From Tamworth to Abbeyleix – Vapefesting 2012

It’s only September and already 2012  has been one hell of a year on the vaping front for your’s truly. Following on from the Midlands Mini Meet in May, I’ve managed to find my way to not one but two national Vapefests!

On 25th August it was UK Vapefest, held once again in Tamworth at the Moathouse. This time however, to cater for the inevitable increase in numbers, the main event was held in an enormous marquee, and I mean enormous. As per usual I took my camera along and came back with some shaky footage which you can watch at the end of this article if you like!

It was a little disappointing to hear some moans in the following days from a few people who attended, particularly given the aforementioned effort that the organising committee had put into the day.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended all three UK Vapefests so far, and there was definitely a slightly different “vibe” this year, which on reflection was inevitable given that there were almost 1,000 people in attendance (making UKVF 2012 the biggest vapers’ meet anywhere, ever)! With such an increase in visitors comes an increase in the planning effort, increase in costs, increase on the demands of the volunteers who organise it, and of course therefore, the variety of opinions expressed.

It was a little disappointing to hear some moans in the following days from a few people who attended, particularly given the aforementioned effort that the organising committee had put into the day.

There’s no denying that this 3rd Vapefest was a much less intimate affair than previously, with groups from different Internet forums naturally sticking (and in many cases arriving and leaving) together, creating what I imagine was an almost intimidating scene for those that were new to vaping and didn’t know anyone. On several occasions throughout the day I found myself looking around the marquee and pondering that first Vapefest at the Plough & Harrow, where 50 or 60 people were crammed into a small function room not simply content but positively excited to be in the company of fellow vapers. On that occasion Toby from iVapour was selling Silver Bullets from a cardboard box in the corner, the raffle (whilst very well supported) was a sideshow and not a raison d’etre and the Decadent Vapours “juice bar” was a small plastic tray with a big, big bottle of Platinum Ice…..

Fast forward two years, and Vapefest has become a behemoth, with people travelling from all over Europe and booking every hotel room in Tamworth. Increased awareness of e-cigs and better promotion meant that some people’s expectation was set at an incredibly high (and unrealistic) level, given that UKVF continues to be a community event – not the Earl’s Court Motor Show.

The incoming UKVF committee have a formidable challenge for 2013, striking the balance between the community and commercial aspects of the event will not be an easy feat and I wish them well with their deliberations.

Personally, I enjoyed the day immensely – but then I was there to meet friends, have a few drinks and maybe spend a few quid which to my mind is what Vapefest is all about and I ticked all of the boxes. I can however sympathise with those that were unaware of the history and ethos of Vapefest, who perhaps were there to shop, rather than socialise.

At the time of writing Wayne (who has organised UKVF for the last two years) has retired from the committee and he does so with my thanks and admiration for what he has achieved – it was a monumental achievement. The incoming UKVF committee have a formidable challenge for 2013, striking the balance between the community and commercial aspects of the event will not be an easy feat and I wish them well with their deliberations.

One thing’s for sure, I’ll be doing my damnedest to be there!

Three weeks later (15th September), after the hustle and bustle of UK Vapefest, I found myself on a Ryanair flight to Dublin where I met Dave Dorn and we drove down to Abbeyleix for Vapefest Ireland 2012. I’d met the organiser Shane Dowling (Newmark on the forums) at UK Vapefest, and we’d swapped a few PM’s on UK Vapers and although I seem to spend more time at Birmingham Airport than at home these days, I found myself really excited about this trip.

The inaugural Vapefest Ireland captured the enthusiasm of Vapefest 2010 and 2011, but drew heavily from the experiences of UK Vapefest 2012 and had pretty much the perfect formula.

The journey went as smoothly as a budget airline will let it, and as Dave and I walked into the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel venue, I found myself experiencing the same nervous feeling that I did at that first UK Vapefest in Tamworth in 2010. Although there were several hundred people in attendance, I didn’t know many of them and the mood was that of excitement and meeting people for the first time – just like UK Vapefest 2010. The scariest part was the number of people who came up to me that had watched my Youtube and Vapourtrails TV stuff (even if one guy thought my name was James) – we even had to pose for pictures a couple of times!

The inaugural Vapefest Ireland captured the enthusiasm of Vapefest 2010 and 2011, but drew heavily from the experiences of UK Vapefest 2012 and had pretty much the perfect formula. The venue was perfectly sized and the facilities excellent and as with UKVF the raffle was incredibly well supported by the Irish (and some UK) vendors meaning that loads of people left with bags full of vaping gear. Myself, I found myself appointed as personal shopping assistant to a lady called Mary as we set about finding her the ideal atomiser or tank for the Lavatube(s) she won in the raffle, and that’s as close as I came to a raffle prize at all three meets this year!

A definite highlight for me was meeting Scott from US vaping podcast VaporCast who had somehow managed to work a visit to Vapefest Ireland into his honeymoon. He was a friendly guy, but then again so was everyone else I met in Abbeyleix (and all day for that matter).

Again, I’d like to express my gratitude to Shane and his family for putting together an excellent bash, and once again, I’ll be doing my best to attend Vapefest Ireland 2013.

To anybody reading this that is thinking of attending their first Vapefest next time around, take care to remember that these events can only truly be community events whilst members of the vaping community volunteer their time to organise them for us. Come along, say hello and buy me a pint, but let’s not be tempted to turn these events into trade or consumer exhibitions. There’s a place for that, but Vapefest is, and in my opinion should continue to be a place for vapers to get together, enjoy each others company and show off their latest and greatest electronic fag!

UK Vapefest 2012:

Vapefest Ireland 2012:

September 21st, 2012 by