Discover great free and open source software at our next meetup

Rosie the Riveter Free Software/Open Source propaganda by Iwan Gabovitch is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We’ll be holding our next meetup on Wednesday 20 April at Birmingham Open Media and we’d love it if you could join us and get involved!

Following on from well-attended practical session on protecting your online privacy and security, we’ll be introducing you to some amazing software packages and tools which you are completely free and legal for you to download.


All the software we’ll be introducing you to will be free and open source. Free software is software that gives you the user the freedom to share, study and modify it. That means it not only costs you nothing to use it (free as in beer), but gives you the right to make changes and contribute improvements (free as in freedom).

Free software and digital rights

As well as helping people access to software they would not otherwise be able to afford, free and open source software is really to protecting our privacy, security and human rights online. Because anyone can study and modify the software code, it is easier to spot and fix security bugs. And because no single company controls the software, it is harder for governments to forces companies to spy on their users as in the recent FBI versus Apple court case.

You can find out more about free software on the Free Software Foundation website.

You should come to this meetup if:

  • You need software such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office for work or education but can’t afford the licence. GIMP is a high quality free alternative to Photoshop while LibreOffice can replace MS Office.
  • Your laptop is a good few years old and is struggling to run Windows. The open source Ubuntu operating system could breathe new life into your computer.
  • You’re worried about how much control Facebook, Google and Apple have over digital and want to find viable alternatives such as Firefox web browser and Signal private messenger.

Don’t forget to bring your laptop/tablet/smartphone with you so that we can try out rather than just talk about software!

RSVP via our Meetup page

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday 20 April.



Art against the Snooper’s Charter workshop a success

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us last Wednesday at Birmingham Open Media for our creative workshop to raise.

We had a fun evening making memes and other visual materials designed to raise public awareness of the government’s plans to push ahead with its controversial new surveillance bill, officially known as the Investigatory Powers Bill but better understood as a Snooper’s Charter.

The idea behind the evening was

You can read a write-up of the event and see the artwork we created over on Birmingham Open Media’s website.

Art against the Snooper’s Charter 

We hoped creating memes and other visuals would help more people understand what’s at the stake if the Snooper’s Charter becomes law. Speaking in parliament the day before our meetup, My local MP Steve McCabe (@steve_mccabe) summed things up quite nicely, saying that if the bill is passed in its current form “we will be the envy of states such as North Korea, China and Iran“.

Envy of North Korea

I’m pleased to report we have had a good reaction so far to our artwork on Twitter, with people re-tweeting and liking our creations and sharing their own.

Give memes a chance

If you’d like to have a go at creating your own protest meme, check out ImgFlip’s easy-to-use Meme Generator web tool.

Want to create something a little more complex? Why not try using the free and open source GIMP image editor to mock up a thought-provoking image like this playful riff on 1984?

Spread the word


If you like any of the visuals we’ve created or decide to create your own, please think about sharing them with your friends and family. Visuals hit home to people in a way that complex arguments and wordy blogs can’t possibly hope to.

If you’re sharing on social media , remember to mention the Investigatory Powers Bill/Snooper’s Charter in your posts and, if possible include the hashtags #IPBill and #SnoopersCharter. If you’re using Twitter, copying in @OpenRightsBrum will also allow us to more easily re-tweet your posts.

Don’t forget to email your MP (and sign the 38 Degrees petition)

While it’s really important we broaden the reach of our campaign through memes, we still need to keep up the pressure on MPs through traditional campaigning methods.

If you’ve not already done so, please use Open Rights Group’s easy-to-use web tool to email your MP today. The more MPs hear concerns from their consituents over the coming months, the better chance we have of stopping the Snooper’s Charter.

Once you’ve done this, please also take a couple of minutes to sign and share the new 38 Degrees petition, Stop Government Plans to Snoop on Your Internet History.

Can you spare a few quid to fight the Snooper’s Charter?

Lastly, the Don’t Spy On Us coalition (which Open Rights Group is a member) is currently a crowdfunding a hard-hitting advertising campaign to raise awareness of the Snooper’s Charter. Please spare what you can to help stop the bill.

Don’t Spy On Us launches fundraiser for Investigatory Powers Bill ad campaign

Just 3 Sleeps to go until the Open Rights Group Birmingham Launch on Wednesday!

Open Rights Group leaflets and stickers piled up on a table

With there being just 3 more sleeps to go until Open Rights Group Birmingham (ORG Birmingham) launches on Wednesday (if you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so from here), I wanted to share with you some interesting updates.

Here comes the merch

Open Rights Group leaflets and stickers piled up on a table
Open Rights Group leaflets and stickers piled up on a table

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the central team at ORG have kindly sent me what can only be described as a motherlode of merch. Should you be able to make our meetup on Wednesday you will be able to get your hands on some rather nifty looking ORG stickers and leaflets to help you spread our message on digital rights far and wide.  I hope you’re excited about the merch as I am.

Draft Agenda

Secondly, I had a good chat during the week with Lydia Snodin, ORG’s local groups coordinator. Lydia’s given me some tips  and generally boosted my confidence about hosting our first ever meet-up.

While our first meet-up is most definitely intended to be friendly, relaxed and informal, Lydia has recommended we work to a basic structure so that everyone gets a chance to contribute and we make the most of our time together.

Here’s my first attempt at an agenda. I’ve tried to structure our meetup so that the most important bits happen early on so that people who need to leave early can still contribute. As ever, your feedback is very much appreciated.

6-6.30: Arrival and registration/sign-up

6.30 – 6.45: Welcome people to ORG Birmingham. Explain reasons for organising meet-up. Thank people for getting involved.
6.45-7.00:’Lightning’ introductions. People have 1 minute to say who they are and why they came along to the meet-up.
7-7.30: What do people want from ORG Birmingham?

Encourage guest to suggest future meet-up topics, speakers and campaign activities.

Introduction to the Snoopers’ Charter and what it could mean for digital rights.

7.30-7.45: Agree date and topic of next meet-up.
7.45-8: Introduction to the Snoopers’ Charter
8-8.30. Group discussion about Snoopers’ Charter and possible ORG Birmingham responses to it.
8.30-9. More chat. Guests disperse.

Keep Yourselves Refreshed – BYOB policy

White and black cat sitting next to a cup of coffee
White and black cat sitting next to a cup of coffee

I am reliably informed our hosts for the evening, Birmingham Open Media (BOM), will be able to make us a cup of tea or coffee. Beyond that, they might struggle as we will be using the venue out of hours and access to facilities will be limited.

To keep things fun, I’ll be doing my best party host impression and will supply some snacks and soft drinks. If you’re thinking of coming it would be great if you could bring along some snacks and drinks. BOM are pretty relaxed about people bringing alcoholic drinks into the venue provided we are responsible. If you can stretch to bringing refreshments for you plus one more, we should have plenty of food and drink for everyone to enjoy.

Come Along to the 1st ever Open Rights Group Birmingham Meet-up

I am proud to announce Open Rights Group Birmingham will be holding its 1st ever meet-up in just over a week’s time, after work on Wednesday 8th July.

Full size image of poster advertising 1st ever meet-up of Open Rights Group Birmingham campaign group

Birmingham Open Media (BOM) have very kindly agreed to host our meet-up for free, which is fantastic. If you’re not familiar with their work, please do check them out.

The meet-up will be a relaxed, informal affair. It’s a chance for people with an interest in digital rights and open technology

to meet each other and figure out how we can work together to protect and promote digital rights in Birmingham and beyond.

By the end of the meet-up we should have a clearer idea of the issues we think Open Rights Group Birmingham should be focusing on and the next steps we will take to make progress on these issues.

Quite a few people have already expressed an interest in meeting up and forming an Open Rights Group Birmingham. It would be great if we could get as many people as possible along to the meet-up. I would be grateful if you could help spread the word by sharing this blog post and, if possible, printing and displaying a copy of the meet-up poster.

Admission is completely free but it would be helpful for planning purposes if you could let me know if you are thinking of coming. Francis Clarke. Email:, Twitter: @francisclarke or Phone: 07749374339.

You can download a print quality version of the poster by clicking here.

ORG Birmingham local organiser, Francis Clarke