Last Saturday I went to Mumsnet Blogfest. It was the first time I’d ever been to a blogging conference but it won’t be my last – I had a great time and returned inspired. The whole day felt like a huge “Yes!” and “Hooray!” for creativity and creative people. Here are my highlights:
The five things I loved most about Blogfest:
1. Meeting other bloggers
I sometimes think blogging must seem, well, plain weird to non-bloggers: what sort of person would put their life online and share their innermost thoughts with whoever happens to read them? Bloggers understand all this though – the drive, the point, the benefits and the downsides… and it’s so good to get together and just talk. I met a couple of my online friends at the conference and made a few new friends too. I’m no social butterfly, so can’t pretend to have flitted around chatting to everyone but the conversations I had were good ones and the connections I made, real.
2. The Inspirational “Think Bombs”
I saw these in the programme and was intrigued – Sandi Toksvig OBE, Val McDermid and David Baddiel (I know – a non-too-shabby line-up!) would each be giving us a: “five minute idea-blast to inspire and entertain”. They did that and then some! Sandi Toksvig talked passionately about her political party – the Women’s Equality Party – in a way that really resonated with me (I’m writing another post in which I’ll say more), Val McDermid made my brain fizz with excitement when she talked about the power and importance of creativity and David Baddiel was hilarious while making some very important points about the nature of social media and our sense of self. Just, WOW. Five minutes each was nowhere near enough.
3. Fantastic panel sessions
The day started with a talk about ‘Motherhood and Creativity’ with a panel that included Meera Syal CBE and Margaret Atwood. Unfortunately the live link that was supposed to transmit the words (and no doubt great wisdom) of the latter was barely functional which was far from ideal but even seeing Margaret Atwood on a big screen beaming down at us was a thrill. Later in the day, Tim Dowling and Esther Freud were amongst a fantastic panel talking about Brevity in Writing (keep articles and posts to 800 words tops folks!) and the final session on ‘Public Stories of our Private Lives’ chaired by Fi Glover pretty much blew me away. The humour and honesty of the panel was totally inspiring!
I hadn’t expected it to be a particularly humorous day although in hindsight, with that much talent and creativity in the building, I probably should have seen it coming a mile off. David Baddiel, Meera Syal, and Bridget Christie all made me laugh but it was the fabulous Shappi Khorsandi who stole the show – brilliantly witty and touchingly personal, she had the audience eating out of her hands. I’ll definitely be seeking out her stand-up show.
5. The opportunity to hear from, and interact with, inspirational people
I’ve already thrown a few big names into this post – I really was impressed with the calibre of the talent that Mumsnet had gathered for us. A great part of it was that plenty of them stayed to chat too. I had a lovely talk with Esther Freud (author of Hideous Kinky) and was completely unable to cover up my excitement at meeting Guardian writer Tim Dowling. He has three sons like I do, has been making me laugh on a weekly basis for years and, it turns out, is rather more handsome than I was anticipating. “Oooh, I love your column!” I squeaked “But you don’t always come across very well in it”, managing to accidentally insult him while also throwing in a bit of carry-on-style innuendo. I should probably work on my technique.
Those were the highlights for me. I’m well aware there was plenty more I could have got from the day – there were blog clinic sessions that I was too busy talking to sign up for, ’round-table’ discussions and ‘how to’ seminars that sounded great but clashed with other things I was seeing, and lots of sponsor activities that looked fun. You can’t do it all though and I guess there’s always next year!