters at GirlGeekCamp in Manchester a few year ago – which had the most decorated and highly coloured selection of baking at ANY event I have ever attended.


And so the appearance of baking has found a firm place in the hearts of the unconference scene. I’ll let you ponder why; and feel free to share your own fond memories of baking!

Last year my treat of choice to bring to CommsCamp in Birmingham was a regional delight from my part of the world a cake in the style of sticky toffee pudding.

So … Will you be joining the “bakers” or the “bring and buy” to this year’s CommsCamp North?

Does it even have to be baked? I’ve seen a few trendy raw entries get the thumbs up!

But the “Table of cake” will be making a strong appearance at our Manchester CommsCampNorth. Square tin or round? Loaf or cupcake? YOU decide.

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