BarCamp Manchester 9

My Experience of BarCamp

Alina Apine stood in front of a projector screen presenting to a room

When someone first tried to explain BarCamp to me I was a bit puzzled about the concept. Anyone can talk about anything? Why would people want to? The first time I looked at the grid, a lot of the talks just sounded too technical and niche so I just found one about promoting social good and went to that. It felt informal and pleasant – an exchange of ideas with no pressures. I got talking to people and managed to have some interesting conversations. There was also a yummy lunch, which ranks highly in my assessment of the quality of events. That was my first experience with BarCamp in 2016.

Two years later I was thrilled to find out that BarCamp would take place again. I also realised that the presentations and discussions did not have to be about technical subjects. I decided that I would give a presentation as well. Since I have an interest in history and women, I decided to research women of history that people might not have heard about and present them to the Barcamp audience.

I prepared the presentation and put my talk on the grid, I’d been promoting it in my chats with people so I was pretty sure that I would not be left stranded in a sea of empty chairs. The room was full, I was nervous, yet also very excited. I knew some of the people in the room which made me feel a bit more assured, however there were also plenty of unfamiliar people. It felt nice to have people be interested in something you had researched and felt passionate about. I gave the talk and got some positive responses, as well other people sharing their knowledge of hidden women of history which was quite cool. Overall this made me feel rather good about the presentation, my chance to contribute to the BarCamp community and my chance to research and do something interesting in my spare time.

My experience is behind my strong belief that BarCamp is for everyone, even though a fairly large proportion of the attendees are members of the ‘tech community’, there are plenty that are not or have other interests outside tech. Last year I listened to a teenager talk passionately about the life lessons one can find in cartoons, learned about scuba diving, heard an eight year old talk about their school experience and another person talked about how to make different types of cheese. In 2016 there was a talk of visiting Chernobyl, clearly proving that BarCamp was ahead of its time. In the evening, after the talks were over, everyone has a chance to socialize and play Werewolves, which gets increasingly more fun the more you play it.

This is the appeal of BarCamp to me – it’s a great way to meet new and interesting people, learn new information that you would never hear elsewhere and just have a good time on the weekend. I don’t have any background in techy subjects, yet I feel quite at ease which to me shows how inclusive and welcoming the community is. If you’re not sure whether to come, just come for the first day and see whether you enjoy it. There’s nothing to lose.