When I booked my ticket for this year’s Blog Fest I felt like it was a total whim. I didn’t know who else was going and I certainly didn’t have a burning desire to gather tips on photography, vlogging or monetising or any need to feign interest in starting up a relationship with the likes of Unilever, Barclays or Coca Cola. What did intrigue me was the guest list, the entertainment value and the panel discussions.
I went to Blog Fest back in 2014 and I really enjoyed the day – meeting up with people I’d only ever seen in 2D and soaking up the atmosphere, being in a huge space filled with like-minded women (for the most part – once again the attendance of the dad bloggers was entirely minimal – I briefly chatted to Tim (Slouching Towards Thatcham) and another dad blogger called James and I think they said they were two of five dads attending!).
This year, as it turns out, I ended up missing the first three hours of the event as one of my best friends in the world had messaged me earlier in the week to say that she was in London on business and unexpectedly had a 24 hour window to meet up before flying back out to San Francisco. We had four years’ worth of news to catch up on and managed a 2-hour long breakfast in Soho before she hopped in a taxi to Heathrow and I hopped back on the Piccadilly Line.
I arrived about ten minutes before the ‘Think Bombs’ session in the big hall and promptly spotted my friend Elfa of Californian Mum in London – the first of many familiar faces throughout the rest of the afternoon. Whilst it was a bit of a disappointment that Ed Balls didn’t attend in person I loved the fact that comedienne Lucy Porter was back and what she said about multi-culturalism (particularly in light of the American election earlier in the week) was thought provoking and uplifting at the same time. Bryony Gordon’s five minutes on mental health was an eye opener too, delivered with as little inhibition as its possible to imagine!
The panel discussion on finding your voice was also particularly interesting to me and I found the discussion and the advice from the likes of journalist Miranda Sawyer and comedienne Sara Pascoe really thought provoking. I don’t particularly have a problem with trolls or negative commentary in general (commentary? What’s that?) but for anyone writing anything that might be considered political or controversial I think the advice was pretty sound (essentially don’t give them the air time, or, in Pascoe’s words “give less of a f**k”).
It was Davina McCall’s keynote speech that was the real highlight of the day though and proved what a star she is – turning up with no crib notes – essentially winging it – but delivering a very personal take on gratitude and how it is possible (and she really is living proof) to hit the worst lows in life and come out the other side not only loving yourself (albeit in her case through 18 months when she could barely look at herself in the mirror) but being a better person, having better relationships and loving life.
I was sad to have missed the session on writing comedy but happy to catch the short comic sketch by two women dressed as some sort of middle aged female version of helium balloons (leaving very little to the imagination it has to be said!) – the Scummy Mummies. Very funny ladies.
I was left pondering over-population, which is a topic my mind often wonders back to. Over-population of the blogosphere in this case. I listened to Louise Pentland (AKA uber-successful vlogger Sprinkle of Glitter) talk about how she got famous more by the luck of good timing (she started her vlog seven years ago and consequently had very little competition) than personal brilliance (although I’m sure that’s an ingredient that must play a big part too). The topic of ‘standing out from the crowd’ also came up in the ‘Know Your Voice’ session and that again made me ponder just how few opportunities there are to ‘make it big’ in the blogosphere or life in general when you’re a small fish in a very over-crowded pond.
All in all I found Blogfest to be a fantastic and different kind of day out, and a forum for ideas and opinions and shared experiences rather than being anywhere near the kind of business conference that Britmums aspires to.