EXCLUSIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Hannah Smith from WordCamp Bristol 2019


#WPDEVMAG is presenting the exclusive interview with Hannah Smith, the co-lead and marketing manager of WordCamp Bristol 2019. Hannah is an experienced WordPress expert and manager with many projects successfully created. We talked about forthcoming WordCamp in Bristol, about work and experiences of a team and people behind this event, the importance of the sponsorships of the global and local companies, the impact of Gutenberg on the WordPress ecosystem, etc. So, here we go… Enjoy! 

Please, introduce us shortly with the history of WC Bristol… and give us basic info about this year event!?

The first WC Bristol was held in 2017 and had around 120 attendees in total. It had two tracks of talks and a very intimate and cozy feel. For 2019, we’ve grown the conference and what we’re offering.

To kick things off on Friday 17th May we have Bristol’s first contributor day, which we are really excited about. On Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May, we have the main conference days which will feature two tracks of talks and of course the hallway track for informal learning and networking. On Saturday evening there will be the after party held on Bristol’s beautiful harbourside.

We’re very proud of Bristol as a city and it’s a fantastic place to visit. We are especially pleased about the venues we have been able to hire. You can see photos of all the venues on our official site.

Bristol has a uniquely independent spirit and you see that reflected in the local shops, bar, restaurants and in people’s dress sense. We choose our theme to be street art to pay homage to the incredible pieces of art you see on every street corner. Bristol is a very colorful and creative place!

How many visitors do you expect this year!? Do visitors come from other countries?

We’re hoping for around 250 attendees. It’s hard to say exactly where all our attendees are traveling from, as we made a decision at the start of the organizing process to not collect this data.

However, we do know about our speakers. We have three international speakers. We have Karla Kampos traveling from Florida in the US, Mitko Kochkovskil coming from Macedonia and Jesse van de Hulsbeek coming from the Netherlands.

Also, we’ve been in contact with local hotels, and a few have been kind enough to offer us discounts. For those traveling by train, you can take advantage of First Great Western’s special pricing for conferences. People can find everything on our official site.

Bristol – small part of it!

Tell us about the organization… How many people are in your team? Do you cooperate with other WordCamps!?

There are 9 core organizers, 7 of which have been organizing this event since September 2018. Many people do not realize this but all organizers are volunteers and do this as a way to contribute back to the WordPress community.

Janice Tye is the overall event lead and I am co-lead and marketing manager. Simon Pollard is speakers manager, Rob George venues manager, Ben Hamilton is our design lead, Rich Hill is sponsors manager, Ronald Gijsel is managing the volunteers, Sarah Pantry is filming and WordPress.tv manager and Jacob Stow is managing the Contributor day.

We’ve been in contact with some of our other local WordCamps: London, Brighton and Manchester via the UK WordPress Community Slack channel. We have a very active and lovely national community and everybody is always happy to support one another. We’ve been asking for guidance, discussing ideas for being more sustainable and sharing resources.

Sponsors? What’s the situation with sponsorships?

We’ve had an absolutely incredible response from local, national and international companies who want to support our Bristol WordPress community.

Their support enables us to offer our tickets at £35 for the whole event when the cost price is actually closer to £150.

We are proud and of course incredibly grateful that the following companies have reached out to us and are now confirmed sponsors: Platinum Sponsor is Mind Doodle, Gold Sponsors are Fasthosts, Tso hosting, Yith themes, Silver Sponsors are DeployHQ, Purple Box Digital, Yoast Academy, and Bronze Sponsors are Atomic Smash, Weglot, Make Do and GreenGeeks. In-kind and micro-sponsors are Wholegrain Digital, Oikos, Tischdecke.de, AThemes, Sticker Mule.

We are also very grateful to WooCommerce, Jetpack, Bluehost, and GoDaddy for being our global sponsors. It’s very scary when you start organizing a WordCamp but having some sponsorship money from the global sponsors right at the start really helps!

Tell us more about this year WC Bristol program?

Creating the schedule for WordCamp Bristol was a very fun, but challenging task this year. Bristol has a very strong tech scene and is regarded as one of the top 10 cities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for technology. So we decided one-third of our schedule should be technical talks for front-end and back-end developers as that is one of the key interests of our local community.

After all, a WordCamp should set out to appeal to its local community first and foremost – that has certainly been one of our key aims from the start. In terms of other things to highlight, we should also talk about sustainability. Bristol was also Europe’s first Green Capital in 2015 and people here care deeply about the environment and sustainability.

We’ve scheduled two talks about sustainability and have written a post about all our efforts to minimize the impact of WordCamp Bristol 2019.

How do you see the impact of Gutenberg on the WordPress ecosystem?

Amongst the organizers, we certainly have a split opinion on Gutenberg. On one side of the argument: if you’ve ever watched people new to building content with WordPress you will see that the old style classic editor was becoming a bit of a relic of the past. In that sense, Gutenberg is a welcome step change to the WordPress ecosystem. And using it as part of building WordCamp Bristol’s website we have become more familiar with it. Things like the reusable blocks are fantastic and being able to create more engaging layouts quickly has been really helpful.

However, on the opposing side of the argument, others feel that the whole process of developing, designing and shipping Gutenberg made the community behave differently. There is a sense that Gutenberg was done to people and bulldozed through by a select group of people.

Additionally, the fact that Gutenberg has introduced React into the code base is a big change that has made many developers feel uneasy about their skill sets in the future.

What would be your message (or advice) to the organizers of WordCamps all over the world?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to bring the spirit of a WordCamp to your city. In terms of organizing one, here are our top tips:

  • Schedule a weekly video call. You can’t just rely on Slack for all your communication.
  • Ensure everything you create gets saved into a shared place. We use Google drive. Not only will this help if one of your organizers is suddenly not available it will also help you learn and improve for future years.
  • Less can be more. Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember that a successful WordCamp is about bringing people together to share and learn, not about stuff and things. Focus on that and the rest will take care of itself.


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