Words and photos by Dave Cross
The Birmingham exhibition center opened in 1976, and in its history has played host to the likes of enfant terrible Justin Bieber, a grumpy Kanye West and Madonna not acting her age. This year has witnessed an explosion of U.K. vaping events, so it was only fitting that one should be held in England’s second city, centrally located and at the hub of a transport network.
The Vaper Expo was an inaugural event at the National Exhibition Center (NEC) held on July 11 and 12. Dave and Lee, the organizers, staged the Expo in a 3,000 capacity hall. A conservative decision, but understandable even though the number of vapers in the U.K. now is estimated at 2.6 million. Questions asked when this and Vape Jam were announced included: Did the U.K. have the interest to sustain both events alongside the already popular annual Vapefest? The question was emphatically answered as The Vaper Expo UK sold out in advance of the weekend. Like Vape Jam before it, the British public appears to have a thirst for vape meets and a desire to see the biggest brands from home and America represented.
“I had to come,” said Tom in sweeping Scottish brogue you could swim in. “I won a ticket.” Vapers are like that. A free $15 ticket was all the excuse needed to splash out on a $220 4 a.m. flight on Thursday from the remote Scottish island of Arran and a night in Wolverhampton. Not wishing to insult the residents of Wolverhampton, but that’s real commitment to vaping right there.
Birmingham enjoys as much rain in July as it does in February, but fortunately for the members of the UK Slick Vapers Facebook group, the exhibition center basked in 73 degrees Fahrenheit of fun. Homing in from diverse locations they met up to queue from 7:30 a.m. (for a 10 a.m. door opening). “Why?” seemed an obvious question. For those lining up around the block the answer lies as much in meeting virtual friends as it does in the event itself. “We’re enthusiastic! We’re enthusiasts! We’re enthusiastic enthusiasts!”
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The same question is easier to answer for the business owners behind the stands. For the likes of event sponsor Cuttwood Vapors it’s as simple as seeing a market ripe for the picking. Cuttwood’s Sosicc explained how he sees the U.K. as being six months behind the States and set for ongoing expansion. It’s why Cosmic Fog was here with the launch of the Lost Fog Collection and Element E-Liquids are attending its second U.K.
event of 2015 with an award-winning juice collection.
For the U.K.’s Totally Wicked, single-handedly taking on the legislators of Europe, its presence was a celebration of a company fighting for the very existence of vaping on this side of the Atlantic. The Devilish red stand was a beacon for Brits to line up and express their gratitude.
It’s hard to see how such a successful event won’t be repeated next year in a bigger venue, and we’ll be hoping you can send over many more of your awesome vape companies. For more information, visit http://www.vaperexpo.co.uk/.