EMF2024 was Incredible

Photo of a sign at night in various colours, reading EMF 24

EMF is a bi-annual event in the UK where a bunch of tech enthusiasts, tinkerers, creative folk from all over meet up in a field and hang out for 3-4 days. I first found out about it from friends around the end of 2018 / start of 2019, when it had just been and thought “Wow that sounds amazing! I’ll definitely come along to the next one! See you all at EMF 2020”. Yeah that didn’t happen. And then I was away in 2022. But after 5-6 years, I finally got to go! And it. was. incredible!!

Never have I seen so many cool people, outfits, decorated tents, various exotic vehicles, all gathered in one place and having the best of times as one big community.

Photo of several tents stretching out into the distance

And, you know, it is a maker camp, so of course the infrastructure was on point: 40GiB fibre link to the site, providing some of the best WiFi I have ever had (as well as Ethernet, if you had a long enough cable); a DECT phone network for contacting organisers and fellow attendees who brought and registered their DECT phones; a Plain Old copper Telephone network for corded phones and fax machines; and the “sneakernet”, an on-site postcard service (offering external postage as well, if given an address and a stamp). Postcards were themed for the event and freely available at each sneakernet postbox.

Other campers had also brought all sorts of equipment: aerial antennae – ranging from handheld to TV satellite dishes – radios, remote controls, soldering irons, PCB components, old servers. You name it, chances are someone at EMF had it. Someone even dropped off a couple of orphan alpha sources in the Swap Shop which, naturally, were dealt with by a furry who works with radiation ^^

There was also all sorts of pretty setups and installations. There were spotlights and lasers in the sky,

Photo of spotlights above a pointed tent

Photo of a black sky with multiple green laser beams spreading out from two central sources at the bottom

fog and light installations across one of the lakes,

Photo of multicoloured beams of light across a dark lake

hexagonal lights behind foliage,

Photo of hexagonal light strips behind plastic foliage on a wall


Photo of jets of flame above a stage in a field

and so many more things I either didn’t see or was too amazed by to take a picture of (a synth hooked up to different flowers, a two meter tall robot made of three massive gears, and much more).

The weather leading up to the event had been awful, with a month of rain falling in two days. Fortunately, the day before arrival day was dry, and it stayed that way throughout the event, changing between clouded but mild and warm and sunny.

Photo of a lake with a fence in the foreground, trees in the background, and intermittent blue in a cloudy sky

It got surprisingly cold at night though. I had read online that some people brought electric blankets to EMF and thought “Eh, I’ll be fine with my nice sleeping bag.” And I was fine. I just had to sleep in socks, trousers, and two t-shirts one night. According to various weather apps, it never got below 8-10 degrees, but that is almost definitely a lie. It felt more like 4-5 degrees. The final day was roasting though, not a cloud in the sky, and that was a very nice conclusion (even though everyone slightly boiled in the stage tents).

Speaking of sleeping, there is a significantly non-zero overlap between the hacker scene and the (German) techno scene. Which led to some incredible raves, but also meant you could feel the bass across the camp.

Oh and the badge! I almost forgot to talk about the badge! Again, EMF is a hacker camp, so the attending badge is not just a badge, it’s a PCB with a microcontroller ^^. Two PCBs in fact: one for the top and one for the bottom. Not only is it visually stunning (the theme for this year’s EMF was “Solarpunk”)

Photo of two hexagonal PCBs lying on a person’s knees. The right PCB is covered in components

The same two hexagonal PCBs but turned over, revealing plant designs and a screen on the left PCB

but it is also fully open-source, open hardware, hackable, extensible, you name it! It took less than 24 hours before someone had made a name-badge app for the display, and many other cool programs with graphics, LED effects, and games quickly followed. Since the hardware dimensions had been made available ahead of time, there were also people giving out or selling so-called “hexpansions” for the badge, and there was a game running where special hexpansions had been hidden throughout the camp and you had to find and plug them in to your badge to register them. It was such great fun!

Apparently at the previous camps, the badge was specific to the camp, which ended up with a lot of unused badges and e-waste. However, this badge is meant to be upgraded throughout future camps, so the apps and their quality will only improve! (Especially as people now have 2 years to develop things for the next EMF.)

I met a bunch of wonderful people as well. Some through volunteering, but also a lot due to just general friendliness. EMF has “villages” – groups of friends or a specific makerspace or similar camping together – all of which had something eye-catching at the front and were full of people that were very happy to chat about their village or just generally anything. Through my kitchen shift the very first day I met two other groups of people, both of which were incredibly kind and welcoming, and we all look forward to meeting again at EMF 2026. It is also funny what people you accidentally bump into while being there: I met no fewer than 5 people I knew from my undergrad, of which I was only vaguely aware that 2 of them were going. One I bumped into on the train there! It was a great surprise reunion, with lots of catching up : )

This is getting a bit lengthy, but I briefly want to mention the events as well. All the talks were free to attend, and they ranged from people talking about their personal projects, to how to set up a makerspace from scratch, to stand up, to deep dives into the engineering of various systems, both physical and digital. There were a number of highly intriguing workshops, which are unfortunately always oversubscribed so we had to rank the ones we were interested in and then there was a lottery. I was incredibly fortunate to get a spot on the “Surface Mount Components for Terrified Beginners”, and it was incredibly educative! I have now hand-placed various 0805, all the way down to 01005, components and reflow-soldered them, when I didn’t think that was possible. (And I learnt a new cursed unit along the way: centi-inches. Because of course metric would be too simple.) The result of the workshop was a cute little PCB we each got to take home.

There were also a number of somewhat well-known people I hadn’t expected to see there: Matt Parker from “StandupMaths”, Rohin Francis from “Medlife Crisis”, Matt Gray, and mitxela. Incredibly cool and nice people, who I didn’t expect to be there (I severely underestimated how big of a thing EMF is in general).

If you hadn’t gauged it already, EMF 2024 was my first EMF but it will definitely not be my last. I had such an amazing time, met so many cool people, made new friends, dabbled in technology and shifts I never thought I could manage, and just generally had an incredible time! Although I was sad that the camp had somehow already ended, I left happier and more full of energy than I’ve been in a long time. I am so looking forward EMF 2026! : D

Practical details for the curious

The main purpose of the post is to enthuse about EMF. However, there are also some (imo dryer) practical details which might be interesting to some. These are briefly detailed here.


Tickets sold out incredibly quickly. I wasn’t logged in when the first round of tickets released, and in the 1-2 minutes it took me to click the sign-in link and be redirected, the tickets had sold out. Second round, I did manage to get a ticket, but that round only lasted 4 minutes before everything was gone. And the third round I believe took about 11 minutes to sell out.

So yeah. Tickets go very fast.

Cost and food

It is a festival with huge numbers of events, tents, and facilities. It is not cheap. I paid £200 for my ticket, opting to go for the first “supporter” tier (regular tickets were £180), both because I could contribute that bit more, and because I thought it might give me a better chance at getting a ticket (I don’t think that actually worked though).

The food stands were varied and had a great selection of vegetarian, vegan, and meat-based options. As festival prices go, they were very reasonable: lunch and dinner could be had for around £10 each. The quality was excellent, no cheap McDonalds-like greasy stuff. With free potable water being available at numerous taps around the site, food was really all you needed and I was happy to buy the occasional hot lunch or dinner. (I also volunteered, which got you a ticket for the volunteer kitchen, serving hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner all days of the festival.) Overall, I spent £91.40 on food in 4 days, including the occasional crêpe and ice cream.


Sanitation was outstanding. If you’ve gone camping before, you may be used to composting toilets and showers where you pay for 3 minutes of hot water. Not at EMF. The toilets were proper flushing ones, there were plenty of water stations with liquid soap, and the showers were plentiful with free hot water! A couple of cubicles ran out of paper from time to time, but never the whole array nor for more than an hour or so. This is nothing less than exemplary and made for a brilliant camping experience.

Travel and accessibility

EMF had arranged hourly coaches from the nearest train station, scheduled to line up with the trains, which made for easy access to the site despite not having a car. There was also a ride sharing page for people to coordinate that, and it seemed reasonably active and successful. Based off IRC chatter, the coaches were somewhat overloaded on Monday. Unfortunately, part of that was due to cuts the organisers had to make because they were short on sponsors. Hopefully that will be better next year. I left Sunday evening to stay with friends nearby and take an early train back to Scotland the next day, and it seems that was a lucky decision.

In terms of accessibility, there was a dedicated camping area for accessible vehicles, several accessible bathrooms throughout the site, and the main paths were either tarmac, light dirt, or had plastic tiling put on top of them, which seemed to allow people to get to the majority of the site without any issues. There were several people in wheelchairs or on crutches, and I saw them on the entire site, with the exception of deep in the abled camping areas.

Thomas Ekström Hansen
Thomas Ekström Hansen
PhD student in Computer Science

My interests include information visualisation, formal methods, and low-level programming.