WordCamps are an opportunity for those who work with WordPress to meet up, listen to talks from experienced WordPress users, and get to know each other better.
The first WordCamp I attended was WordCamp Europe in Seville in 2015. I enjoyed it so much I went to the next European event in Vienna this year too.
Both of these events were big and had around 2,000 participants, however most WordCamps are a little smaller with just a few hundred people attending.
At the weekend I attended my first smaller WordCamp in Belfast. It was organised by Mark Smallman from MacGraphic and held in the Peter Froggatt Centre in the beautiful Queen’s University.
Mark did an amazing job with his team organising the event. It was the first ever WordCamp in Belfast and only the second time a WordCamp event has been held on Irish soil. He aimed for 150 attendees and exactly 150 attended. It’s therefore fair to say that the event was a success.
The Inaugural WordCamp Belfast
Belfast was an obvious choice for me to attend a WordCamp event. My brother has worked at Queen’s University for nine years so I have been going over to Belfast a few times a year for many years now. It’s a great little city that is very similar to Glasgow and it is only a twenty-five minute journey from Glasgow airport.
Myself and my girlfriend Lisa flew over on Friday 30th September on the 10am flight. We touched down before 10.30am and were in the centre of Belfast before 11am.
My brother stays just south of Belfast but we arranged an apartment through AirBNB with our friends Simon and Colm from CommerceGurus instead. It made more sense to stay right next to the event rather than my brother’s as it allowed us to come and go more easily. The apartment had three bedrooms and a large living area and it still worked out cheaper than a hotel.
On the Friday night we joined my brother and his friends for drinks. Thankfully, it was quite a chilled night for us so we were not going to the conference on the Saturday with bad hangovers.
The next morning we set over to the Peter Froggatt Centre which was located just behind the main Lanyon building.
Registration was a breeze. There were lots of crew working at the event so we never had to wait for anything. After registering we spoke to the sponsors at the booths and picked up some swag. We picked up the usual hoard of stickers and pens and a cool t-shirt from 34SP.com.
The Quality of Talks
There were two rooms of discussions at WordCamp Belfast. Speakers included Rodolfo Melogli from Business Bloomer, Luminus Olumide Alabi from Automatic, and WooCommerce expert Amit Wadhwa.
I enjoyed the talks from Emanuel Blagonic about introducing WordPress to his country’s government and Heather Burns’s talk about the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
One of my criticisms of the European WordCamps was that many of the talks are aimed at WordPress beginners despite everyone attending being experienced. They got this balance right at Belfast. The talks were more applicable to what most of us are doing on a regular basis.
Credit has to go to Mark Smallman and everyone who worked hard at making the first WordCamp Belfast a success.
The After Party
Unfortunately, last week I tweaked my back at training and I was experiencing spasms in my back during the event. I rushed to the pharmacy after lunch for freeze gel to relieve the pain. Due to staying so close to the conference, I was able to go back to the apartment, rest for an hour or two, and then come back.
At night myself, Lisa, Simon, and Colm, headed out for some food close to the University. Queen’s University is gorgeous and the area around it has lots of great bars, cafes and restaurants. We found an Italian that did amazing pizzas.
My back was playing up again after dinner so I decided to call it a night and rest. Simon and Colm went out to the after party and said it was a great night.
The after party was held at Brewbot in Belfast city centre. Mark had organised unique Waapu beers to be created. It was a nice little touch.
A few more talks were held on the Sunday afternoon, though I decided to spend the afternoon at my brothers catching up with him and his wife.
WordCamp Belfast – Part 2 (Please!)
WordCamp Belfast was the first regular sized WordCamp I had attempted. I had a great time at the event. The whole event felt more personal than the larger events and I really enjoyed the talks.
It was a huge success and I hope that they set up another conference in the future. If they do, I recommend going along.