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Hundreds ‘switch on to digital’ at Rochdale festival

06 March 2017

Rochdale Digital Festival.

Rochdale Digital Festival was hailed a success this weekend, with over 750 people visiting Number One Riverside on Saturday, 4 March 2017.

The festival, organised by us and now in its third year, was aimed at improving peoples digital skills with hands-on help and advice.

Coronation Street star Simon Gregson, best known for playing the hapless landlord of the Rovers Return pub, Steve McDonald, in the ITV soap, called in to pick up some tips as well as embracing a whole range of technology himself, including virtual reality, Micro: Bits and coding. He chatted to fans in person and later answered questions digitally, during an interview broadcast on the Rochdale Borough Council Facebook page​​ and view the photo gallery

Speaking on BBC Radio Manchester he said it was an impressive event:

"I saw some pretty amazing stuff at the festival. I try to keep up with technology but there is so much more to learn and it's always moving fast. My kids are into all the latest gadgets and at events like this you realise how much more you can do with technology, whatever level you're at there is something useful for you here, it's great, and what a fantastic building to host it all in!!"

Visitors were shown how to set up an email account, make video calls, borrow electronic books, shop safely online and how to set up Facebook and Twitter pages. Staff from 02 Rochdale let visitors step into the future with the Samsung Gear VR Virtual Reality headset.

Barclays Digital Eagles showed how to do your banking online as well as hosting coding sessions for children with code playground and Micro: Bits.

'We know how important it is for people to have the right digital skills to get jobs, so this festival also highlighted some of the digital careers and training opportunities'

The FixIt Bar was kept busy all day, with O2 Rochdale and digital volunteers providing hands on help for hundreds of visitors with laptop, iPad, phone or tablet problems.

More than 20 organisations had a presence at the festival, including MadLab, Barclays, Pride Media, Marks and Spencer and Boots, showing the latest developments in digital technology and its many applications. Skills for Employment, Rochdale Solutions, Hopwood Hall College, People Plus and Rochdale JobCentre offered advice on learning, training and work opportunities.

There were free workshops for businesses, revealing the tricks of the trade in bite-sized sessions and our staff gave demonstrations of their 'My Account​' a new online customer account, which makes it quicker and easier to access our services online, avoiding spending time on the telephone or making face-to-face visits. 

The Digital Community and Creative Zone returned, highlighting local digital projects, with interactive computer games, digital animation, virtual reality, computer coding and electronics.

There was lots for under 18s and families too, including Rochdale Coder Dojo - a community group - supported by skilled mentors to learn computer coding through play with the latest digital kit.  Hacker tots -  a play space where children can use 'Little Bits'- electronic building blocks and 'Scratch', learning code, making fun things and lots of noise in the children's library.

Girl engineers – 'Robogals' appeared – along with their robots, aimed at inspiring young women to consider engineering and technology related careers.

MadLab held their popular Make Stuff demonstrations – letting young visitors get to grips with coding and take an introduction to the world of making.

02 Rochdale delivered a fascinating workshop on how to keep your children safer online, covering everything from parental controls to online bullying and BBC Radio Manchester broadcast live from the festival. 

Councillor Daalat Ali, our cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community, said he was pleased to see it growing year on year:

"The atmosphere was fabulous. Over the last year the council has doubled the number of tablets and computers in its libraries, making it easier for everyone to get online for free – and we know how important it is for people to have the right digital skills to get jobs, so this festival also highlighted some of the digital careers and training opportunities available locally."

The festival was held as part of BeOnline 2017 – a national 2-week campaign to help people discover the internet.

If you missed the festival, it's not too late to get help with digital technology. Just visit any local library. For details of your nearest library call 0300 303 8876.