I went to my first blogging conference at the weekend, which I may have mentioned once or twice. An airbnb was booked, MacDonalds money was packed, tights were checked for ladders, we were good to go.
I’ve read oodles of highlights posts this week and there are common themes (fish balls, anyone?!) so I won’t attempt to compete with all of that. I will tell you, however, that it was the longest time I’d ever been away from Moo, and by Christ my boobs knew about it. Guess who forgot to take a breast pump? I did, however, pack no less than 20 breastpads, but my boobs were so loyal that they refused to leak a single drop, instead filling and filling and FILLING like comedy balloons.
I also ate rather a lot of blackjack sweets, thanks to the freebie sweetie bags provided by Barclays. I currently have beef with them because they’ve done away with half of the benefits on my nice benefit heavy bank account, so in all honestly I’d rather they reinstated their free breakdown cover, but I’ll take a black tongue and elevated blood sugar levels if that’s everything on offer.
Anyway, my friends at Infruition sent me along to #Blogfest16 and they asked me to jot down some of the highlights from the sessions.
Most talks involved a panel of speakers, chaired by an industry expert. The discussions varied from finding your voice in your chosen area of expertise, using blogging as a force for good, comic writing, digital strategy, and the representation of women online. I found myself nodding along with so many points made, but these are the ones that I know will stick with me.
- Shappi Khorsandi, a superbly talented comedian and writer, spoke about the stereotypical view that mums on maternity leave do little more than gossip and eat cake in coffee shops. “Those women are running the world,” she said. “Do not underestimate them.” I am one of those mummies who often natters in coffee shops. She’s right – we’re valid, we’re important. Don’t put us in a corner and write us off as fluffy-brained, nappy-changing subordinates.
- Jess Phillips is an MP for the labour party and is renowned for her gutsy, outspoken approach to politics. She was wonderfully refreshing and spoke about the continued positive discrimination in parliament, which is a subject I’m really interested in at the moment. She claims that the “gruesome lurk of misogyny” is still rife in the cabinet, where female politicians are given a pat on the head rather than appointed for the game changer positions. Gritty stuff.
- Bryony Gordon, a feature writer and columnist, spoke candidly about her experience with a rare form of OCD, which sparks highly intrusive and distressing thoughts. She urged those suffering from mental health issues to speak up and seek help – she’s set up a fantastic regular group called Mental Health Mates, which she hopes will spring up with meetings all over the country.
- Lucy Porter, writer and comedian, gave a refreshing “thinkbomb” talk about multiculturalism and how it’s actively healing divisions in the UK. How is it that in 2016, we still experience racial discrimination and stereotyping? She encouraged us all to find our voice and shout from the rooftops about our positive experiences of multiculturalism where we live – it was a fabulously rousing discussion.
- One of my absolute favourite writers and performers, Meera Syal, talked about creating your audience. Not just as a writer – this transcends anything that you want to achieve in your professional or personal life. Have faith in your voice and be proactive about sharing it with those you want to reach. Do you dream of creating an organisation in your local area? Seek out those who would benefit or add value, and SPEAK to them.
- Samantha Baines is a hugely talented lady who works across stage, TV, radio and screen, and I wish she was my BFF because she was so instantly loveable and hilarious. She talked about her love of yoga and how this has helped her to (cue naff phrase) “embrace the journey” – stop continually striving towards the next goal once you achieve something you’ve been working towards. Take the time to enjoy your success, dwell on your lessons learnt, and sit within the place of happiness that you have done something well.
- Sara Pascoe, a writer, actress and comedian, also talked about the power of your voice in relation to your audience. She raised an interesting point that ultimately, we all strive to be loved – and if we deliver something which generates positive attention, we can cling to that like a limpet and try to retain the same audience even if our voice changes. It’s ok to deviate and experiment to work out exactly who you want to be – and it’s ok to ‘lose’ some of your original following if it means you’ve found another group who truly share your vision.
- Sara also spoke about the importance of discovering your safe place – the one thing that makes you happy. Be it knitting, yoga, slobbing in front of a film – the activity is irrelevant, but the sensation of inner peace and tranquillity is so crucial to our busy lives.
- Finally, we were all blown away by Davina McCall, who gave an incredibly moving and uplifting keynote speech. She talked about self-esteem and acceptance, and her lengthy battle with learning to love herself. She referenced a quote which has always chimed loudly in my head: insanity is repeating the same exercise and expecting different results. How many elements of our lives can we apply this to? She urged us to learn the art of re-framing. Take the negative, and re-frame it into a positive.
The talks gave way to an awards ceremony were one of my blogging besties Fran from Whinge Whinge Wine scooped the award for Best Comic Writer, hurrah! Then it was time for drinks and lots of chatting, and more drinks. And filling boobs and snaffled crispy nuts and more drinks.
Eventually, a mildly hilarious search for our lodgings ensued, involving collecting the keys from an offy and realising our “well-appointed” flat had no TV. It’s 2016 people!! I can confirm that Suzanne from and another ten things makes a shit-hot bacon sarnie and Laura from The Unsung Mum doesn’t snore.
Thanks Mumsnet for hosting and thanks again to Infruition. Until 2017!
-SJW November 2016