Switched on Futures: Virgin Media powers up Glasgow’s first digital making space

3rd July 2014

  • Virgin Media unveils its Commonwealth Games legacy, Switched On Futures, supercharging digital skills
  • Virgin Media Digital Making Space at the Mitchell Library a first for the city
  • Virgin Media launches partnership with world’s biggest coding club
  • Digital skills get the ‘Virgin’ treatment as Glasgow pensioners tweet first ’selfies’

Today, proud Partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games Virgin Media unveiled its Switched On Futures initiative to boost digital skills in Glasgow at the new Virgin Media Digital Making Space at the city’s Mitchell Library. The initiative marks a new partnership between Virgin Media, Glasgow Life and Digital Glasgow.

The Switched On Futures launch event saw young people come face-to-face with real robots and build their own video games whilst retired Glasgow residents took their first steps online.  With help from Virgin Media’s Accessibility Ambassador, Richard Whitehead MBE, and innovation partner CoderDojo, this marked the setting up of a permanent digital skills facility for the public at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.

Switched On Futures

Launched in a city where 40%[1] of people claim they don’t have the skills needed to get online, Virgin Media’s Switched On Futures campaign will use the power of sport to boost digital skills in the UK. It will help older and disabled people discover the benefits of going online and inspire young people to become digital makers rather than just be digital spectators. Virgin Media’s campaign will contribute to the positive legacy of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Brigitte Trafford, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Virgin Media, said: “We believe sport can inspire the next generation of digital innovators and enable more people to embrace technology.  Switched On Futures will help more people discover the benefits of the web and provide lasting, practical resources for people of all ages who want to get more from the digital world.”

Councillor Archie Graham, Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life, said:  “We want everyone to be included in the digital age, whether that’s young people looking to be the next Bill Gates or developers of video games, or simply helping older people to get online and communicate with friends and family, no-one should be left behind. I’m delighted that Virgin Media is investing in a digital legacy which will have the power to transform people’s lives.”

Boosting Innovation

Through a series of unique coding exercises created in partnership with CoderDojo, the world’s biggest coding club, young people in Glasgow and across the UK will be inspired to become digital makers rather than spectators. Users will be able to create video games that can be controlled by cameras built into Microsoft Kinect consoles and learn how to programme bespoke robot-inspired handheld devices.

Kaitlin Hockham, 10, from Castlemilk, Glasgow who took part in the first coding session at the Virgin Media Digital Making Space said: “It was inspiring to hear that I could make a living from making video games when I’m older. I love sport, so I’d make sports games, or even a racing game where I can escape from tidying my room. I’d definitely come back to the library to go to more coding clubs.”

The first official coding club takes place at the Mitchell Library in September 2014.

Hearing from the experts

Mary Moloney, CEO of CoderDojo, said: “Our new partnership with Virgin Media will give kids who aren’t naturally techy, the chance to see how easy and rewarding coding and digital making can be. We’ll be one of many organisations using the Virgin Media Digital Making Space here at The Mitchell Library, giving us a permanent base in Glasgow which anyone can use, which has to be a good thing.”  

Brian McHarg, Technical Director from Glaswegian video game company, Chunk, who shared his success story with young people at the Switched On Futures launch added: “I was inspired to create my own video games when I saw other kids who were only 16 making hugely successful games on their own. It is brilliant to see Virgin Media support the next generation of digital makers, proving the internet isn’t just YouTube and social media but a platform to build brilliant and lucrative careers.”

Enabling Inclusion

With 62% of offline Glaswegians citing a lack of skills as a key barrier to getting online, Virgin Media is working with Digital Glasgow, a collective of charity and Government bodies to create a team of 40 new ‘Digital Coaches’ to deliver digital training to older and disabled people across Glasgow[2]. The team, equipped with new, jargon free training materials and connected tablet computers will be made up of Glasgow Life volunteers, Sports Community hub volunteers and Virgin Media Apprentices who will deliver training through sports clubs and community centres.

Margaret Bruce, 86, a great-grandmother from Jordanhill, Glasgow, who was at the Switched On Futures event, said: “Going online with the tablet was really easy and there was a lot less to think about than I first thought. We had a bit of fun chatting to people and posting our selfies on Twitter, but the interesting thing was hearing just how many things you can do through the web that can make life a bit better.”

Joseph Semple, 66 Tweeted: “Hello the web! Just learning. Look at my pic #VMGameOn”.

Words of Inspiration

Richard Whitehead, MBE, double London 2012 Paralympic Gold Medal Winner and Virgin Media Accessibility Ambassador, said, addressing the event: “No matter who you are, or what you want to achieve, there will be technology that can help, so just having basic digital skills can make a huge difference.

“When I ran the length of Britain, getting online was a lifeline for me during the toughest moments. I could read positive words of support on social media during my rests and speak face to face with loved ones on Skype in the evenings.”

Neil Paterson, Digital Glasgow, who will be helping train the new Digital Coaches said: “For many without internet access or a basic knowledge of IT skills the digital world can feel daunting and scary.  Sport is a great route to many people who lack digital skills and Virgin Media is helping to reinvent our digital training materials, which should make the benefits of the web more immediate and show how fun getting online can be. Teaching skills on a one to one basis through digital coaches will enable those cut off to lead digitally independent lives.”

The Virgin Media Digital Making Space

The Virgin Media Digital Making Space is based at the Mitchell Library, and will be fully equipped with laptops, tablet PCs and specialist digital making equipment. It will provide free internet access to users and will be managed by Glasgow Life, Digital Glasgow and the Mitchell Library.

It will provide a permanent home for coding clubs, and digital skills training sessions run by Virgin Media’s Digital Coaches. All digital training materials developed by Virgin Media will be available online from virginmedia.com/broadband later this summer allowing anyone to become a digital coach.

Key Stats about digital skills in Glasgow and Scotland

  • It has been estimated that many as 40% of people Glasgow are yet to get online. [3]
  • The biggest barriers for Glaswegians not getting online include:
  • 62% need training to use a computer
  • 47% need training to use the web
  • 27% need knowledge of where to get training
  • 14% need access to a low cost computer
  • 14% need access to low cost connections


  • The digital economy is estimated to be worth £3.6bn to the Scottish economy over the next 5-7 years.[4]

[1] The UK Carnegie Trust, ‘Across the Digital Divide’ https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=50915777-d807-4561-9527-b45aee5d5014

[2] The UK Carnegie Trust, ‘Across the Digital Divide’ https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=50915777-d807-4561-9527-b45aee5d5014

[3] Unless stated, all statistics from The UK Carnegie Trust, ‘Across the Digital Divide’https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=50915777-d807-4561-9527-b45aee5d5014

[4] Skills Development Scotland. ‘A program that will guarantee we do not suffer a digital skills drought https://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/agenda-a-program-that-will-guarantee-we-do-not-suffer-a-digital-skills-drought.23663591

Notes to editors

About CoderDojo

CoderDojo is an open source, volunteer led movement running free not-for-profit coding clubs (Dojos) for young people. Since CoderDojo is an open source movement, all Dojos are different and completely autonomous! Dojos are set up, run by and led by volunteers.

CoderDojo is a non-profit global movement founded by James Whelton and Bill Liao. It started in James Whelton’s school in early 2011 when James (then 18 year-old coder) received some publicity after hacking the iPod Nano and as a result some younger students expressed an interest in learning how to code. He set up a computer club in his school (PBC Cork) where he started teaching students basic HTML and CSS. Later that year he met Bill Liao, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, who was interested in growing the project into something bigger. In June 2011 the first CoderDojo was launched in the National Software Centre in Cork, which saw extreme success. By making the movement open source it has led to hundreds of dedicated champions setting up more Dojos around Ireland and the CoderDojo movement has grown to become a global phenomenon.

About Glasgow Life

Glasgow Life manages a huge range of sports, cultural and learning services which make a positive difference to the people of Glasgow. This includes nine iconic nine civic museums including The Burrell Collection, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the 2013 European Museum of the Year, the Riverside Museum. Glasgow Life is also home to the Glasgow Club, Scotland’s biggest health and fitness network including flagship facilities such as the Emirates Arena, incorporating the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the Tollcross International Swimming Centre. Glasgow Life also runs a network of 32 community libraries and the Mitchell Library and a range of community facilities, offering learning opportunities with the power to transform lives. Cultural and music venues include Tramway and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. During the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, staff from across the organisation will be working in competition venues and leading on the Cultural Programme, Queen’s Baton Relay and the face of the Games, the 1,500 Host City Volunteers.

About Digital Glasgow

Digital Glasgow is a city strategy, developed in dialogue with and focused on promoting collaboration between the public, third and private sectors. It has two core goals:

  • Creating a world-class digital infrastructure - essential to supporting the wider transformation of the city, attracting new businesses and jobs and supporting major regeneration projects.
  • Ensuring Glasgow businesses and residents have the skills required to create and access the opportunities that this digital infrastructure has to offer.

    The roadmap is the starting point of the city’s digital journey, a journey that involves many partners including Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, the Wheatley Group, Glasgow Life, Community Safety Glasgow, Jobs and Business Glasgow, Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow Kelvin College, Glasgow Clyde College, University of Strathclyde, University of Glasgow, ScotlandIS, Interactive Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Entrepreneurial Spark, SCDI, Energise 2-0, ACCESS, BBC Scotland, Future City Glasgow, Microsoft, HP, Biocity Scotland, Scottish Government, Ofcom, INDEZ, Princes Trust, SCVO, Carnegie UK Trust, Citizens Advice Direct, GCMB and Targeting Innovation.

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media offers four multi award-winning services across the UK and Ireland: broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline.

The company’s dedicated, ultrafast network delivers the fastest widely available broadband speeds to homes and businesses. And we’re expanding this through our £3bn Project Lightning programme, which will reach 17 million premises.

Our interactive TV service brings live programmes, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and the best apps and games in a set-top box, as well as on-the-go for tablets and smartphones.

We launched the world’s first virtual mobile network, offering fantastic value and services to customers. We are also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the UK and Ireland.

Through Virgin Media Business we support entrepreneurs, businesses and the public sector, delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds and tailor-made services.

Virgin Media is part of Liberty Global, the world’s largest international cable company. Together Virgin Media and Liberty Global serve 27 million customers across 14 countries.