Gemma Harrison of VC London explains how she and her fellow co-founders brought the uber successful Camp VC women’s moto event to fruition
This is Camp VC: a weekend of motorcycles, skateboarding, dirt biking, beginners’ riding lessons, panel talks, ride outs, wellbeing, music and partying, where all female-identifying individuals can express themselves in a safe space. And for 2019-21, it’s sponsored by Harley-Davidson.
So, how did a seed of an idea turn into an annual sold-out event? Run by VC London – an organisation co-founded by Gemma Harrison, Mai Storni and Namin Cho to help women riders connect and support each other through camps, talks, workshops and gatherings – the inspiration for Camp VC initially came from across the Pond.
“Our first big event was in collaboration with Babes Ride Out in the US, back in 2016. We met its co-founders, Anya and Ashmore, at their event one year and asked if they’d ever consider bringing it to the UK. Since then we've taken the framework and experience they gave us and turned it into our own event,” Gemma explains.
“With Camp VC we've really forged our own identity within the world of moto events, but it’s all based around the people involved and what we love to do. It marries together extreme sports and adventure with motorcycles and moto culture, but that’s something our collective are doing in their lives every day – we just give everyone a space in which to do it, or to try out something new.”
The growth of Camp VC has been organic, in true VC London style. After their first visit, attendees spread the word, and invariably return to the event the following year eager to get more involved, whether as a staff member, photographer or to teach a class. “The community just grows bigger and stronger all the time,” says Gemma.
This year, more than 500 people gathered at the Camp VC site in the biggest event yet. “It’s grown beyond anything we could have imagined to be honest!” Gemma laughs. “We're always really stoked to see such a diverse group of women come to the event. This year, we had attendees from more than 20 countries – some travelling from as far as South Korea, Australia and the USA – and of all different ages and backgrounds. It's something we're very proud of.”
But the thing she loves most about the weekend is seeing how everyone reacts to the event, both at the time and afterwards on social media. “The overall feeling onsite is such a positive one, with people making friends and trying new stuff out.”
Among this ‘new stuff’ for 2019 was the chance to try out some of the latest H-D® models, including the Sportster® Iron 1200™ and Softail® Heritage Classic, through one-hour test rides. Even the licence-less could experience Harley® power by saddling-up on the Jumpstart® machine. Also part of the brand collaboration was a Women in Motorcycling exhibition and an H-D selfie competition.
“The Harleys went down an absolute storm at the event!” Gemma enthuses. “The test rides were fully booked all weekend and the Jumpstart is an incredible initiative. There were some seriously happy faces after trying that out. I wish it had been around when I first started riding!
“The H-D team were incredible too, and really took the time to understand each rider and what they wanted to try out, or helping out if they were a little nervous,” she adds. “When you have that positive first experience with a motorcycle brand it really stays with you, so I think we had some Harley riders for life born right there and then!”
And Gemma should know – she’s had her own fair share of memorable encounters with the brand: “From riding a Sportster with friends around California for a few months, to taking the new electric LiveWire™ up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, I’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty awesome experiences on Harleys.
“But one moment that will stay in my mind forever was having a rip through the incredible Brecon Beacons National Park with my dad after Camp VC. He has always ridden bikes but I’ve never had a chance to ride with him before, so it was a pretty special experience for both of us. It really topped off an unforgettable weekend.”
No rest for the wicked; the team have already started planning for 2020. “There are gonna be some seriously big surprises coming up, with some pretty incredible people getting involved, as well as riding master classes for experienced riders to up their game and some other new activities – not to mention the Harley-Davidson® presence.
“But I won't dish too much dirt just yet,” she smiles. “Everyone is gonna have to wait…”