Monday, 10 November 2014

Mumsnet Blogfest 2014 A Bit of a Veteran

One Pancras Square with tube entrance exit
Arriving at Kings Cross halted me in my tracks as it did last year when I travelled to Mumsnet Blogfest. Except fast forward a year and Kings Cross is even more transformed. Last year I was gasping at the redevelopment and admiring the gloss/regeneration. I have lived in North London all of my life so I know the Kings Cross of old only too well. Unlike last year, I didn't have the spiritual connection to channel a political poem on the way home, but I was conscious of the many cranes that littered the skyline, further proof as to why our borders have been opened, for a workforce that is very cheap busy. Working in HR for as long as I did, it is as clear to me as the nose on my face, why free movement of labour was allowed and why it is therefore always people in the building trade that you hear despairing about it on the radio. Capitalism chasing the cheapest resources for the greatest profit, using the recession as an excuse.

My gaze lingered at the architecture as I took the photo above, and it seems that's what's intended. It is an important eye catching building: One Pancras Square and it would seem there are many plans for that district, hence its having its own escalator to a London Underground entrance (did you see the discreet sign above?). The website I have just linked to boasts: "footfall here is exceptional - thousands of workers, shoppers, commuters, students and residents will pass by each day" - now either that is their dream for the future OR they are talking about the busier side of Kings Cross OR that applies to week days (Blogfest was this Saturday 8th November) as I found that side of Kings Cross to be like a ghost town, except for the fact that the posters that plastered the hoardings were very pleasing on the eye. I could have taken photos of them all but didn't, as I wanted to punctually arrive by 9 a.m. So last year I walked down York Way itself (the address of the venue: 90 York Way Kings Place) whereas this year this path way below (which the above building sits on) was my route to York Way. Presumably, last year it was still all under construction. It does all look brand new, and the website I linked to above leads me to believe Pancras Square will be fully populated by 2016.
The path above though, that provided my shortcut to the Mumsnet Blogfest venue on York Way, if this is anything to go by, might actually be a ROAD in the future:Kings Cross Talking Heads.

The first thing you do on arrival at Blogfest (apart from registering and receiving your name badge lanyard with accompanying complimentary copy of RED magazine) is to go down a long escalator (so long in fact that it passes a floor!). I think for those arriving later, descending that escalator must be very daunting as you get all that time to look at the vast crowd of 400 intelligent women you're about to face. I was so early that the tea/coffee pastries were not yet set up downstairs, so after a visit to the cloakroom (at this point queue-less), I popped upstairs to get one some, and then balanced my coffee cup, saucer and pastries on the way back down, where I bumped into the organiser I spoke to on arrival (I'd asked him if I was allowed to video). Except THAT is what my memory tells me, but the Mumsnet photos tell me that I still had my jacket draped over my arm, when the place was already crowded, so unless that photo just shows a quarter of the crowds that were to come, I can't explain it, but there was definitely no queue when I handed my jacket in. I think I'll have to have a dictaphone for future conferences so that I can live blog (verbally) as the day unfolds, as afterwards it's all a blur. PLUS trying to summon up the energy to then blog about it - pah! In an ideal world I'd love to have blogged Saturday night when I was still on a high but I had to go and meet Aaron at his Aunt's where he'd spent the day playing joyfully playing with his cousins. I am only blogging now, despite tired, out of some sort of misplaced obligation that I ought to, and surrounding me right now is things in the home that I should be doing and Aaron's school bell is going to ring real soon! Edit: he's now home, watching a DVD and I am STILL trying to finish this off.... zzz

Once breakfast was set up downstairs I had seconds (breakfast three if you include the one at home) with friends. Early starts always do make me very hungry. The first friendly faces I set eyes on were Pink Oddy and Monika Mum on the Brink - it was lovely to have a good old chat with them both, particularly Joy with regards to You Tube and Monika with regards to travel blogging - they're both incredibly knowledgeable:
I did get a quick squeeze with the lovely Michelle from Purple Pumpkin Blog too.

I then wandered off and got chatting to other lovely bloggers like Californian Mum in London and Adele Circus Queen.

I can't even remember who I walked into the opening session with. I think I may have been alone by this point. If I was, then that was the time in the main hall where as I took a seat a blogger I have known for years told her neighbour who I was, but didn't actually say Hello *sigh*. I can't remember if it was THIS session or another. It was such an amazing day it's all mixed up in my head.

I sat up attentively and listened to Justine and Kate's opening welcomes, but the session first scheduled:
Always On: How does technology shape the way we think?
bored me to tears. This was for three reasons. (1) the heading was wrong. It was about the world wide web, and social media, NOT technology, as Lou (who teaches Technology) politely pointed out to the organisers later over drinks. (2) they kept talking about the effect it was having on our children, and too often stated the wrong solutions for this. The only interesting point that I picked up on was that children wouldn't have a "before the internet" era like we did, so they are growing up ONLINE (and even more so as the child of a blogger). (3) There was a live Twitter stream on screen behind the panel, so I found myself distractedly reading that, finding brilliant tweets that I would then locate on my phone to retweet them. The reason I am stating the latter as a reason the session was boring is that when there were great sessions I was so enthralled by what I was hearing I had no time for tweeting (people watching my Twitter feed at home probably thought I'd fallen asleep or left LOL - no, when I am interested all of my faculties are focused on stage not on social media).

That tweet reminds me, I did hug the lovely Jax at some point in the day.

Another good one:

Talk about over stimulating my senses. My eyes were on the screen, my fingers were on the phone and my ears were (intermittently) on the panel. No wonder I left the event tired. Oh and I was intrigued to hear that Sarah Vine (a panel member) is Michael Gove's wife (yes you are correct in discerning that I did not previously know that). She was brave facing a crowd of Mums given how well liked he is!
After that opening session I then needed a good one to cancel it out but all too soon it was time for more coffee, which thankfully was followed by:How to Make Money From Your Blog. After the coffee I noticed everyone gone and therefore wanted to get into the main hall for this session quickly as it was relevant and the first one where we got a choice. Given that most people had gone in already and we could see that we no longer had time to go downstairs, a gang of us, with me as their leader headed for the balcony seating area. By this time I had lots of bags and spent ages getting myself comfortable. JUST as I got my camera out and was about to record a lady came along and asked us to move downstairs - they didn't have the manpower to man the balcony. Much huffing and puffing ensued, as we gathered up our bits. In the scuffle my camera and phone dropped on the floor but thankfully Laura helped a very flustered me get myself together. I don't know how we got all the way downstairs AND seated for me to video as much as I did, but maybe time stood still as we sulkily reluctantly moved. Luckily they DID open the balcony later, and that was the relaxed environment from where Emma and I watched the writer session - brave me going on the balcony once again, but at least I have now fully exorcised the demons from last year, as all of us who spoke against the feminist panel last year were sat up there (oh and no! we hadn't been drinking, as has become the Chinese Whisper). But it's history now, and there were ZERO dramas this year. In fact it caused a couple of people to say that the event felt flat. I think it is only veterans who've been before who felt that, as anyone new loved how high brow it was, and the shock bit of typical Mumsnet style swearing that was occasionally flung around, but I'm used to all that from previous  years. Justine did say something in the morning that led me to believe there would be a twist in the tale, something unexpected or a sting in the tail, so I spent all day on red alert, but the day passed without any stormy waters. None of the debates were heated, and there was audience participation at the end of every session.

The How to Make Money session was brilliant. Don't worry I recorded most of it, and am as we speak uploading it to You Tube.
In this session, Tara Cain of StickyFingers will share how she brokered a deal with Coca Cola, the world’s biggest brand – with additional tips from Zone, the agency that put them together. Plus, our sponsor Skimlinks will be giving you the inside track on affiliate marketing and how it works for bloggers.

The session further confirmed to me that the rise of the Professional Blogger (as per the States) is a shift here to stay. I will be joining Skimlinks as soon as I get a moment. The session didn't cover ALL of the many and varied ways that you can make money from your blog, but I think often it is better to focus on a couple of things and explain them really well, and that is what the session delivered.

My ever so BRIEF view from upstairs:
Thankfully after being uprooted, when we did get comfortable downstairs we were able to remain there for the next INCREDIBLE back to back session:

Think Bombs: Francesca Martinez, Camila Batmangelidh and Suzanne Moore

This session was humbling to say the least. Camila kicked off, and was so deeply spiritually profound, but either people were hushed into a respectful silence or it all went over their heads as sadly she did not get the biggest applause which left me temporarily worried about humanity (I know that sounds deep and dramatic but it was honestly how I briefly felt). 
The next two ladies were SO funny that any sadness I had was shortlived. Thankfully all three of their think bombs are already live online thanks to Mumsnet Blogfest;

Suzanne Moore of the wild hair was worried about following Camila but she needn't have done:

You will be humbled if you watch this video of Francesca Martinez

Right hot footing it on the heels of such wisdom and wit was a welcome lunch. As I queued for food I got talking to a lady who said she had been doing seva (selfless service, which I have practiced as part of Kundalini Yoga since 2001). Given that this was the word that had popped into my head during Camila's inspiring talk it was cathartic to talk to someone in the flesh about it, as I often worry that I can't find like minded people in the parent blogging community (note I said find, I am not saying that they don't exist). Which is why I sometimes feel lonely in a crowd, a feeling that descended about a year ago when I started to feel like a fish out of water (i.e. not a craft blogger, not a food blogger, not a travel blogger, not a twee blogger, not a beauty blogger, who am I?). An alien feeling for me, when I am normally so sociable and such a chatterbox. Sometimes I wish it was like Cybermummy 2011 when everyone spoke to everyone with SUCH enthusiasm - it was almost childlike and fun! Before we all got pigeon-holed, before dare I say it, people got egos.  I know this feeling of not belonging is deliberate as it is to spur me on to blog about what I am meant to blog about, but thus far I have resisted the calling. And as we all know, what you resist persists, so the call only gets louder, as does my discomfort. Maybe I am just a square peg in a round hole.

For that reason amongst others, at these type of events, I have now completely lost the ability to small-talk. I noticed it for the first time at BritMums Live 2014 (despite having attended since 2011) and this time at Blogfest despite this being my 3rd Blogfest in a row (which equates to all of them)! So the drinks were a bit odd as I couldn't do the whole work the room, socialise, network thing, despite recognising LOTS of faces. When you say "your son looks so much like you to a blogger", and it turns out to be their daughter (and normally you WOULD know that), it's time to leave, or have another drink. I chose the latter. Thank God for Emma - we propped up the wall drinking the free alcohol bubbles (although you'd never know it from her post) on tap and ate our body weight in canapés as we were right by the door where they came from the kitchen. Emma didn't wolf quite so many as me, as she was heading for a posh nosh up with Pink Oddy. After they dashed off I got talking to the lovely Lou and Swazi. I already knew Lou from Morrisons (Brit Mums Christmas event last year), and Swazi I gelled with immediately, and having read her most recent blog post I now know why. They both have little rascals boys, so we had lots to talk about, and despite talking a dozen to the minute we DID talk about our boys and not just blogging.

Anyway, I digress, where was I?
Beef and Noddles at Mumsnet Blogfest 2014 and Coca Cola Life
Yes, you see right, I am a growing girl (width ways at least) so there are beef AND noodles on my plate (having a friendly waiter helped there), washed down with a lovely glass of Coca Cola Life. It took them both to fill me up, and delicious it all was too. The beef WAS yummy. Surprising that you can put away so many pastries and still eat a lunch like that, but perhaps that's why I am a size 18 LOL!

I started off by sitting with Adele, Laura Side Street and Fritha of TigerLilly Quinn, but I couldn't focus on the conversation, as a I felt scattered so I went off for a wander (which turned out meant to be as I bumped into Ella followed by Emma). But before I did wander, I took the obligatory #ClearAPlate photo as that is SUCH a great campaign by Unilever:
As I walked around I bumped into Jen, Susanna and Ginger Warrior (Ceri) which was lovely. I giggled with @Gingwarr about the fact that I wasn't videoing the day as I thought she would (she did a fab one of BlogHer in California). But in actual fact I needed to conserve my camera for the videoing that I did do, as with all the sessions I recorded I did have to plug my camera into the wall several times.

During lunch, and on a wander, I was delighted to bump into and cuddle wonderful Hayley from Downs Side Up who I adore. Shortly after that I had a lovely chat with Emma from Crazy with Twins (although you'd never know it from her post) and it was great to catchup. So after a deep and meaningful with Ella we wandered in late to the 
Panel: Can blogging change the world? 
session. There was lots said here that was so relevant to how to make a cause or movement successful but I found the chairperson to be very curt - annoyingly so. Whenever the lady to her left (next to Chris) said something really profound, she didn't at all acknowledge it and would just swiftly move to another panel member. Before I change the world I'd like to change her a little ;-)
The lady I speak of who floored me with the wisdom of her words was this lady (photo credit: from Mumsnet Facebook):
Do you know which of the panel she was? Very wise lady! Incredibly articulate!
Going off on a tangent for a moment: 
Oh and by the way, I might write "like a girl" and blog "like a Mum" but this. this. this. is why that is okay (I wish the panel members from last year with their Self Abnegating Mother b*llsh&t could watch the below):

Be powerful in your divine feminine NOT in spite of it. BE a woman, NOT a woman trying to be equal with a man. After all, being, is so much more attractive and self-fulfilling than trying. Leading by example, by being radiant (like Camila) is so much more awe inspiring than fighting a good fight and speaking of causes to be won. Taken out of context, that doesn't at all make sense, but this post is long enough already!

I didn't put much thought into how I looked as it was all about getting there:
Speaking of getting there, I need to thank Lucy from Lucy's Madhouse. I entered a competition over at Anya Older Single Mum to win a ticket to Blogfest. I mistakenly thought that two of us would win, but in reality the winner would win a pair of tickets. I got Lucy's second ticket, thank God, for which I am incredibly grateful. Thanks ladies and thanks Coca Cola for providing the prize!

I digressed again didn't I? The next session I went to was:
How to be a YouTube star
It was utterly brilliant and the Google/You Tube lady who delivered it, is a born performer. I don't know if she has a channel herself but she knows how to work a stage and capture an audience. The session was very technical, so I don't think following the tips would make you a "star" as the name of the session suggests but it would at the very least increase your you tube traffic and potential. The star quality after all has to come from the person being videoed. I'll make the photos I took of the slides into a slideshow, as I did not have enough memory/battery to film the session. How funny would that be though? Putting a session about You Tube ON You Tube. Just cropped my photo, and realised, the session wasn't about stardom it was about fandom! Am I alone in thinking that sounds a little rude? Hmmm maybe it's just me
The slide above is a summary of the whole session truth be told. What also came across LOUD AND CLEAR was that for 1.5 years "watch time" is rather a big deal in You Tube land. They'll rank our video higher (that one with greater views) if our video means that the person's session time on You Tube (on our channel for example) is longer, so we are to encourage people to WATCH, not just click through, and we ought to have things like an end card slide to show them what to watch next.
This is a pic of all of the You Tube slides (or at least the ones I managed to photograph) not sure if it is readable:

I have now uploaded my recording of the You Tube: FANDOM session. I warn you I was limited for battery and memory space so it is not all of it:

But hopefully you will get the gist. My pleasure.

If you were following the #Blogfest hashtag at home then you will KNOW that the next session blew everyone away

The Power of Writing 
I could appreciate the gravitas of the many quotable things the panel were saying and I adore Nick Hornby (I have a couple of his books) but as I have no aspirations to be a writer I wasn't on the edge of my seat and neither was my neighbour Emma. Nick Hornby was by far the most humble person on the panel - the most memorable things he said were (1) you can knock out a novel in a year. But then to qualify this with realism he said he hadn't written one in FIVE. (2)He also talked about conversations he'd had with his son, on whether or not he'd had a good day. A tally of these by said son, aggregated to his having 13 good days in 8 months. So, dear reader, who may be a wannabe writer reading this (although why you'd read MY blog if you wanna be a writer I'll never know) don't worry if you have more bad days than good you could still be a future best selling author. I hope that bit is in my video as my camera times out when it's reached 30 minutes but here is what I did capture. Enjoy!

There was a clear gender division on the stage as the ladies said that if they go home after the school run they get embroiled in emptying the dishwasher and filling the washing machine so  they advised going straight to a cafe to write and drink coffee so that this housework drudgery and servitude (those two words mine not theirs) can be avoided. I don't think I heard Nick express any similar concerns. There was a panel member who is a blogger: How to Be a Domestic Disgrace. I need to check out her blog. 

After the writing session we got to stay in the hall for Lucy Porter, who although I had never heard of before, was utterly fabulous and had us laughing LOTS. She even mentioned the famous Mumsnet Penis Beaker episode that went viral, and captivated all of us with her charm and wit. It was the perfect high for the event to end on, except we now had to go upstairs for free food and drink, followed by a goody bag and home.

Like last year the gin was provided by Fever Tree

Oh and by the way, you can read all the other posts about MumsNet Blogfest here: Mumsnet Blogfest roundup of the day.


  1. You are always so thorough when writing up about blogger events - I'm in awe how you remember it all! I don't think I can even write about BlogFest because I just can't remember >_< I wondered why they shifted everyone from the upstairs balcony though - explains why! Thanks for the hug lovely lady, it was appreciated xx

    1. The hug was a pleasure. You were one of the people I was very much looking forward to seeing. Wish I'd spent more time with you x

  2. Great post, you captured the day so well. It's an honour to be lurking in the back of one of your pics.

    1. Thanks, can't wait to hear your take on it. xx

  3. Fab roundup - it really was a quick hello in passing wasn't it? Surprised I didn't bump into you again, although I did spend a bit of time hiding round corners from the noise! Amazed at how you remember everyone you saw, I should have taken pics like someone did of me early in the morning with my badge held up near my face.

    1. I am terrified of leaving someone out when I name drop people so I did a memo list on my phone, on the way home, of everyone I met. But as I type this, I realise I had a chat with Ginger Warrior and have failed to mention her, same with Susanna and Jen. Ooops see, now matter how hard you try you still get it wrong, which is why some bloggers say "too many to mention, you know who you are" LOL. Your post is SUPERB lovely lady a real good read.
      Liska x

  4. Great post! You're great it is a mammoth one...a perfect documentation of the day :)

    1. I could have even wrote more (for example I still have not unpacked so haven't found my notebook yet - ideally I would have included my notes and then it'd have been even longer yikes) xx

  5. I was annoyed with myself for not having the guts to go to Blogfest this year, but thanks to your fab and thorough write up, I got a good mearure of the day! I'm definitely going to BritMums so will be hyperventilating in some corner somewhere :)

    1. Don't worry about BritMums Live it is far far easier to be anonymous there and get lost in a crowd. Equally it is easier there to get carried away with fun and friendships. Plus they have the Butterflies (for people with butterflies) both in the run up to, and at the event. With Britmums starting in the afternoon there is plenty time to have lunch with like-minded people beforehand so you don't have to walk in alone etc... Also instead of sitting theatre style in the main hall you sit at round tables which lend themselves to talk and friendships are made. xx

  6. I keep coming back to this post but still haven't finished it! Noone writes up these events like you do :)

    1. Ah you made me laugh out loud just now when I read that, but I never dug my notebook out so this is just feelings. Had I added my "academic" notes it'd have been EVEN longer xxx

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