Maria Aretoulaki

Maria has lived in Manchester for more than a decade now. She experienced it both before and after the bomb, and has seen it change and evolve over the years. Since 2005 she has been living and working in the city centre near Oxford Road. Living in Manchester was very much a conscious decision on her part – Maria considers Manchester the perfectly-sized metropolis: it has everything you could ask for, but you can also walk across the whole city centre in 40 minutes.

Of course, living in the city centre also has its disadvantages; alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour and even crime at the weekend, loud impromptu student parties midweek, football-related mini-riots, traffic jams… Still, she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and has adopted both Manchester and its city centre as home and loves the city.

Maria has worked as a Teacher in Greece, a Project Manager in Germany and as an IT Consultant in the UK. She set up her own company in 2009 just as the recession began. Even in the worst economic climate, she has been providing her voice recognition application design and testing services to clients all over the world, proving that it is entirely possible to succeed in Manchester even in the midst of recession.

At the same time, in those 3 years Maria become an integral part of the Manchester digital scene, taking part in and actively contributing to local networking events, exploratory conferences (like FutureEverything, TEDx, BarCamp and Girl Geeks), and crowd-sourced projects (such as CityCamp and Smart Cities). This is also how Maria become aware of the issues and social challenges at the heart of the Pirate Party policy and how they apply to Manchester. It also helps that she grew up in Greece and has lived in Germany, she has seen what works and what doesn’t across Europe and knows she can help Manchester deal with the challenges it faces.

Aswell from having rooted herself in the Manchester business and digital communities, Maria has also established herself in the “urban” music scene both locally, nationally and even internationally, as a podcaster, internet radio host, and DJ promoting new music from very young unknown producers and watching them become known and successful. Music is her other passion, along with new technologies, and encouraging young people (especially if they come from underprivileged backgrounds) out of apathy and low expectations from their lives is something she thrives on.

"When I was asked by the Pirate Party to stand as their Manchester candidate, I was thrilled at the opportunity to put my love for Manchester and its city centre into practice, working for practically the only political party I respect! I’ve never run for office before, although I have always been 'political' and very much interested in public affairs."

Nevertheless, I have always identified with the Pirate Party agenda. I see it as the only party that is adapted to the realities, the needs and challenges of the modern world, and yes that includes a strong technology focus: technology is not just for scientists, engineers, geeks, and hackers. It is an indispensable part of everyday life, including social and data communication, continuous education, as well as participatory democracy. Whoever blissfully closes their eyes to this fact will just be marginalised, let alone ignored when important decisions are taken on their behalf.

I believe it’s crucial that more government data becomes publicly available, more public services are available online, and more people in Manchester get broadband internet access and so access to this data and those services: especially those people who need it the most: not the young to middle-aged single professionals, but the digitally disabled elderly, and the thousands of foreign students who come to study and live in the city. After all it would help them to help themselves and to contribute to the Manchester life. For me this is all about inclusion, information, understanding, empathy, participation and making the public services and data work for us all and not just for the few and the already privileged and perfectly informed."

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