Running Tech Events in South Wales – An Interview with Joel Hughes

( Post 19 of 25 )

The inspiration for this post came about after I attended Port80 Localhost in August 2014. Joel Hughes – who runs the event – was talking to an attendee about how South Wales has come along in terms of IT-related events, whether they be one-offs, regular meet-ups or annual conferences. Given that Joel is very active on the event organising front, I wanted to ask him some questions about his events as well as his experiences running those type of events within the region…

Joel Hughes photoFirst thing’s first, please introduce yourself! If someone asked you what you do, but only gave you 60 seconds / a few sentences to do so, what would you say?

My name is Joel Hughes and I run a web design company based in Newport, South Wales. We focus on helping busy business owners make sense of all things digital. Working with them to create online presences which really add value to their businesses.

What events do you run in South Wales?

I run two bigger conferences – Port80 and The Business of Web Design (a.k.a. tboWD) – plus some quarterly Port80 events called Localhost.

How does the Port80 conference and the Port80 Localhosts differ to tboWD?

Port80 has a broader remit than tboWD. tboWD is specifically about the business side of freelancing in the web industry or running a web agency. Port80 is more about design & development skills; less business-focused.

I was at a recent event of yours when you said that you ran the first proper web/tech event in South Wales, a few years ago. Is that true? What was the event and how did it go?

Ah, ok, in which case, I didn’t really mean that the way that came across. What I meant to say is that I was surprised that there were no web conferences in South Wales and, therefore, I decided to put one on myself. Now we have a much more vibrant scene, which is cool.

Have you found that turn-outs at your events have improved over the years? If so, do you think it’s because more people are entering the web/tech industry in South Wales, or that more people are willing to head out to hear and learn about things related to the industry (or perhaps a combination of the two)? Or another reason?

Hmm… Turn out has always been pretty good and has not changed much, to be honest. I think getting your name established as an event does help though.

Craig Lockwood (who I know is a friend of yours) is also incredibly busy on the event front: with Foundersconf, Handheld Conference, The Web Is… and various events hosted at his coworking space in Cardiff (FoundersHub). Do you think that between the two of you, you have tech events covered in the region…?!

Ha! Well Craig spoke at the first Port80 and perhaps that made him think that there was some bigger opportunities. And, in fairness to him, he seized those opportunities and put on some cracking events. I seem to see new events spring up all the time so I like to think that we helped kickstart that – there’s always plenty of room for more, good events.

Have you been to many other web/tech events in South Wales? How have you found them? Any shout-outs?

Apart from Craig’s, no, not a lot. I’m ashamed I’ve not been to Unified Diff as that looks right up my street. And Design Stuff also looks great.

[For a full list of web/tech events taking place in January 2015, please click here]

How does South Wales compare to other parts of the UK when it comes to web/tech? Have you been to other events outside of South Wales? In fact, hasn’t tboWD done a UK road-show? How did the audiences differ to the ones close to home?

I’ve not seen much difference as I find the industry very friendly and willing to listen and engage. Perhaps the only difference in South Wales is that, due to a lack of events, we were more thirsty for it.

I’ve heard some people say that South Wales isn’t taken seriously in the Web/tech field, compared to somewhere like London, which both you and I know is absolute rubbish. That said, do you think that more can be done to try and attract more tech businesses (and talent) our way?

Whenever I look around South Wales I find companies creating games, working on streaming video and some really high-end stuff so I don’t believe that [South Wales isn’t taken seriously in the Web/tech field].

Whenever I look around South Wales I find companies creating games, working on streaming video and some really high-end stuff so I don’t believe that. As far as attracting talent, well I think Newport/Cardiff are great places with immediate access to world class countryside etc. – I think Wales itself will attract more people to live here!

What are your plans on the events front – anything exciting in the works?

Ha! Ok, to be honest, I may well actually take a year off from events. They are hard work and I’m thinking of concentrating more on my business in 2015. Saying that, I’ll still do the Port80 quarterly events and I will bring back the main two in 2016. I’ve not 100% made up my mind but that’s probably the way it’s going to pan out.

What’s your favourite thing about South Wales – tech-related or not?

I love the countryside, the sea and the mountains (windswept Blaenavon a fave of mine) and I love the fact that people are friendly. I lived in London for years and one of the first things I noticed when I came back was that strangers in the street would say hello to each other – I love that! The street of London may be paved with gold, but they are paved with politeness in South Wales. :-)

Follow Joel on Twitter: @Joel_Hughes.