I can remember feeling rather anxious as I travelled down to BritMums Live last year. I was meeting up with some lovely blogging buddies, but I was also walking into a venue with 700 bloggers who were obviously going to be far more confident than me, more deserving of being there, than little old me! I soon realised that actually, most people were feeling as anxious as me and actually we all deserved to be there. I had no hesitation in booking my ticket for this years event as soon as they went on sale. I was thrilled when Orchard Toys offered to sponsor me this year, a brand I love and it meant a lot to have their support.
I headed down to London on the train with my good blogging friend Iona from Redpeffer. We chatted non stop and headed to the Premier Inn to meet up with the rest of the gang. Ladies who have supported me, in most cases, right from the beginning, friends who I value greatly, proof that geography is fairly irrelevant in this digital age.
Fiona, Jen, Jenny, Eileen, Anna, Kel, Colette and Pippa and of course Little E – the star of the show. It’s been wonderful to know you have a group of friends to start and end each day with. We might want to attend different sessions, it never matters. We all do our own thing and then meet up later, it works, it’s easy, stress free and I’m very glad it works so well for all of us.
I’d made a list of the sessions I’d wanted to attend, which I’d left in my diary, at home. Good start. We found a table and waited for BritMums to be officially opened by Susanna and Jennifer.
Now for the funniest ice breaker ever. We would be attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the Most Mummies Wrapped in One Room in 3 minutes. You really did have to be there. Have you ever wrapped someone you’ve never met from foot to tummy in toilet paper? No? Well I have, and Jodie from Life with Pink Princesses was a great sport.
Did we beat the record? Well, just! 51 Mummies wrapped from head to foot in 3 minutes, quite a few were disqualified for incomplete coverage, but not our Jodie, bless her, she had to stand like that for quite a while, waiting for the official adjudicator. So I came home as part of the BritMums Guinness World Record holding team!
As the sessions began I realised that I needed to cut myself for a few of the slots. I would have liked to visit the team from the Costa Brava Tourist Office, but I was also really interested to hear Amanda Jennings (The Judas Scar) and Cesca Major (The Silent Hours) speak, along with Abbie Ross. It was a thoroughly enjoyable session, and really interesting to hear how the three authors worked. I need to order Hippy Dinners now, so I can complete the ha-trick of reads!
Then it was time to listen to Katy Hill, Eleanor Mills (Sunday Times) and Christina Amarchey (Action Aid) in the Shouting Back: Women’s Voices, Loud, Proud and online. A thought-provoking session which showed we really should be brave and stick our heads up above the parapet for the things we feel passionate about.
The BIB’s awaited and time to relax a little with friends, cheer on some great bloggers and then head out for dinner. Iona had done some research and discovered the Yard. We booked ahead and it was great to have a table for 9 ready and waiting. It had been a long day and we all wanted food and our beds!
Day 2 started with Carol Smillie talking about her new project Diary Doll – a brilliant idea and something I really do need in my life. My pelvic floor really isn’t what it used to be! I’d got to meet Nadine Hill at the coffee stand, so it was lovely to hear her and others talk in the Bloggers and Brand session. Always good to make sure to hear both sides of the story. Claire Candler was particularly interesting, coming from the PR/brand side of things.
The craft area had been calling me, I knew if I started sewing I’d be in there all day, so I decided to try something completely new – crochet. I’ve seen so many others take it up and thought it would be good to have a chill out session and learn a new skill. I think I threw the instructor when I told her there was no way I could hold the crochet hook in my right hand. I am as left-handed as it is possible to be! I found me own way in the end, but watched Fiona in awe as she started to master Granny Squares. I will be purchasing a hook, wool and YouTubing ‘crochet for lefties’ some time soon.
Lunch was a good time to catch up with people and have a chat with some of my Oxfordshire Bloggers group. Hoping to catch up with more of the group more locally at some point soon. It was great to meet some PR contacts in person and say hello to those I already knew. For me it was nice that the brands were less baby orientated this year.
I’d bumped into Judith Lewis from deCabbit Consultancy over a coffee earlier in the day and her Advanced SEO session was probably my favourite of all. Really informative, and lots to take away and put into practice. I would have loved to listen to the Social Media Manager session but decided on Photo Styling instead. I’m not the tidiest of people, and I know my photos can be cluttered too. It was an interesting session learning about colour triangles and numbers, angles and the like. I’m not sure I’ll ever be a true ‘stylist’, I certainly don’t have a space I could set up in advance. But I like learning new things, and will try to put some elements into practice!
The sessions were over, where had the time gone? Some of us chatted to the lovely lady from The Velvet Daisy who was working for Lindemans Wine. We explained Jenny’s link to sunflowers and she very generously made us up a lovely sunflower bouquet to surprise Jenny with after her Keynote speech.
I think for all of our group, the say had been building up, we were all conscious that Jenny (The Brick Castle) was recovering from a major operation, and was obviously anxious about taking to the stage to read Dear Elspeth.
I have to be honest, I hardly took in what Caprice was saying, I’m still unclear of her point. Trust me, even women in their 40’s can have kids.
There were some wonderfully touching Keynotes for bloggers, some posts I’d heard before, others not. But I was conscious that each one read, was another one nearer to Jenny’s turn. Sitting next to her, I already knew what a strong woman she is, but I am so immensely proud of her for standing up, with Pippa by her side, reading her post, one that is so beautifully written. It brings me to tears every time I read it, but to hear Jenny speak it, the tears just rolled, for me and everyone else in that room. Except Jenny and Pippa, who were just awesome. The sunflowers made her cry, we’re sorry for that, but we wanted Jenny to know that Elspeth was with her, as were so many of Jenny’s friends.
Another heartbreaking moment came from 23 Week Socks and her Twinkle Twinkle post. Then it was all over for another year – see you in 2016!
What I’ve taken from BritMums Live 2015? Well, it’s ok to take a break and not go hell for leather to every session. It’s good to catch up with friends and meet people you’ve admired and not had the chance to meet before. I don’t feel ‘new’ any more, but not sure I’m ‘advanced’ either. I fit, I belong, I understand, I can share experiences and lessons learned. I’m still rubbish at walking up to people and introducing myself, I’ll try harder next year. I am actually really quite shy, am totally useless with names and faces, throw in a blog name and name tags I can’t read – uum! If I missed you, I’m sorry, but I did say, grab me I’m blind!
When anyone asks me what blogging has given me; my instant reply is always friendships. It’s given me and my family wonderful experiences, and yes I have a voice, but I have gained some amazing friendships through blogging. I’ve shared laughter and tears with some lovely people, and BritMums Live 2015 cemented that.
If you’ve not been to BritMums Live before and are thinking of going next year – do! There are lots of groups on Facebook and Twitter so you can meet up with other bloggers if you’re travelling alone. It was my second year and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience again.