The Joomla World Conference in London, planned for November 2019, has been cancelled. Joomla’s Board of Directors announced the cancellation at the end of July, citing the updated October 31, 2019, Brexit deadline as the primary reason:
Last week the new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has been elected with a mandate to ensure Brexit happens on 31st October, even if that means without any form of deal with the EU.
Sadly, for an international conference planned for the weeks after Brexit, there is considerable doubt and uncertainty around travel requirements to the UK and what (if any) visas may be required. This coupled with the huge workload already on the limited resources of the community with Joomla 4 at an advanced development stage, the Board has very reluctantly taken the decision to postpone JWC2019 to some date yet to be announced.
The directors did not want to risk international attendees purchasing travel not being able to attend. They are issuing refunds for tickets already purchased.
WordCamp London, which has traditionally been held in early April or late March, is also not exempt from Brexit-related planning challenges. The lingering uncertainty bleeds into other aspects of planning, such as recruiting sponsors and speakers.
“The uncertainty that Brexit brings when trying to organize an international conference adds huge pressures to the organizing team, creates many additional logistical problems for sponsors, and creates uncertainty for volunteers and attendees,” WordCamp London organizer Dan Maby said. He and co-lead Barbara Saul are currently in the early stages of planning the 2020 event. They faced similar issues this year with the original Brexit date set for March 29, 2019.
“The WordCamp was planned just one week after this date,” Maby said. “As an organizing team we faced unanswerable questions from the outset. We planned to develop a dedicated team within the organizers to support questions, but we soon realized this wasn’t possible because even at governmental level the answers to questions we had were not answered.”
Since WordCamps are designed to be focused on the local communities where they are produced, Maby and his team adopted a mindset that they would send a message by keeping the 2019 camp running as planned: “Let’s do our small part in demonstrating that the UK is open for international business.” The event ended up selling out of both tickets and sponsor packages. Although WordCamp London historically attracts an international audience, the marketing team for the 2019 event focused heavily on the local community.
Maby said it saddened him to read that Joomla World Conference 2019 has been postponed due to Brexit and that he empathizes with their team.
“We’re in early discussions regarding WordCamp London 2020 and considering delivering the event later in the year,” he said. “Part of the reason is to allow the unknown of Brexit to start to settle.”
With a lack of definitive information about who will need visas and how Brexit will affect international travelers, Maby said his team is still mostly in dark. The biggest complication is not knowing if sponsors or attendees will be able to legally enter the country. This makes planning a budget and selling sponsorship packages and tickets more tricky. WordCamp London co-leads have yet to put the application in but are eying September 2020 for the next event.
“We are investigating September as a potential alternative,” Maby said. “We’ll be 11 months post-Brexit (if it happens in October) so we will hopefully have a better idea of what to communicate to attendees, volunteers, and sponsors traveling into the UK. It also sits well between the European and US regional WordCamps.”
The Brexit uncertainty is impacting on all members of the UK WordPress community – Dan and Babs did a great job with WordCamp London 2019. I’ve every confidence they’ll safely navigate through the next year!