Author Archives: Jon Foster

Housing Camp at the NHF Conference

Fresh from London Housing Camp last weekend, we’re enroute to do it all again at the NHF Conference on Friday (that’s the 25th).  

If you’re in Birmingham for the NHF Conference, do come along – we hope the ‘unconference’ format will make for a fun and energetic end to your trip!  We’re in Hall 3, 9am -1pm.

So what to expect if you’re coming along?  Here’s a post we prepared earlier… What to expect

It would be great to connect on Twitter – please do say hello and let us know you’re coming and we’ll add you to the housing camp twitter list!  We’re @jonfoster and @Jaynehilditch and @HousingCamp

Housing Camp 2015: 19th September

Exciting news from the world of Housing Camp – we’re back again with the third national Housing Camp. We’ll be back with our incredible Cabinet Office hosts, GDS, in Holborn, London – so if you came last year, no excuses for being late!

Kick off’s at 10am on Saturday 19th September, and as usual, we’ll heading to the pub around 5pm if that’s your thing.

If you or your delightful organisation is interested in sponsoring (you know you are) – please do drop me a line ( The support of our sponsors is crucial to a good Housing Camp, and allows us to keep you all fed, caffeinated, tipsy and generally in working order. You also get what advertising people call ‘exposure’ to some of the most amazing housing people ever.

Anyway – TICKETS ARE HERE. Go forth and register your attendance. Then tell your friends too.

So what is Housing Camp?

As a I write all the different things (email, Eventbrite, blog post, etc) to announce the next Housing Camp – I’m struck by the fact we don’t actually have one single ‘About’ page that actually says what it is. Whoops. So here goes…

Housing Camp is a free unconference for people interested in doing new, exciting and different things in social housing.

An un-conference means that the event will be the opposite of everything you might expect from a normal conference. It’s free, it’s on a Saturday, Friday at #NHF15, nobody wears a suit (unless you want to), etc. But the most important thing is, there’s no agenda – which means there are no big ‘look at me, I know what I’m doing’ keynote speakers to bore you.

Except there is kind of an agenda; it just doesn’t exist yet. The first thing we’ll do on the morning of the event is all create the agenda together – which means that whatever your interest, the event’s pretty much guaranteed to be relevant. If you want to talk about something, you just pick a time and room, and add it to the agenda – done.

The result of all this is that Housing Camp ends up being a space where really amazing people, who really care about housing stuff come and have great conversations, come up with amazing ideas, and generally have a lot of fun. Everyone’s welcome – all we ask is that you’re positive, and don’t try and sell things, it spoils the vibe a bit.

Over the years we’ve put various bits and pieces together that explain the different bits of Housing Camp a bit more, so if you’re interested – have a look through these…

You can also have a look at what people thought of the events in 2013, and in 2014.

And finally, it’s worth saying that Housing Camp started off quite heavily focussed on digital things. But Housing Camp isn’t just about digital any more, you’ll find just as many sessions on other topics as you will purely about digital stuff.

What did you think of Housing Camp 2014?

So – as I mentioned at the end of the day yesterday, we’d love you to blog about Housing Camp – share the love, spread the passion, and tell the world about the great conversations you had and awesome stuff you did.

Whatever and wherever you post (including videos, photos and all that jazz), please post a link in the comments below.

And, if you’re in a hurry, or struggling to think of something to write about in detail – why not try a list of 10 ‘things’. There’s quite a few on this page from last year to get you thinking, and I’ll kick off with mine too.

Thanks again for making Housing Camp 2014 incredible.

So – Housing Camp is at GDS – where’s that then? [2015 update]

The Government Digital Service are in Aviation House in Holborn. The building’s at the top of Kingsway, just before you get to High Holborn. The address is 125 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6NH. Here’s a map.

As well as being where Jon gets his hair cut, [2015 update: we’ve gone hipster] Holborn is also well served by public transport, so should be easily accessible no matter where you’re coming from. A plentiful selection of bus routes pass through the area, and Holborn station is served by the Piccadilly (the tourist one) and the Central (the sauna one) lines of the London Underground. Tottenham Court Road station is not far either either.

Aviation House from over road. Yes, it is rather grand isn't it.

Aviation House.

If you’re coming on the tube, walk out the exit immediately in front of you when you get to the top of the escalator (fun escalator fact: they were originally designed as theme park rides – sadly though, these ones don’t go faster when I scream, in fact they usually stop) – then cross the road and turn left, walking away from the junction/Sainsbury’s. Almost immediately you’ll see the front door on your right.

When you arrive, if there’s no obvious open door, press the buzzer on the right.

Need to plan your journey from the London station you’re arriving at/friends sofa you’re crashing on? Use this magical CityMapper link, and enter your start point. Londoner and never heard of CityMapper? Click here. [2015 update: surely everyone’s heard of citymapper?]

We’ll be heading to the Holborn Whippet afterwards for some revelry, and your friends/colleagues/partners/pets/flatmates/3rd cousins/other appendages are all most welcome to join. It’s on Sicilian Avenue, just the other side of High Holborn, thankfully, Google Maps exists to help.

Photos by Carol on Flickr.

Get the deets/the down low/the scoop/the 411

So – tomorrow’s the day! Here are a few things you might need to know.


We’ll kick off at 10 on the dot, feel free to arrive anytime from about 9.15.

We’ll be heading to the pub shortly before 5pm.

The front door to Premier House

The front door to Premier House

Getting to Premier House

General travel information is here.

From Twickenham station: Turn left out of the front doors; walk down to the traffic lights, cross the road, Premier House is right in front of you.

Getting In

If you arrive after about 10am, there’ll be a sign on the door telling you how to get in (it’s a little complicated as it’s a Saturday). If in doubt call 020 8607 0576 and someone will come and get you.


We’ll provide (thanks to our lovely sponsors, specifically Cullinan Studio) a selection of sandwiches and suchlike, some fruit and the odd sweet treat or two.  However, we can’t promise to meet your dietary requirements, so please bear that in mind! Don’t worry though, Waitrose is – quite literally – downstairs from the venue.


Sadly the weather is looking like it won’t allow us to make use of some of Twickenham’s beautiful riverside pubs (although unfortunately the White Swan’s beer garden is tidal, and it can get a little awkward going home with damp ankles). So we’ll most likely be hunkering down at the Bear. Follow @housingcamp for confirmation at the time, and look out for beer monitor Jenny on the day.

UPDATE: We’ll now be at The Cabbage Patch, which is quite literally a stones-throw from the venue.

Once again, love and thanks to stars of learning, Learning Pool for funding the booze.


And thanks to our sponsors not specifically mentioned above: Thames Valley Housing, Our Housing and Wazoku.

Less than a week to go – 10 top tips for newbies

There’s less than one week to go until Housing Camp hits the TVH offices in Twickenham on Saturday 18th May. Preparations are well under way, and I’ve just taken delivery of an un-sightly quantity of post-it notes – all good there then.

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to run through some of my top tips for first timers…

One// Don’t be afraid to pitch
The day only works when people decide they want to talk about stuff and invite other people to join them. Have a read of Jayne’s blog post on pitching for more.

Two// Embrace the fomo
Fear of Missing Out (fomo) is inevitable – something you want to go to will be scheduled at the same time as something else you want to go to. Pick one, find someone who’s going to the other, and agree to exchange notes. There’ll also be write-ups and tweets to read afterwards too.

UKGovCamp last year - photo by David Pearson.

UKGovCamp last year – photo by David Pearson.

Three// Talk to people
The other people in the building will be people doing similar stuff to you, facing the same challenges as you and trying to change the world just like you are. Meeting them is good, and you don’t have to be in a session all the time.

Four// Go to the pub
Just like number three, it’s important for meeting people and good fun.
And if the weather’s nice, we’ll probably be by the river. (PS – thanks to Learning Pool for sponsoring).

Five// Follow along
The hashtag for Housing Camp is #housingcamp. Follow it on Twitter, Pinboard, Flickr (group), Audioboo, Slideshare, Storify and pretty much anything else you can think of.

A #ukgc11 session by Paul Clarke

A #ukgc11 session by Paul Clarke

Six// Create and share online
If you cope with the multitasking then definitely tweet (and blog, and record, etc) away during the event, the more you do, the more other people can join in online.

Seven// Continue the conversations
Join the Google Group (nb – this doesn’t exist yet), set up a hashtag alert, whatever floats your boat – just keep in touch with people! Trust me, they’ll prove some of the most valuable connections you’ll ever make.

Eight// Converse
If you go into a session thinking you’re about to share the one right way of doing something, or wanting to sell something – it’s unlikely to work. Just have a conversation instead.

Nine// Speak up
If you take one thing away from this blog post, it should be this: If you’ve got something to say, experience to share, suggestion to make – say/share/make it. Don’t hold back – this is one big conversation.

I couldn’t think of a number 10 to round off the numbering – any ideas?

Average Beaver Ticket Release

Hello! Today our second batch of 50 tickets are available to register. Yay!

We’re a teeny bit concerned about the balance of people who registered tickets from our Earlybird release. While we’re flattered that so many people are up for coming along to our little camp, we are also keen to remember what it’s actually about (social housing, by the way).

So – as you’ll see below – half of this release is restricted to only people who work for a social housing provider (including local authorities), and half is open to anyone (including social housing staff if the other half fill up first). I’m sure you’ll understand that if we’re talking about housing all day, we’d like to have plenty of actual people from actual housing associations there ;).

This feels like a good time to remind you all that while of course everybody is welcome – if you’re coming with, for want of a better phrase, a commercial hat on, then you need to get stuck in to the day exactly the same as everyone else. No explicit sales pitches, no lecturing, and definitely no ‘industry research’ by sitting in the corner.

If you’ve got any questions, please do give me a shout – we’d much rather talk to you than leave you a bit confused! I’m @jonfoster or

And big thanks to our latest sponsors OurHousing and Cullinan Studio.

(if you can’t see anything here, then go here)

A date and some tickets

So – here goes – we’ve got a date, and we’ve got some tickets. EXCITING!

Housing Camp will take place on the 18th of May, starting at 10am and finishing at about 5pm.

Tickets will be released in three batches – 50 today, 50 on the 1st of April and 50 on the 1st of May.

So, get registering…

(if you can’t see anything here, then go here)

Travel Deets

Our lovely hosts Thames Valley Housing might not be right in the centre of town, but it’s still Greater London you know – and only 20 minutes from Waterloo…

By Rail photo by emdeenLess than 5 minutes from the front door, Twickenham Station is as quick as 20 minutes from London Waterloo, and the same from Vauxhall – both well connected within central London.

Direct trains to Twickenham from: Waterloo, Vauxhall, Clapham Junction, Reading.

Twickenham is also served every few minutes by trains from Richmond, for interchanges with London Overground (to Willesden Junction and Stratford) and London Unerground District Line.

See this rail & tube map of all services in Greater London (hint: Twickenham is South West). The TfL journey planner is also a great resource if you’re not a Londoner – the most obvious route from your arrival point may not be the best (for example to get to us, it is often quicker to travel via Clapham Junction or Vauxhall)!

Top tip – there might be engineering works on the tube or trains.

By Road

tumblr_mdebapV5A01r6uj4mo1_400From the M25, take the M3 (junction 12) towards Central London and continue onto the A316. At the second roundabout turn right into Whitton Road, signposted to Twickenham. After approx. 1/2 mile, bear right at the traffic lights, and continue past the station on the left. Premier House is on the corner by the traffic lights. Turn left into Arragon Road and the entrance to the car park is on the right after about 300 yards.

There is an NCP car park attached to TVH building, accessed from Arragon Road.

See here for more details on driving.

Other Methods

pets-on-a-plane-1Helicopter: Parking available at Harlequins.

Charter jet: Heathrow is just up the road.

Limousine: Best parked in Arragon Road where we can most easily roll out a red carpet.