After four years of missing out, I finally made it to the Great Northern Retros Run. Great is an understatement.

To have a sense of belonging is a very special thing. It’s a thing that a lot of people yearn for as we make our way through life and, to be honest, can be quite hard to find. But if there’s one thing that everyone who attended the Great Northern Retros Run this weekend felt in unison, it’s the feeling that they belong.


Northern Retros is a large group of car enthusiasts based here in Northern Ireland, and as the name implies they gear towards all things retro. Every year, in aid of the RNLI Lifeboats, they have a weekend event consisting of a tour of the northern coast, and two nights of camping with a barbecue and music. I’ve been looking to attend this event from the day I got my first car, and four years later I was finally able to make it there. It’s always been frankly just shit luck that I haven’t been able to attend, between not being able to book it off work or cars not working properly (and anyone who knows me knows, that’s a very feasible reason for me) it’s just not gone my way. But with Debbie prepped and ready to go, I was ready to go camping.

One of these is a van. Both of these are campers.

The last time I went camping was at Ostkuste last year, when me and Conor took my maroon Golf all the way down to Wicklow for an overnight camping trip, and I forgot just how surreal it feels to be surrounded by classic camper vans, with people that are brought together from all over the country that likely would never meet each other if it weren’t for the same shared passion. And that’s the key to belonging – the people.


When I looked around the field that night,  what I saw wasn’t just a load of random people who turned up to camp because they liked old cars.

I saw people that had all changed each other’s lives in some form. Sold or gave them the parts they needed to finish what they were building. Helped them when they were stranded at the side of the road when their car broke down (Yes Stewart, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you). There for them when they needed someone. People that look out for each other. Lifelong friendships all brought together by the same passion.

They’re not just “members in a club”. They’re friends. They’re family. They help each other feel like they belong there.


I hear a lot of people say that “oh I don’t do the club scene”, and usually it’s for the same reasons. Bitchiness, pettiness, arguments or what have you. Sometimes it’s just laziness. To those people, I say you just haven’t found the right one yet. But if you’re out there, and you sometimes feel like you don’t belong, think about what you love.

Naturally for me, it was cars. Chances are, if you’re on this site, it’s cars for you too. But whether it’s cars, chess, chocolate… There’s a club or a group out there. There’s people out there with the same passion, that will welcome you with open arms and soon you’ll wonder how it felt to be alone. Because since I joined Northern Retros, I’ve never truly felt alone; no matter where in the country I’ve been – because there’s over five and a half thousand people, all brought together by a love for the same thing. Seeing everyone together, laughing, catching up and enjoying themselves really brought home just how special of a thing clubs can be.


Find your own Northern Retros.


A huge thank you to everyone who came this weekend, and the crew at Northern Retros that have made this one of the best events on the calendar. You can check them out on Facebook here. All of the images from the weekend are available on our Flickr. 

Published by Tomo Pattison

Car Enthusiast, Drummer, Photographer. I also write crap about cars and do some racing.

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