Pirate Party UK – 3 years old today

Ever since I first heard of the Swedish Pirate Party, I thought to myself that the UK needed something like that, and that if it had something like that I would love to be a part of it. I didn’t however investigate sufficiently or I might have come across the several attempts to do just that which never quite got off the ground.

However finally it did, and on 30th July 2009 the Pirate Party UK became an official ‘registered with the Electoral Commission’ political party. [1]

2009-07-30 PPUK registration
2009-07-30 PPUK registration

The first I knew of this was a Slashdot article posted on 13th August 2009 [2]. I was abroad on my Summer holiday at the time, but that didn’t stop me from immediately following the link and signing up.

A few days later I was already trying to get involved and help. I created a Facebook group for South East members (which was eventually replaced with a Facebook page).

I am proud to be able to say that on September 5th 2009 I was at the Treehouse talk [3] [4], the first official public speech by then leader (and current Governor) Andy Robinson. I remember the gentle teasing on the train ride up (with Tuoni and Semanticx) for bringing along a flask of tea. The three of us had our own custom black, name on the back, polo shirts made up which receive compliments to this day.

Copyright Andy Bloomfield BY-NC - http://www.flickr.com/photos/andybroomfield/3907168877/sizes/m/in/set-72157622207295663/
© (NC-BY) Andy Broomfield

I vividly remember all of us attending (especially those proudly wearing PPUK-logo polo shirts and no coats) shivering as the evening set in to chill us to the bone. Finally, I remember the satisfaction of being able to drink hot tea from my flask! That evening I posted the following to Facebook:

Good meeting today. Turnout could have been larger, but I predict that in a few years time the number of people who claim to have ‘frozen in the tree house’ will be significantly more than really did.


In May 2010 I decided to become even more involved. Nominations opened for Regional Admin Officers and I nominated myself for the South East vacancy [5] [6]. I held that position until 2011 when, after structural changes, the RAO positions were removed.

That same May nominations opened [7] for the Board of Governors for which I also nominated myself [8]. I was proud to have been elected to both offices, the latter one still held today. Proud both because of the trust I felt that members had placed in me, and proud also to know I was able to help the Pirate Party UK grow and develop.

The second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 saw me travelling around the South East trying to stimulate regional activity through monthly meetings. Some meetings were successful, others less so. The most successful were those that combined with the London region. These tailed off late 2011 and early 2012 as RAO positions got restructured away, but have seen a resurgence recently with one of the most successful meetings yet [9].

London July 2012 PPUK Social Meeting
London July 2012 PPUK Social Meeting

February 2011 saw the first ever Pirate Party UK national conference [10]. This took place in Glasgow and provided the first real opportunity for many of the active members to meet each other face-to-face and built both political and social ties. There were good talks from invited international Pirates (Pascal Gloor PP-Switzerland, and Rick Falkvinge PP-Sweden) as well as Loz (UK leader). I’m proud to also be able to say I too presented at conference, though my talk on the PPUK constitution was probably a gentle opener to allow members to catch a few extra moments of sleep.

Author delivering a presentation at PPUK 2011 national conference
Author delivering a presentation at PPUK 2011 national conference. © Andy Halsall

It has been a tough three years for a small group of idealists without too much real political experience trying to make a serious political party out of little more than hopes, dreams, visions of a better world, and a sprinkling of outrage.

In many ways it has been three years of pain. Birthing pains, and growing pains. We grew faster than we knew what to do with ourselves. I am sure many members were like myself who had always wanted to see a UK Pirate Party and joined immediately to make a statement of intent. Like myself I am sure many of those initial members were not sure what to do to help, and unsurprisingly at a time when we needed every member to know what needed to be done and be driven to do it we floundered as reality set in.

But we survived. While many members stayed on the periphery to observe a good number got stuck in. A few volunteered to help, got stuck in and did things, and gradually (perhaps making mistakes every step of the way) we made things work. We have had a few internal election cycles (some might say too many) and without criticism to those that came before, I think every cycle we’ve gotten stronger. Those that came before deserve praise for bringing us as far as they did, and those that came after deserve praise for dragging us further than we had gone before.

We have had successes, and we have had failures. I am saddened most when I see hard working individuals burn out and fade away because their load was not shared with others. I think we are still at that tipping point where too few do too much, but change is on the horizon. We are now teetering towards a different tipping point, the place where we now have many more volunteers and those few with the heavy loads have to try to shift that balance, negotiating the tricky challenge of taking time away from doing to spend time mentoring others on what to do.

I anticipate a period of quiet, where not quite so much work is seen to be done from the outside perspective as we internally work on a better organisation structure. But I hope this will then be followed by a rapid growth as a larger group of organised volunteers kick into gear and drive us further towards our goals.

Looking ahead, I am eagerly anticipating the PPUK 2012 national conference. This is being held in London on 16th September [11] and proposes to be a larger and more exciting event. I imagine this has a strong chance (although it will be a push) of being the last ‘intimate’ PPUK conference where it would be possible to meet everyone attending and forge friendships, as I foresee a 2013 or 2014 conference becoming so much larger and reaching 500+ attendees.

I’ve already bought my ticket and if you haven’t yet done so, do snap one up now [12] while there are still tickets available, I look forward to meeting more of my fellow Pirates.

Browsing through three years worth of subscribed forum posts one thread in particular caught my eye titled ‘BBC ignoring us’, which is certainly not something that could be said now [13]. If a measure is needed of how far we have come, perhaps this is as good as any.

[1] Announcement on the PPUK blog of the official registration of PPUK with the Electoral Commission
[2] Article on Slashdot about the official registration of PPUK
[3] Announcement on the PPUK blog of the Treehouse talk
[4] flickr image set by Andy Broomfield of the Treehouse talk
[5] Opening of RAO nominations on the PPUK forum
[6] Author’s self-nomination for RAO South East on the PPUK forum
[7] Opening of Board of Governors nominations on the PPUK forum
[8] Author’s self-nomination for Board of Governors on the PPUK forum
[9] Facebook image gallery for London July 2012 social meeting
[10] Facebook image gallery for PPUK 2011 national conference
[11] Information page for the upcoming PPUK 2012 national conference
[12] Registration page for the upcoming PPUK 2012 national conference
[13] Google search for BBC pages mentioning “Pirate Party UK”

Featured image – Some rights reserved by Omer Wazir

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