The gift that keeps on giving – Blogfest 2014

Truly one of the highlights on my social calendar, this is my (and mumsnet’s) third blogfest.

Always held in early November, my ticket is a birthday gift. This year to myself.

The fun for me starts as soon as I shut my front door behind me at 7.30am on Saturday. I enjoy having head space, reclaiming a little of my ‘before-kids self”, where I get to buy the weekend papers with all the wonderful supplements and pick up a latte at the station before hopping on the train and tucking in to both.  I don’t have to countdown stops for excited and impatient kids, referee play or hand out snacks and water bottles.

I was most looking forward to hearing from the writers throughout the day.  They dominated the Mumsnet blogfest programme. The social media experts are a draw too. All sages on the stages. Successful now, they are happy to share accounts of their early days, starting out. You hear tales of perseverance and self-belief triumphing over doubt. Talks that are inspirational and aspirational.

There are even some panelists, ordinary bloggers, who’ve been plucked from blogsphere to share their experiences. Delegates in 2013, experts by 2014.

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The blogfest program took in breakfast pastries with registration, later a morning coffee break, a lengthy lunch, afternoon tea and finally the gin drinks reception. So there could have been lots of opportunities to network. And I did try. I was there by myself. It takes me out of my comfort zone to approach a stranger but I guessed we’d have common ground.  So I’d ask what they blogged about  or if they attended last year too. How many holidays do you reckon Mark Warner Holidays have sold was a good ice-breaker. The closest guess gets to take their family on one. I’d read on their site that they carried 50,000 this year and knowing they are in business for over 40 years allowing for a slow start before their reputation soared I went for 1.27m.  Years of guessing how many sweets are in the jar at school fairs was behind my methodical approach.

And though I wasn’t rebuked, and I did get to meet some interesting and friendly folk (Annika for one) there were some who seemed uneasy by my approach. How about mumsnet provide a grown up version of the friendship bench – a zone where lone bloggers can go if they are happy to make and receive introductions.

That said the sessions themselves were great.

There were faces and reputations I instantly knew – Tim Dowling, Suzanne Moore, Francesca Martinez, Nick Hornby, Lynn Barber amongst them. And others I didn’t but felt compelled to look up when i got home. I learnt that Sarah Vine is married to Michael Gove. An unlikely pairing. Or probably not.

Paul Armstrong expertly sped his way through an advanced social media session. And helpfully provided us with a link so we can view it again at our leisure.

I opted for making money from my blog over finding my funny. I had thought you can’t learn how to get laughs – you have it or you don’t but I’m starting to think that’s the way with money making.  The Youtube masterclass was very informative too.

We had only 20 mins of Think Bomb with three speaker Suzanne Moore, Camila Batmanghelidjh and Francesca Martinez imparting their wisdoms. I’d have loved more of this.

With tasty food for lunch I opted for the sweet chilli prawn salad it wasn’t difficult to clean my plate and fulfil the Unilever request (Project Sunlight) to tweet a picture to join the fight against food poverty and food waste.

The lovely people at Mark Warner holidays were dispensing mulled wine. The sweet scent wafting from their stand did the trick and took me back to ski slopes and wooden cabins.


Throughout the year I’ve loved doing their blogger challenges and eagerly await our fourth mission. Completion of all secures me a place in a draw for one of their family holidays #alliwantforchristmas.

Coca Cola weren’t as cryptic and we only had to look at the smart green cans of coke (why not ditch the red and go green – good message in there too!) at their stand to stand a chance to win a prize at their stand. How many calories in their new Coca Cola Life drink? Less calories and less sugar….89 kcals. It’s tasty too. I didn’t spot their winners tweet until today and I was one of those pulled. Lost out on a little Coca Cola hamper.

I had my internet age assigned at TalkTalk. A ten year old! My daughter will be pleased. Twins.

The Power of writing discussion was inspiring. A very generous panel sharing advice and lessons learnt. I’d loved to have heard more from Lynn Barber. She mentioned how she keeps a diary and recommended that we all do. I had my hand up to ask her if she reads over old entries or dips in to her musings for plot lines. We’ll never know! We were a curious audience with lots of questions so I didn’t get to pose mine.

Lucy Porter’s was very funny as our closing key note speaker.

I didn’t delay at the drinks reception. Cold calling wasn’t really the modus operandi here. More a drinks with mates and I’d come alone.

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The gift bags were great. I especially liked my navy shawl and the oil from the Body Shop. I had my reading material for the journey home.- December’s edition of Red magazine and was grateful for the cover from the skimlinks umbrella as I left Kings Place.

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The magic of the day ends when I get home so eager to stretch out my day away, I took the tube to London Bridge to view the poppies. Despite the rain and late hour a steady procession of visitors filed across the road to the Tower to take in the poppy spectacle.  I was glad I’d taken the detour.

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Now back home I reflected on the day. It’s a chance to measure my progress against where I was a year ago. And more importantly a chance to make goals for the year ahead as I wonder what I’ll achieve between now and blogfest15.



8 Replies to “The gift that keeps on giving – Blogfest 2014”

    1. Thanks Di! It was. You’d have enjoyed it. Having a lovely birthday today with happy thoughts of my impending trip to Marcia – booked it yesterday!x

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