So that’s it – I’ve finally popped the conference cherry thanks to Mumsnet! This was huge for me – I have been avidly
stalking following the updates and lowdowns of ‘people like me’ as they have jetted around from Britmums to Blogcamp this year, being fed delicious cakes and valuable techie tips to put them one step ahead of the competition (I know, I know, it’s not a competition!). So I had pretty high expectations of what this day would bring and spent some time obsessing over what I would wear and just how many business cards I would need (extremely amusing in hindsight having returned home with 99 out of my 100 lovingly designed expressions of intention).
On the day I was really pleased to be able to meet up with my lovely friend Elfa of Californian Mum in London, and then later, Steph of The Sisterhood and All That and Sian of Potty Mouthed Mummy – I know how intimidating it must be to walk into a venue like that filled to the rafters with faces both familiar and strange, on your own, so I was very happy to arrive as part of a group of newly minted friends.
The first session was a fascinating panel discussion with (I’m ashamed to say) several people I had never heard of before including Tim Dowling, Beeban Kidron & Dr Linda Papadopoulos as well as Fleet Street Fox and Sarah Vine. The discussion revolved around how technology is changing the way we live and touched upon how we deal with our children’s inevitable interface with cyberspace. How much of ourselves are we prepared to share? As the discussion progressed a massive screen above the heads of the panel updated with a live Twitter feed – (we’d already been encouraged to tweet relentlessly with two bottles of champers up for grabs for the best tweets of the day). This was entertaining if distracting and I briefly toyed with the idea of broadcasting to the world that my bladder was fit to explode – nothing like joining the conversation, eh? (Er, no, nothing like it).
I think my favourite bit came in the next session – How to Find Your Funny with, amongst others, Arabella Weir and chaired by Bryony Gordon from The Telegraph. The quick answer is – you can’t – at least not unless you’ve got a sense of humour to begin with. Another answer is ‘be fearless’. Arabella Weir’s version of fearless means that you name and shame (in her case, her father – who, to be fair, sounds like he was a pretty bad father) but not everyone had such a harsh or extreme approach.
I was really pleased to see Kirsty Smith from Eeh Bah Mum up there – I’ve been following her blog for a while now. It did make me feel a little bit star struck when I met her later on at the Fevertree drinks reception and ended up sitting next to her for what may be regarded as a somewhat unconventional date involving 12 women – some of whom had never met each other before, in a restaurant within Kings Cross station – all a little bit ‘ginned’ up and shouting over the top of some rather loud travel announcements/fire warnings over the station tannoy. Later I stumbled across the concourse with Jess of Wry Mummy, both of us wondering just how far the toilets could really be from the restaurants – passing Japanese tourists along the way as they posed for their Harry Potter memento shot at ‘Platform 9 & ¾). (It turned out that we had just completely by-passed one set of bogs but at least we didn’t have to pay 30p for the privilege).
Earlier that day I was really thrilled to meet Michelle of Learner Mother and Lottie of The Secret Divorcee and hang out with them. It’s funny how much I felt I knew them and them me, from nothing more substantial than online correspondence.
We really enjoyed the discussion on, essentially, how to be a writer with some really huge names including Nick Hornby, whose books I happily display on my shelves at home. Again I wondered what it must have been like for the one person on stage known primarily for her blog (in this case the brilliant Lisa Jarmin of How To Be A Domestic Disgrace). Interesting questions were mulled including ‘how do you know when you’re a writer’ and it seemed to be the concensus that you ‘just know’ and no-one else can validate that for you (personally I think a publishing deal or a pay cheque is a pretty good indication 😉 ).
‘Think Bombs’ were awesome – particularly comedienne Francesca Martinez who has overcome Cerebral Palsy to carve out an award winning career in the limelight. It was really inspirational to hear her talk about how there is no normal and how our first world problems and issues can look silly and indulgent in the grand scheme of things.
I may have let some of the more useful techie sessions fly over my head in hindsight, (although I know I need to learn how to back my blog up lest it all disappears one day in a puff of foul-smelling smoke) but I loved being entertained, inspired, given food for thought, and welcomed into a group of people who’s lives I have probably more knowledge of than some of my closest offline friends. For everyone I haven’t mentioned here it was lovely to meet every one of you!
I get the feeling that this year’s Blogfest wasn’t quite as flash-bang controversial as last year’s, and I still found it a bit stressful to know that I wouldn’t see my (often high maintenance!) children for over 24 hours, but it was a really unique and positive day.