EMF Camp 2024

Published by Bill on

Night time photo of a sign for EMF 24. The letters on the left are lit up pink, fading through blue in the centre and turquise on the right.
Photo of the opening ceremony at EMF. Looking from right to left across the audience. The circus style tent is packed, lights shine towards a single speaker on stage.

Over half term, I took Oscar (5yrs old) to our first EMF Camp in the grounds surrounding Eastnor Castle Deer Park, in Herefordshire. I’ve been trying to go for several years now. But we never quite timed the birth of our two children around the camp. Throw in a few years of Covid madness and I’ve missed out on previous years.

Tickets sold out fast, I mean really fast so we felt really lucky to be going. Without a car though, we were limited to carrying only what I could get on my back. We packed really light.

We took the train out of London via Staines and Reading. With each change, there were knowing smiles as we grew increasingly confident that others on the train were heading to EMF Camp with us. By the time we arrived at Ledbury station we were talking to people. For those of you that know either of us, this is unheard of.

We waited a little longer than expected for the shuttle bus, but the wait allowed us to get some advice on where to set-up camp. Most people seemed headed for the North end of the campsite We went for one of the family campsites further South. I had hopes of sleeping a some point.

Tent pitched, there were a few short moments when I thought we wouldn’t get power. But this was a chance to meet neighbours, shift things around a bit and soon we had the kettle on and coffee made. Power to our tent? Yes, this is EMF. Throw in wired Internet or even a POTS line if you want it.

With coffee sorted, gadgets charged, we set off to explore the site before the festival kicked off.

Tip: Be prepared to walk, but don’t be afraid to take a break.

We didn’t manage to get ourselves a spot on any of the workshops so we picked through the schedule to find any talks that we both wanted to see. The idea was that these would be our anchor points and we’d fill the time in between with exploration, discovery, and food.

An icecream cart. The side of the cart that would face away from the vendor is lit up with neon lights; 'Fresh Robots'. Tucked inside the cart are two shelves of robots, held in place by a wire mesh. Their eyes look outwards as if they are tyring to escape.
A young boy stands in front of the letter 'M' which is propped up in a field. The 'M' is about twice his height. The letter is white but filled with old circuit boards.

In no particular order, here are some of the highlights. They are the few stories that we keep coming back to when people ask us how it was.


It turns out that our neighbours at EMF are neighbours from home. Not only that, but their children are also half Chinese. Oscar was so happy to make new friends, even happier that he got to bounce around the field counting; 一, 二, 三, 四, 五, …

Tip: You don’t need to be part of a village or an existing community to enjoy EMF. Everyone we met was so incredibly friendly.

Gas Boilers Suck

As we sat in the field eating pizza, watching the Whacky Racers, Oscar turned to me and said, “Dad, can we go to the bar?” Did I miss hear him? He’s five.

“I want to find the man who told us gas boilers suck. He said he was going to be in the bar afterwards.”

I love this. When I pushed him a little more Oscar said he just wanted to let him know that he really enjoyed his talk and he now knew how the boiler worked. The talk was Gas Boilers Suck! Hack yours today, save money, save the planet! by Lee V. I’ll link a video as soon as it is available.

Tip: You never know what will inspire your child. Let them pick a few things to see.

I want to be a Laserist

Green lasers light up the night sky above a campsite.
A Tesla coil stands in a field in front of a small marquee tent. A spark leaps from the coil down to the ground.

We both loved the talk by Seb Lee-Delisle on Coding Beyond the Screen: The unique challenges of programming massive public laser displays. Back at school Oscar told his class he wants to be a laserist. When they asked what a laserist was,

“It’s someone who gets a big laser and puts it in their bedroom and shines it on all the buildings nearby.”

He failed to mention the length of time he spent watching Laser Duck Hunt on Saturday night. Luckily we have no tall buildings around us. The fact we live under the Heathrow flightpath doesn’t bode well for any early experimentation with lasers.

Thank you Seb Lee.


Who doesn’t love LEDs? From flag poles, signs, tents, lanterns, camper vans, clothing, hats, everything was lit up with LEDs. We loved it. I’ve already been commissioned to rig a collapsable flag pole with a long string of lights for next time.

Secretly, I’d also love to get enough people together to play game of life by lighting up tents. Need to mull on this one though. Sounds simple but not the easiest to implement.

Tip: Don’t pack light, pack lights.

Joust Mania

We didn’t play, but this is something Oscar really wants to play with friends. I wonder what our chances are for getting this set-up at home before his birthday.

See: Joust Mania

ZAPP (the button game in the bar)

Oscar wasn’t really taken with the arcade, but ZAPP in the bar had him hooked. Between the two of us, we spent way too much time hitting buttons. What struck me is that my scores were fairly consistent. He started off terribly but got better with each game he played.

See: ZAPP Help

Null sector

cat null.sector > /dev/null

Tip: Null sector is for children too.

Other Things

A young boy stands in front of a port-a-loo, facing away from the camera. We can't see what he's doing, but he's plugging something in to a badge held in his hand.
In a dark field, a small square table is covered with a blue and white striped table cloth. On the table stands a red telephone and a white owl. The scene is lit by a small round lamp at the back of the table.

  • Intro to laser cutting - make an owl
  • Lego Technic ElectroEngineers - build a marble run
  • How to map caves
  • GPS time, leap seconds, and a clock that’s always right
  • Fighting Allergies with Pollen Forecasting (see pollen.party)
  • The Auto Plane Spotter: a robot to point at aeroplanes
  • Musical Tesla coil demo
  • Tool and Knife Sharpening
  • How volunteers built and are now operating Hydro Power generation on the Thames
  • I Hacked Into My Own Car and other stories

As a Parent

A boy stands looking at a sheet of wood being loaded into a laser cutter.
A photo looking over the dance floor. A raised DJ booth stands at the front of the dance floor, green lasers projected from its base. Behind the perimiter fire torches light the scene.

“A lot gets said about the weird, the wonderful and the quirky at #EMFCamp. I want to call out how nice it was to attend as a parent. My son felt included, made friends, confidence levels soared. I felt comfortable letting him wander a little further, explore a little more. To the person who ran out of null sector and then turned up with ear plugs for my son, thank you. Turns out we humans can be kind.

“As we got off the train at Paddington, it hit me how quickly I no longer felt that freedom.”

– Me, on Mastodon

I would 100% recommend EMF Camp to parents with children. Your experience will vary depending on age, interest, and their ability to sit (or sleep) through talks that go deeper than expected. Oscar came home full of excitement, inspired to create, to draw and to play.

Next Time

I didn’t sign up for any volunteering shifts this time round. Although the event wouldn’t be possible without volunteers and sponsors, I found it really hard to gauge the ability to volunteer whilst being a responsible parent at the same time. Next time round, we’ll be volunteering together. I’m convinced that there are things that we’d be able to do together that contributed positively to the event.

If you’ve been with a child and volunteered at the same time, I’d love to hear your experiences.


The event is so well run that it puts many commercial operations to shame. It’s easy to forget that the entire event is planned, organised, run, and cleaned up by volunteers. Volunteers buy their own tickets. From the moment we booked tickets to the moment we got home, we felt like we’d been looked after. Both Oscar and I want to extend our warmest thanks to everyone who made the experience so special. You entertained me, and you filled my son with inspiration.

Two Tildagon badges surrounded by rainbow LEDs. In the centre of each is a message. 'My name is'... the left badge reads 'Bill' the right badge reads 'Oscar'.
Night time photo of a neon sign that says EMF.

If I’ve missed your write up and you’d like me to include it here then let me know.

See you all in 2026!