After braving my first blogging conference, BlogOn, earlier this year, I decided to take the plunge and attend this years Blogfest. Had it not been for making the final three in the MumsNet Awards “Best Campaigner” category, I may well have lost my nerve and pulled out at the last minute. But knowing that I owed it to those who voted for me, and most of all to Joseph, I pushed my anxiety aside and after a sleepless night and a 4am get up, I made it there, albeit bleary eyed and looking rough as hell.
Given I have only attended one blogging conference previously, I suppose I expected Blogfest to be the same, only it really wasn’t. It was actually very different, and I’m still trying to work out if that was a good different, or a bad different. Either way, after a couple of much needed sleeps, and having regained the ability to string more than two words together, here are thirteen things I learned at Blogfest.
1. Unless you live in London or close by, be prepared for the longest day in the history of man.
By the time I got home on Saturday night I had been out of the house for 21 hours and awake for over 40. I still feel hungover four days later which is even more annoying given I only drank one tiny glass of Prosecco. Which leads me on to point two….
2. Take a taxi to the train station.
At the end of the day, once the awards have been announced, there’s a drinks reception with FREE drinks. Re-coup your ticket price in cocktail consumption, it’s common sense!
3. The lunch is miniscule, take a packed lunch!
Even those without special dietary needs were complaining of being hungry after being offered just half a burrito, noodles or fish balls (what the hell are fish balls?). Having asked if there was a gluten free lunch available I was told to have a burrito (duh!) and when I explained that it contained gluten I was offered two measly lettuce leaves with a scrap of parmesan. And that was literally all I was given to eat in the ten hours I was there! I was absolutely starving, despite the three bags of crisps I snaffled at the station, and I’m pretty sure I’ll still be harping on about those lettuce leaves this time next year!
4. Blogfest is all about the two subjects I know the least about – politics and feminism.
This really should have come as no surprise to me, it was only last week I thought that The Suffragettes were a new band, so for the most part, I sat there nodding along, feeling as though I had wandered into the audience of a strange political/feminist BBC chat show that ordinarily I would have flicked straight over, most likely onto TOWIE. But what I do know about feminism is that there is a huge difference between being a strong, empowered, and empowering, female and simply being a man-hater. And yet that line was crossed countless times throughout the day. And actually, even more so with several men in attendance, at times I felt less empowered and more embarrassed.
5. Jess Phillips kicks ass!
As far as MP’s go, she couldn’t be any more different from the straight-laced, dull, stereotypical MPs we are used to hearing from. Not only is she hilariously funny, sharp, witty and incredibly interesting, but she was one of the only women speaking that day who really made me sit up and take notice.
6. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.
Listening to the likes of Sarah Turner (The Unmumsy Mum) and the very successful Steph Douglas, who created her business, Don’t Buy her Flowers, off the back of her blog, I felt inspired to keep working hard, to continue writing my book, building our business, and having realistic expectations of how difficult it is to be a success, but striving for it regardless.
7. I LOVE Davina McCall.
I’ll be honest with you, I really wasn’t a fan before this weekend. I always thought she was a little bit too shouty and over the top, and more often than not when she comes on the telly I flick over to another channel to give my ear drums a rest. But seeing her stood there on the stage, completely stripped back of her TV persona, I realised that she was just like the rest of us; vulnerable and insecure at times, genuine and honest, and most of all a real warrior with all she has had to face. And despite the fact that she really didn’t have the best start in life, she has the most amazing “attitude of gratitude” the belief that although bad things do happen and life is never easy, there is always something to be grateful for, and that is such an admirable quality to have. Now when I see her on the TV I will think about her stood there, tears in her eyes, telling us about the death of her sister, the years when she couldn’t even face her own reflection in the mirror, the battles she faced with addiction and depression, and remind myself that in the face of adversity, we are all capable of such strength.
8. Use your voice.
Amongst the feminist propaganda, this running theme really did strike a chord with me. I worry far too much about what other people think of me, writing blog posts that sit for months in my drafts folder, never daring to publish them. But using your voice, having your say, simply having an opinion, is so very important. And from now on that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Watch out world!
9. Woman are amazing.
I knew that already but, having met some of my blogging tribe this weekend, it simply reaffirmed this belief. Funnily enough it wasn’t the speakers or the break-out sessions which inspired me this weekend, it was my fellow bloggers and the ladies who I love and admire. I have been so lucky to make some amazing friends through my blog, who have my back in the same way that I have theirs, and that sense of solidarity and support is so refreshing amongst the back-stabbing and bitching that I have also witnessed. There are far too many lovely ladies to mention, and I’m sure I will forget at least one, but a shout out to the ladies at Sticky mud and belly laughs, Beauty, baby and me,Ethan and Evelyn, Mum muddling through, Morgan’s Milieu, Life at 139a, Candyfloss and dreams, Motherhood the real deal, The Little Book of Sick, My Petit Canard and Mess and Merlot, who were all so lovely and friendly, got me to and from the train station, stopped me from falling asleep, made me laugh and fed me nuts. Thank you.
10. Pre-arrange a time and meeting point.
I was so looking forward to meeting some of my favourite bloggers and yet sadly I didn’t get the chance to meet them all. In quite a sizeable building it really is possible to be sat just metres away from someone, whose face you are so familiar with, and completely miss them. Next time, Life is Knutts, next time….
11. Although I didn’t win the Best Campaigner award, I am still the best campaigner for my cause.
I think that’s a really important point to remember, that, regardless of whether I made it to the final or not, simply having a cause and raising awareness of it where possible, is something to be proud of……and I am.
12, I am far braver than I thought.
The idea of going to London and back, by myself, and spending the day with a group of people I had never even met before, would, at one time, have sent me into a full on melt down. But I did it, with only three near death experiences, and no need at all for my Rescue Remedy spray, and I’m really quite proud of myself and how far I have come.
13. The “legendary goodie bag” really isn’t all that legendary.
After receiving the most amazing goodie bag at BlogOn, I was super excited to receive another this weekend. Given the hype surrounding it, I was expecting something pretty special (and truth be told, something edible that I could wolf down there and then!), but other than a few Dove toiletries, a couple of packets of Soreen fruit loaf (which actually DOES contain gluten!), and a book or two, there was nothing to write home about. In fact the only thing that excited me was the Spray-poop-flush sample which says rather a lot about the other items in there!
In all honesty I think that as well as being my first Blogfest, it will also be my last. Although I took a lot away from the event in terms of writing and building a business, in terms of blogging I learned very little at all. I think it’s an awfully long away and a huge amount of money for two pieces of lettuce (did I mention the lettuce??) and a whole lot of men-bashing. And as much as I did come away inspired and empowered, that came purely from my blogging friends, and we could have had a damn good meal and a night on the town for exactly the same price.