A Fond Farewell to WPUGL

Written by Vineeta G - December 12, 2015

Last month, we hosted our last ever WPUGL (WordPress User Group London) meetup. It was a bittersweet occasion as so many of those we’ve come to know over the past year turned up to support us, have fun and eat pizza but it was hard to say goodbye to something that I’d grown with, as the group itself grew over the course of 2015 from 129 to more than 450 members (a 300% increase)! Let me share the story of WPUGL, right from the start.

Love at first “site”

Some years ago, I gained a couple of Microsoft qualifications and by 2012, I wanted to really put them to good use, so I joined a local charity to help them out with all things computer related.

After a few weeks, the manager told me they needed a website and someone suggested using WordPress. Up until then, I had never heard of WordPress but I offered to look into it. Once home, I looked it up on the internet and my life was never the same again. It was love at first “site”. ;-)

WPUGL… What?

The idea behind WPUGL was to create a WordPress user group focused on ordinary users and business owners. To bring together people that don’t necessarily have the time to dig deep into the technology themselves and would enjoy meeting with others who use the same platform, to gather ideas and share issues. Of course, designers and developers looking to network for professional freelance jobs were also welcome.

How it all began

I remember so well the exact moment I first thought of starting a user group. I was attending WordPress London, another WordPress meetup aimed more at developers and designers. A gentleman asked Keith, the organiser, if he knew of a WordPress user group in London and neither him nor the rest of the audience managed to answer his question. That’s when I thought that there was a desperate need for something like this.

A year later, with the help of the teams at Wholegrain Digital and WP Engine, we managed to take over a WordPress user group that had been dormant. It was previously known as WordPress WorkShop London, run by Rafi Akbar and had just 129 members. It now has more than 450 members and is still growing.

An amazing experience

I’ve learned so much from the experience of hosting the group, it has been truly amazing. I have proved to myself that I can speak in front of an audience about web technology with confidence and I’ve had the chance to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life.

I’ve also learned a lot from the content I created and from the feedback of some of the professionals in the audience. However, what I’ve enjoyed the most was helping people. A few of those I have helped through the group have mentioned how inspiring my contribution was and that felt so good, like I’ve never felt before.

My meetup moments

Out all the meetups we ran, the events I enjoyed the most were the first and the last. The first event made me realise I could run a meetup about a technology I was really passionate about, it was extremely fulfilling and boosted my confidence a lot. The last has a special importance because we ran a kind of “speed-dating” event and witnessing people exchanging ideas, information and details was (almost!) emotional.

There are also two other meetups I want to give a special mention to – one about theme modification and one about plugins. These I especially enjoyed because I could tell first-hand how useful the talks were, and the audience was highly engaged.

All good things come to an end

As easy as it might have looked from the outside, organising and running regular events is very time consuming, more so than I ever imagined. I’ve been part of the Wholegrain Digital team for nearly three years now and I desperately feel the need to take some hardcore training in order to improve my skills and keep up with the industry.

For this reason, I’ve decided to put on hold my passion for helping people via events like meetups for a year or so. We are handing over the hosting baton to the very capable Peter James, who has been a regular meetup attendee over the past year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have supported the WPUGL meetup over the past year – everyone who has attended, all those who’ve given up their time to share their expertise as speakers (such as Graham Armfield, who came twice) and all who have helped me in any way. I really appreciate it!

A super special Thank You!

WPUGL_logoOf course, I couldn’t go without a extending massive thank you to my team at Wholegrain Digital and our wonderful friends at WP Engine, without whose generous sponsorship the meetup would never have taken place. We appreciate Fabio and the team’s attendance and contributions at so many of the events and their sponsorship of the veggie pizzas that kept us all going. And finally, I’ll always feel a little emotional about the set of WPUGL stickers that were made especially for us. Thank You WP Engine!

If you like the sound of the group and would like to be part of it, head over to the group page on meetup.com and sign up! If you’ve been part of our journey over the past year we’d love for you to share your memories in the comments below.