Umbraco Spark 2024

Here I am sitting in the airport trying to get back to Edinburgh and I thought, I might as well write a blog about my experience at Umbraco Spark while it's still fresh in my mind and also since my flight is delayed by a few hours! 

On Thursday I flew down to Bristol to attend my first Umbraco Spark conference. The event is organised by Gibe (who I also work for) and I've been looking forward to the event for months. 

I've heard only good things about the event and the speaker lineup was looking brilliant, but before the event kicked off, there was a Hackathon on the Thursday. 

I arrived in to Bristol airport, jumped on the bus to the city centre and was in Gibe HQ by about 11am. After a quick hello to those in the office, I headed round to True Digital's office to attend the Hackathon. 

There was a great vibe in the office and since the day had already kicked off at about 10, there were a number of people already with their heads in their laptops coding away. 

I decided I would download Umbraco 14 beta and get that setup since I hadn't had a chance to install it since it was only released earlier in the week. I wrote a quick blog about some of the issues I ran in to during that process. 

In the afternoon I decided to start upgrading this blog from Umbraco 12 to Umbraco 13 but I didn't get it finished during the day. More about that later. 

After the hackathon, there was the pre-party which was sponsored by Moriyama and hosted in Roxy Lanes in the city centre. It was a really fun evening of socialising, playing ice-free curling, pool, baseball, bowling and having a few drinks. I really enjoyed it and was great to catch up with friends before the main event. 


Pre event run

Friday morning I woke up early and met up with a few others for an easy morning 5k before the event kicked off. This is sort of a tradition at Umbraco events. As I was leading the group, I got up a bit earlier and ran the route solo before meeting up with the 8 others who had signed up. We headed off at 7am and ran around the docks of Bristol. It was a lovely morning for it and it really set me up for the day. 

We ran past M Shed, the venue for Umbraco Spark and then ran past the venue where the after party was to be held in the evening. A nice way to show people where they had to go after they had showered and had breakfast. 

After the run I then got ready and headed over to M Shed to see the rest of the Gibe team. Quickly got changed in to my team t-shirt and had a quick look around the venue. 


Umbraco Spark

The event is held all on one floor but split in to 3 main rooms. 2 rooms for the talks and then a main foyer which was where lunch would be served and the swag store was located. 

My job for the day was to look after the music in the main room, Room 1. Putting on some tunes before the event kicked off, putting some music on between speakers and just generally filling any silences throughout the day. 


The talks

I was also able to attend some of the great talks that were part of the conference. The theme of Spark is Innovation. This meant there were a number of talks about AI and how it can help us when building websites but also how we can use AI to help provide services for clients.

A few highlights for me were hearing Luke Hook's talk about "UmbraCopilot - AI all the things", it was a really well put together talk with some great live demos thrown in too. 

Erica Queesenberry's talk - "Avoiding the common dev:creative handoff pitfalls". A great insight on how devs and creative teams could and should work together to avoid issues during the build phase.

Matt Brailsford's talk about Umb.Fyi and how he's automated the process using AI, webhooks and APIs.



Each of these talks were really well put together and I really enjoyed them, if you get a chance to catch any of the talks at other events, I would recommend seeing them. 

The Vibe

Umbraco Spark was a very relaxed event. There was no need to rush between the rooms, there was plenty time for breaks and lunch. Everything just felt very friendly and relaxed. It is up there as one of my favourite events and I know I might be slightly biased since I work for Gibe but honestly it was a brilliant event from start to finish. If you are looking to attend your first Umbraco community event, you should seriously consider Spark next year. 

After Party!

Before I knew it the event was over and it was time for the after party to kick off. I always think that the pre-party and the after-party are just an extension of the actual event and maybe the word Party paints them in a bad light.

They are just a chance to catch up with fellow attendees. The parties are just as important as the main event itself. It's an opportunity to speak with others, make new friends and socialise. Now, I know as developers we aren't always the best at socialising and chatting, but at least in these cases we all have something in common to discuss, the event we are going to, have just been to.  

If you are nervous about going to a pre-party or after party, don't be. You should totally make the effort to attend.





On Saturday I had a lie in, got up, had some breakfast and then met up with some friends for lunch. We all had later trains / planes to catch to get home so we thought we'd carry on Spark for another half day. 

More socialising, chatting and catching up. Matt, Nik, Paul and I (pictured) all met back in 2018 at our first Umbraco Codegarden and we have been friends ever since!

This is how amazing the community is, you can meet people at a conference and they can become some of your best friends! Go to events! 

Once lunch was over, we all headed our separate way and I headed to the airport. I was joined by Steven, who was also attending Spark and I've known him since CodeCabin in 2017, another great Umbraco related initiative. He is based in Edinburgh too. 

A photo of Matt, Nik, Paul and Owain standing on the balcony at Spark

Flight Home

Unfortunetly once we got to the airport we had a couple of extra hours delay due to a plane fault. Thankfully, we managed to get a table so we opened up our laptops and did some coding while we waited. 

I managed to finish upgrading this blog from Umbraco 12 to 13 and then even deployed the upgrade via tethering my phone to my laptop (as the airport wifi was really bad!)

A pretty productive wait in the airport! 

Eventually, I got back to my house at 11pm, instead of the planned 9pm but honestly, I'd do it all again. 

A massive thank you to all the attendees, organisers and speakers for making it such a great event! #h5yr 

Published on : 11 March 2024