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A decade of throwing Christmas parties for Freelancers

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In December 2010 I threw the first Christmas party for Portsmouth Freelancers Meet (an informal networking group I set up the previous August). It’s been an amazing rollercoaster decade where I’ve met some of my best friends in the whole world.

Where did it all start?

Well, I moved to Portsmouth in 2008, just finishing my University degree and a fresh faced 22 year old (yeah… do the math!). I actually studied film production, but was doing web design/development on the side (in tables, oh the shame…).

I had been in Portsmouth for about a year before I realised no one around me wanted to listen to chatter about HTML or bezier curves, so I started searching around for freelancers and sent some emails to local creatives asking if anyone fancied a coffee or a pint. A lovely gentleman and illustrator called Jon got back to me, we met for a beer and a chat about work, and he informed me about a networking group by SCDF that happened on a Friday afternoon for a drink or coffee at the king street tavern.

I went a few times, and then the event stopped running (not because of me I hope haha). I spoke to Jon and said it’d be good to run a new event. I decided it should be every other Tuesday, and I put the word out on my Twitter. I said we should meet at the Wine Vaults on a Tuesday (I can’t remember the exact date, but it was end of August 2010) and I waited and hoped someone had seen it and would show.

I was surprised that anyone showed up AT ALL, but they did! There was 3 of us I believe (Stuart was one of them, and still comes to PFMeet now!). And then for the next few weeks (or couple of months) there was maybe 4 of us, then 5 or 6, then a couple more. I decided to throw a Christmas party as I’d seen them done for other meet ups, we were sponsored £150 from FreeAgent and we had a few free drinks for the 20 odd that showed up and we had a blinding time!

Some of the highlights

Over the next few years, some amazing things would happen, which I’ll list here:

  • Our first Christmas party happened at the Wine Vaults in 2010, and this year we are having our 10th! The Christmas parties have ranged from cosy Christmas buffet’s in the pub to silent disco raves!
  • We also had our first summer party at the Wine Vaults, in summer 2011 with about 30+ people attend! Since then we’ve held 9, ranging from big geek quizzes, BBQ’s in the park (from which I’ll always remember Keith getting stuck inside a child’s toy car), brewery raves. 
  • I met some people who would end up being my best friends, and through them, I met more best friends
  • We conceived PubHack – the first hackathon held in a pub (that we know of) in Portsmouth (that’s definitely true).
  • Petespin was born
  • We held various special events such as Game Over video game nights, collaborations with Doodle Club, board game nights, Halloween pumpkin carving and fancy dress, and loads more!
  • Scott Birnie and I ran the first ever Dribbble meetup, which we called Drink & Dribbble. We had 3 speakers (Karl March, Phil Bennett and Dan Edwards) who spoke on subjects of freelancing and design, where we had over 50 people attend to doodle in the pub too!
  • I got to be a part of 2 amazing conferences held at Spinnaker Tower (Heart & Sole and Altitude) thanks to making friends at PFmeet which are some of my fondest memories.
  • Networks were made – I have worked with so many amazing people over the years, and I have heard of them working with other PFMeeters too
  • I spent many glorious years (what I would call my freelancer formative years) in Port 57 – the co-working studio on Albert Road that will always hold a special place in my heart. 
  • Many, many, many friendships made(and even some romances apparently!), room mates found, skills swapped, projects built, and so many other wonderful things.

I’m so incredibly proud of the last 10 years; it’s grown into something I could never imagine. I am so grateful to every person who got the courage and took the plunge and dove head first into meeting a bunch of strangers (or future friends). I can’t wait to see how many new friends will be made over the next decade!

What’s next?

I won’t be throwing the big summer and Christmas parties very often anymore, partially due to a severe lack of sponsorship being available for these events (there was a huge burst of support for them a decade ago, but not so much anymore) but also due mental health reasons as it’s a lot of stress to organise. However, the monthly events shall still run, and when I find the energy, there will be some celebrations again!

The best place to find out about the next meet ups is via the Facebook Group, or the PFMeet Twitter account.

Christmas Party 2019

I’ll be hosting the last Christmas party 6th December at Staggeringly Good Brewery where we have fresh wood fire pizza, new beer launch and live music from 7pm! Join us, it’s free. Some people are getting dressed up in black tie, but no need if you don’t want to!

Some photos!

Here are some photos of previous Christmas parties through the last decade!

The very first Christmas party at Wine Vaults 2010

Me, Alex and Tom at Wine Vaults 2010

Chris (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Harry and Alex (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Lilian, Lisa and Dave (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Me having a go at DJing (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Nathan, Mark and Lee (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Karl and Sam (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Alex and Jonathan (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Dan and Scott (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Chris, Alex and Me (PFMeet Xmas party 2011)

Dan, Mike, me and Jackson (Christmas Party 2012)

Video games in the pub! (Christmas Party 2012)

Classic Scott (Christmas Party 2012)

Dan and Robb’s first pfmeet Christmas Party 2012

Keith, who we miss since he moved to Scotland! (Christmas Party 2012)

Jon, the first freelancer I met in Portsmouth! (Christmas Party 2012)

Christmas at Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014

Ollie and Lee (Christmas at Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014)

All the beer kegs (Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014)

Tom (Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014)

Scott getting in the Christmas spirit (Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014)

(Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014)

Matt (Brewhouse and Kitchen 2014)

Playing pool at the 2015 Christmas Party at the Fat Fox

Kat and Harry (2015 Christmas Party at Fat Fox)

(2015 Christmas Party at Fat Fox)

Alex, Lee, Ollie and Ali (2015 Christmas Party at Fat Fox)

Tom, Phil and Charlotte (who ended up being my housemate a year later!) (2015 Christmas Party at Fat Fox)

Alex, Tom, Ming, Jessa and Harry – The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

Ming, Jessa and Kendal – The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

Robb and Alex – The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

Me doing my best Tommy Wiseau – The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)

Boothy doing his DJ thing! – The Christmas Silent Disco battle at Coastguard Studio (2017)


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