Electromagnetic Field is a magical place that only appears every couple of years. When it does, it’s filled with interesting people and all the wonderful things they’ve been working on. You’ll find blacksmiths and autonomous robots, crochet and flame throwers, and just lots and lots of lasers. The event is usually held every two years but, due to COVID, the previous event was four years ago.
EMFCamp started out with small ambitions; for a few friends to go camping. “It has now…” to quote the organiser’s “…gotten a little out of hand”. For three days in the summer (and after years of preparation) a temporary festival is constructed in the beautiful grounds of Eastnor Castle Deer Park. Attendees camp on site, but every tent has power and WiFi. When nearby Ledbury had a power outage, EMFCamp kept going.
Attendees are for the most part, hackers and makers. The kind of people who like to bring their own infrastructure. This year someone brought a private DECT phone network with assignable numbers. The Robot Arms pub (of course there’s a pub) was also home to a variety of art installations and games. From the bar, you could send a fax (via the DECT network) all the way to Twitter. What a time to be alive.
Participation is not just encouraged at EMFCamp, it’s essential because everything is run by volunteers. All of that infrastructure was laid and is managed by volunteers. Everyone on stage and behind it, everyone behind the bar, everyone making sure it all runs to schedule and all the tech stays up – volunteers.
Over three days, a full schedule of talks were held across three huge circus tents. Videos of the sessions are not yet online but some highlights from our schedule included, “The Economics of Stardew Valley”, “An introduction to Railway Signalling” and the frankly wonderful, “asdkfldsalkasdf: Keysmashes, Sexuality and Mathematical Randomness”. I was lucky enough to be accepted to speak again, this time about the “history of Time Zones and Daylight Saving Time”.
In addition to the talks, many of the villages ran practical workshops and demos for all ages. The organising team work incredibly hard, not just to make the event happen, but to make it really inclusive. Everything from LGBTQ+ representation to thoughtful site design, with dedicated camping areas for families and a creche for younger kids. The youngest attendee I met was only 10 weeks old. There really is something here for everyone.
It’s hard to pick out highlights, but on the last day I got to properly meet the Scottish Consulate and catch up on what’s been happening in Aberdeen for the last 20 years. Null Sector was amazing, as always. Overall my highlight is the energising vibe you get from just being around amazing, motivated, creative people.