Friends' Newsletter/2016/Issue 02

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Wikimedia UK Friends' Newsletter

Interesting times - welcome to your summer newsletter[edit | edit source]

Hello and welcome to our second Newsletter of the year where we let you know about goings on within the Wikimedia UK community.

The past week has certainly been a turbulent one for UK and European politics. Withdrawing from the EU could affect scientific funding and the higher education sector, and potentially lead to higher taxes and further government spending cuts. As we push forward the cause of open knowledge, we will look to deal with the challenges ahead as we understand what they mean for our sector.

Aside from these developments, we have been continuing to prepare for our AGM in Birmingham on Saturday 9th July, the schedule of which you can find here. All members, volunteers, donors and other stakeholders are welcome to join the staff and trustees of Wikimedia UK for a free day of talks, training and networking, followed by the AGM itself at 3pm. The AGM will include oral reports from the Chief Executive, Chair and Treasurer of the charity as well as voting for resolutions and, crucially, for new board members. The event is free to attend including all food and drink, but please sign up here so that we know how many people to cater for.

You can see a full list of all upcoming events on the Events page.

In the past couple of months, we have had a new Wikimedian in Residence begin work at the Wellcome Library and have participated in a number of successful editathons with Full Fact, Tate Britain and other institutions. Awaken the Dragon!, a writing competition we supported to improve content on Wales, came to an end with a final total of 52 participants, 675 articles created and 390 articles improved. The Core Contest competition also ends this week and the winners will be announced shortly.

The EU's Freedom of Panorama consultation ended in June and the European Commission will now consider submissions from the public and organisations before it decides on its future policy direction.

We have also continued reaching out to volunteers for their project ideas and attended events to add photographic content to Wikimedia Commons, notably the annual Pride celebrations in London on June 25.

Looking forward, we have a Train the Trainers event at the end of July to train Wikipedians to train others in editing best practice, which you can sign up for here. There will also be a meetup for residents and for lecturers and we are working on further partnerships with other institutions which we hope to be able to tell you about soon!

John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator

#MoreinCommon at Wikimania 2016[edit | edit source]

By Lucy Crompton-Reid

Wikimania 2016 – group photo by Niccolò Caranti CC BY-SA 4.0

I didn’t expect to be crying through much of the opening speech for Wikimania 2016, given by Jimmy Wales in the rather muggy, and very busy, Gym Palace of Esino Lario on the morning of Friday 24th June. As he talked of the inspiring life and tragic murder of his friend Jo Cox MP, he urged us to remember that “Wikipedia is a force for knowledge, and knowledge is a force for peace and understanding.” In the context of the political turmoil in the UK over the past week accompanied by a frightening and shameful increase in racist and xenophobic abuse, I am holding onto that sentiment.

I feel very privileged to have attended Wikimania 2016 on behalf of Wikimedia UK, along with a number of other staff and volunteers. Feeling tense after a delayed flight, I felt myself starting to breathe more deeply as I took in the stunning views of Lake Como on route to the beautiful mountainside town of Esino Lario. My spirits lifted even further when I was given a lift by a local to the tranquil village of Ortanella, where I was staying with my colleagues Daria and Karla in a small, rustic house with a garden full of fireflies.

Before I arrived at Wikimania, a number of people had said to me that it would be the conversations and connections made outside of and in between sessions that would prove to be the most useful, and enduring. Whilst to a large extent this was true for me, I also learnt a huge amount about the global movement through the scheduled conference programme. As a relative newcomer to Wikimedia, it was great to hear about projects involving the cultural heritage sector and to learn more about the current use and future potential of Wikidata in this context. The session on the ‘coolest chapter projects’ was particularly inspiring. Initiatives such as Wikipedia for Peace in Austria, AfroCROWD in New York, Wiki Loves Theatre in Serbia, WikiNobel in Norway and the People’s Pictures Project in Israel were a reminder of how the best ideas are often the most simple, and the most effective projects don’t have to have a big budget.

Jimmy Wales announcing Katherine Maher as the new Wikimedia Foundation ED – photo by Niccolò Caranti CC BY-SA 4.0

With a strong personal and professional interest in diversity and equalities I made a beeline for sessions on the gender gap, the first of which didn’t actually touch on gender at all but was a fascinating insight into the extent to which cultural identity is key to editor motivation.  This was followed by an equally interesting presentation on the gender gap in the global south, with a particular focus on recent activities in India. I also participated in a discussion on Wikimedia and gender, facilitated by Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, in which the only two people in the room who disagreed with the proposition that gender is the biggest or most important gap on Wikimedia to deal with, were men. I’m not sure what this says about the issue but it felt like an interesting observation.  

It was particularly useful for me to meet with Katherine Maher and Christophe Henner, the new Executive Director and Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation respectively, who discussed the Foundation’s priorities over the next year and the importance of involving Chapters and other Affiliates in the development of a new ten year strategy for the movement.

At any conference, the social aspects are an important element of forging new friendships that can underpin working relationships, and one of the highlights of Wikimania 2016 was the programme of evening events. Having seen ‘country music’ on Friday’s schedule, I had envisaged an evening of traditional Italian folk music, so was surprised (and admittedly, rather pleased) to find myself line-dancing along to Sweet Home Alabama and other American country music classics. Whilst the rock band on Saturday more than made up for the disappointment at being unable to locate a karaoke machine, and I ended the night dancing alongside staff and volunteers from Wikimedia UK, colleagues from Wikimedia Deutschland and Norway, staff from the Foundation and members of the Funds Dissemination Committee.

I can’t write about Wikimania, however, without reflecting on the UK’s referendum on EU membership, which of course is still dominating our thoughts and the news. Whilst Wikimedia UK is politically neutral, at a personal level I felt devastated by the outcome, and my shock and dismay at Friday morning’s news cast a shadow over the whole weekend. The spirit of exchange, collaboration and connection which permeated the conference and which is fundamental to the Wikimedia movement felt terribly at odds with the prospect of the UK leaving the EU, and abandoning one of the greatest peace projects of our time.

Chris Keating steps down from the board of trustees after five years[edit | edit source]

Chris Keating presents Robin Owain with the 2013 UK Wikimedian of the year award. Photo by Rock drum CC BY-SA 3.0

By Chris Keating

In the summer of 2010 I saw a banner on Wikipedia asking me to come along to an event at the British Museum.

“Wikipedia and museums,” I thought. “What a great idea. People should do more of that.”

Little did I know that this would set me off down a path that would see me spending five years as a trustee of Wikimedia UK, a post from which I am finally stepping down next week.

When I was elected to the Wikimedia UK board, we weren’t even a charity. The first task was to sort this out. After many dozens hours from volunteers and thousands of pounds of legal fees later, we finally persuaded the Charity Commission that Wikipedia was a “public benefit” – more difficult than it seems thanks to an arcane point of British law –  and were registered as a charity.

At the same time, we were hiring our first staff and trying to make the best use of an increasing pile of expressions of interests from museums, libraries, universities, and charities. After the first success of the British Museum project, it became clearer and clearer to institutions across Britain that working with Wikipedia was something that they could and should do.

The more contacts we made the more doors seemed to open. The seeds were sown then for many of the Wikimedia UK’s most prominent projects – like our partnerships with Oxford University, the Natural History Museum and the Wellcome Trust – even if many of them took years more work and discussion before they came to fruition.

New charities often encounter problems, as you go down the path from a bunch of passionate people talking in a pub to being a charity with a six-figure budget and serious responsibilities. I took over as Chair in summer 2012 after the charity encountered some of those problems, and my first months in the role were spent dealing with a string of tense phonecalls with our own Board and with the Wikimedia Foundation, arranging – and then implementing – a review of our governance. There were many lessons to be learned, and I know that the results of the Wikimedia UK governance review were read and used by dozens of other Wikimedia chapters worldwide hoping to avoid falling into some of the same pitfalls.

It’s truly remarkable to think back on how far Wikimedia UK has come in the past five years thanks to the efforts of so many people – everything we do depends on the hard work and commitment of our volunteers and our staff – and it has been a real pleasure and privilege to serve on the Board for so long.

Pride in London – photographer Katy Blackwood on working with Wikimedia UK[edit | edit source]

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan with Pride organisers (Photo by Katy Blackwood CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Katy Blackwood

My name is Katy Blackwood. I’m a music photographer, fledgling photo-journalist and writer that has been published in print, worked as a professional and, on Saturday, donated her time and photographs to Wikimedia UK in the name of knowledge and free content.

The event was Pride in London, an occasion surely close to the heart of anybody that values equality, inclusivity and solidarity, whether they are LGBT or not. In such a divisive week for the United Kingdom, it brought together an estimated one-million people to celebrate humans of all cultures and sexualities, highlighted by a triumphant parade.

Working with Wikimedia UK, I attended as a member of the media in order to create high-quality photography of the parade and its build-up. These photos, including some by John Lubbock, have now been released under a licence that allows them to be used, for free, by anyone.

The idea of giving away photographs for free is an alien, even abhorrent concept for the vast majority of professional photographers. ‘It’ll be great exposure’ is a phrase that embodies everything that is wrong with the media and arts today, that our work is not worth paying for. Credit doesn’t pay the bills, and thousands of pounds of camera equipment doesn’t pay for itself.

Naturally, I had my doubts about shooting for Wikimedia. The idea came up last year, as a possible opportunity for me to contribute to Wikipedia again for the first time since I was a teenage girl. Lapsed editors such as myself are common, but unlike then, I now have a professional skill – and felt I could contribute by using it.

The idea of specifically shooting at Pride in London was a more recent development. The issues that Pride highlights – discrimination, homophobia, xenophobia and exclusion to name a few – are fought mostly by non-profit groups and activist blogs.

We wanted to create photographs that allow such causes and bloggers to illustrate their content with high-quality visuals, for use under CC BY-SA 4.0, requiring attribution to myself but otherwise free for use as desired.

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as their Ab Fab characters open Pride (Photo by Katy Blackwood CC BY-SA 4.0)

Beyond the philanthropy, I am also hoping that my work with Wikimedia UK will be an opportunity to show what I can do as a photographer in new environments. It’s a chance for me to build relationships and see my work used widely. For my ambitions in the field of photo-journalism, Wikimedia’s influence is invaluable, and we are hoping to open doors that will allow me to further my career while volunteering.

We’re keen to follow-up our success at Pride in London with coverage of other significant events this summer and beyond into 2017. We’re exploring the possibility of working with the UK Parliament to improve Wikipedia’s photographs of politicians and the political process, and we’re hoping to attend more major events as well.

We are hoping that more photographers will come forward to contribute to these exciting projects. Wikimedia UK has expenses available for travel and accommodation, and is keen to support anyone looking to create high-quality images so long as they are happy to release them under a free licence. Please also reach out to us with suggestions of events and topics that we should cover in the future.

I am, fittingly, proud of my work on Saturday – and I hope you like my photographs too. You can check out just my own photos in this category, and I’d love to hear how you use them (you can reach me at You can also view all of our free-to-use photographs from Pride in London 2016 in this category.

Revised three year strategy following consultation[edit | edit source]

By Lucy Crompton-Reid, Chief Executive

In May, Wikimedia UK ran a community consultation on our draft new strategic framework for 2016 – 19. Thank you to everyone who responded to this, either on wiki, by email or via the mailing list. I really appreciate volunteers and members taking the time to engage with the strategy and we received some very helpful feedback, much of which has been incorporated into the updated framework.

In particular, there were a number of comments about the draft objectives for the third strategic goal for this period, concerning education and learning. This probably reflected the fact that this is the least well developed area for us in terms of delivery and we are still developing our ideas – alongside the community – for how best to work with education and to support learners. Our education meeting in May was very helpful in highlighting past practice and future ideas in this area – the notes from which are here.

Several people raised a concern that by talking about cultural heritage in our outcomes we would be excluding other areas of knowledge, such as science. This was not the intention of myself or the trustees so I have changed the wording of this planned outcome. I have also clarified some of the objectives around advocacy.

There was a hope expressed that WMUK would do more than ‘seek to engage’ volunteers, and that volunteering could be mentioned specifically around developing partnerships and speaking at events. Whilst I feel that the centrality of volunteers does come through in the strategic framework, particularly in our values and operating principles – which remain relatively unchanged from the previous five year organisational strategy – I have updated the strategy to make this implicit intention more explicit.

The new, revised strategic framework was formally approved by the board at their meeting on 10th June. Following this decision, I am now working on the three year business plan, which provides more context for the strategy as well as details of planned priorities and programmes for the three year period, and internal resources including staffing and funding and financial forecasts. The wiki will be updated soon but in the meantime, the revised framework is here.

Thanks again for your interest and your thoughtful responses to the consultation.

Supporting our community to create open content: we want your ideas![edit | edit source]

Spain win the UEFA Euro 2012 championship – photo by Илья Хохлов (via CC BY-SA 3.0

As the summer rolls around, there are so many important cultural events which the Wikimedia community can engage with and create content about. The European Football Championships start this week, and the Olympics aren’t far away either. The festival season is already beginning, and there are hundreds of other cultural events taking place across the UK and the world, from religious ceremonies to elections, the London Comic ConPride, or any other kind of commemoration or anniversary events.

Wikimedia UK is hoping to support people who want to cover any notable events to create high quality images available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. We have grant funding available for photographers who know how to take great photographs which could be used across Wikimedia projects. We would also be interested to support people who would like to add other content besides photographs. If you are going to particular events, we also may be able to liaise with the organisers to get you accreditation.

You can have a look at some of the featured images Wikimedia UK has helped to create in previous years here.

We normally give project grants up to £250 for expenses. You can refer to the grants application process to get an idea of the kind of projects we support. Projects which address diversity gaps would be of particular interest, or activities which link to our current partnerships with other institutions.

We want to reach out to volunteers and the wider wikimedia community, to support your work and help you to do more. We want to know about your talents and see if we can promote your work in support of Wikimedia projects, so if you have ideas for events you would like to go to and CC content you could produce there, please get in touch with us!


See London events list.

Visit England events.

Global events.

Anniversary and events calendar.

English Heritage events.

Share your photos of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves on Wikipedia to inspire the world[edit | edit source]

A European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) in Ichkeul National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Tunisia. Photo by Elgollimoh, CC BY-SA 3.0.

By John Cummings, Wikimedian-in-Residence at UNESCO

This blog is also available in French, Spanish and Russian on the Wikimedia Foundation blog.


June 5th was World Environment Day, the United Nations’ designated day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

Many of us know the world faces unprecedented pressure from human activities. The United Nations Environment Programme Global Environment Outlook reports:

The state of global biodiversity is continuing to decline, with substantial and ongoing losses of populations, species and habitats. For instance, vertebrate populations have declined on average by 30 per cent since 1970, and up to two-thirds of species in some taxa are now threatened with extinction.

Education is key to reversing this decline, to find sustainable solutions to the problems we all face and to learn to live sustainably with the rest of the natural world.

Sustainable environmental action hinges on the education of all citizens, from the earliest age, in sustainable development…..No single country, however powerful, can resolve the challenges of our common environment. (Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO)

UNESCO created the Man and the Biosphere Programme “to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments”.  Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof, which are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). Each Biosphere Reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. Today there are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries belonging to a World Network of Biosphere Reserves, all offering us opportunities to explore how to live sustainably.

Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine. Photo by Vian and retouched by Iifar, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Wikipedia is where 500 million of us go to understand complex subjects like climate change, biodiversity and sustainability, and give us information about the world around us. It can also foster our appreciation, wonder and empathy with the rest of the natural world through photographs,.

Everyone can contribute to Wikipedia, it gives us the opportunity to share what we know and what we see, in 2015 one trillion photos were created, more than all previous years combined. More people have phones with cameras than ever before and mobile internet is becoming a major education tool for the developing and developed countries.

UNESCO and Wiki Loves Earth have partnered to create Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves, a competition to create photographs free for everyone to use and to enrich Wikipedia. 10 winning images will be shared on the UNESCO website and social media and will be entered into the Wiki Loves Earth international competition. Wiki Loves Earth competitions around the world havecreated over 180,000 images of protected natural sites.

If you don’t have access to a Biosphere Reserve you can still be involved by promoting the project, adding the photographs to Wikipedia and using them to teach people about the environment.

To help more people to learn about biosphere reserves, UNESCO have made the official descriptions available under a Creative Commons license, which Wikipedia volunteers will use to create missing articles.

UNESCO’s mandate is to build peace in the minds of men and women. Biosphere Reserves are the places where we discover ways to live in harmony with the environment. Wikipedia is where we inspire and teach each other how.

Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves will run from today until 30 June.

Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves is created in collaboration by the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme, Wikimedia volunteers (special thanks to Navino Evans, Mykola Kozlenko and Romaine), John Cummings (Wikimedian in Residence at UNESCO), and Wikimedia Ukraine.