Blogfest 2013 – Use the Force

It’s Tuesday evening, a whole 3 days have passed since I arrived home from Blogfest tired, dehydrated and somewhat dazed.  It was my first full blogging conference, my credit card had leapt out my purse and the numbers had *ahem* magically gone into the ticketing screen when I saw that Lord Robert Winston and Prof Tanya Byron were speaking.

As time went on I saw that Tania from Special Needs Jungle was going to be there (cue much more excitement – Tania and I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome in common – not that that’s exciting, but to actually meet was), Mummy Barrow was going to be speaking about changing the world and Mammasaurus was to be getting ‘down and dirty’ *sigh*.

I travelled with a small contingent of the St Albans blogging massive.  Penny from BeingMrsC, Kirsty from Damson Lane and Steph from Steph’s Two Girls – there is something about being able to rock up at the station at some hideous time on a Saturday morning and instantly have loads in common – one thing being we were really looking forward to catching up with Renata from Just Bring The Chocolate.   Renata has been in Great Ormond Street Hospital with Dominic since the beginning of September – I’d been whistling the theme from The Great Escape in my head for a couple of days, mixed with images of her tunnelling out with a spoon so to see her at St Pancras was wonderful.

Onwards – top conference venue.  You could spot the bloggers, marching like ants towards the entrance – despite having our own very unique personalities online, we all seemed to have a remarkably similar taste in conference clothes…  Earl grey tea was available (always good) and it was lovely to hug so many bloggers who I speak to so frequently online.  The social side of blogging conferences is wonderful – although it does, on reflection, make me question quite why I’m happy to pay so much money to go to what is essentially a big social…?

Into the sessions – the first session, chaired by Richard Bacon was fast moving and interesting.  Except I began to feel a bit old – I seem to be losing the ability to listen, understand, engage, form an opinion, read a twitter wall and attempt to tweet at the same time.  Maybe I am old, maybe I’m wondering whether actually, if you’re going to attend a panel discussion, that listening and engaging is the most important thing to do.  Social media does not enhance this experience – it’s almost like driving and being on your phone – you need your brain to be on one thing or the other.  Or maybe it was the painkillers… I don’t think it was.

So, the sessions I went to were great.  Not in the ‘oh wow I’ve learned so much’ kind of way, but in that they reassured me that a lot of what I do, both on here and in my professional life are what, at the moment, are deemed as the ‘right’ things to be doing.  Prof Tanya Byron – I love you.  Please, can you come for tea?  I’ll make cake?

I was really disappointed that Robert Winston wasn’t speaking – if he hadn’t been on the list I may not have bought my ticket.  I’m not sure I got ‘value’ for money in terms of learning or inspiration but I did have a wonderful time meeting catching up with other bloggers.  Obviously, to cover the really important stuff, lunch was indifferent, there wasn’t enough to drink and they ran out of cake where I was.  Loos were plentiful, goody bags generous (not that I went for the goody bag AT ALL, that is not what pulls me to a conference) and there was plenty of time to circulate.

The final session, yes, that one, is being much discussed elsewhere.  Jo Brand was great but I didn’t leave the auditorium on a high.  Move on.

Hayley from Downs Side Up asked me that evening to describe the day in one word.  It took a lot of thought and I concluded “Forceful”.

In any community (on or offline) there are forces.  If those forces are used for good, the results can be amazing – you can, realistically change your corner of the world.  Forces that come together for destruction and misery cause just that.

The best bit though – the social side.  The hugs, the kind words, the love and the silliness.  Will I go again – not sure.  Am I glad I went? – Definitely.

It was a privilege – (photo by Tania who’s on the right, with Renata on the left) to hug these two ladies, I am very proud that I know them.


  1. Tania says

    And proud to know you too! Officially ran out of spoons at lunchtime today… not bad, I thought!

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      Not bad at all! My spoons ran out as well – and then I realised it was an infection :/

      • Tania says

        How blessed you are! Spoonless and full of infection instead. Doesn’t just rain, does it? It’s now the 20th and still not over it (well that and another conference and some meetings) hope you’re feeling better now!

        • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

          Never ‘just’ rains. I’m still a mess but hopefully this lot of antibiotics will do the trick – at least now I can type a sentence that seems to have made sense x

  2. Anya from The Healer and Older Single Mum says

    Fair comment. Didn’t leave on a high either. Would describe it in one word as ‘Intense’ I think and, like you, go for the social side of things. Definitely a different take on other blogger conferences – it’s not run by bloggers for a start! Lovely to see you, as always xxx

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      Intense is a really good word to describe it and seeing you lot made the day x

  3. Renata says

    An honest, thoughtful review of a blogging conference. How refreshing. Having clung to your trouser legs in my nhs-induced aggrophobic state for most of the day you’d think I’d already know how you felt, but I found this really revealing. I hope Mumsnet read this, it’s valuable feed back. Especially the bit about me being one of the highlights… ahem… I do hope you’re taking note Mumsnet, people can come to Great Ormond Street any time to see me for free, although I can’t promise cake. Or Earl Grey. Or any interesting speeches. I do have machines that go bing however.

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      It was an absolutely delight to have you clinging to my trousers and I can always bring my own teabags. xx

  4. MummyNeverSleeps says

    Perfect summary, dude. There was definitely a weird atmosphere there, nothing major, but you could feel it. I couldn’t manage the listening, engaging, thinking, reading and tweeting funny stuff simultaneously either and soon gave up and just stuck my phone back in my bag. Wasn’t impressed with the food and lack of seating. BUT seeing you and all my epic friends totally made up for it, I was SO proud of T up on the stage, the venue was very swish and I totally heart Tania Byron. Unsure if I’ll go again, but hey, it’s all learning innit?

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      Defo all learning and very inspiring to see people who we align ourselves with being up there on the stage. I wonder if Tanya Byron likes chocolate brownies..?

  5. josandelson says

    Funny the jury’s still out with me on whether I’d go again too. It was also my first ever blog conf and was a bit dazed by so much going on. In the end it’s being with people who mean something to you and I bumped into my lovely (ex) s-i-l. Neither of us knew the other was going to be there .. x

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      Compared to other conferences I’ve been to (non-blogging) this one was not *too* overwhelming for me, although I travelled with friends and thus avoided that hideous walking in on your own thing. I absolutely agree, it’s the people that make it

  6. Siobhan from Everyone Else Is Normal says

    Great summary, don’t apologise for writing it a whole 3 days after event – I always think its good to wait a bit to let stuff sink in before writing up something like this. And I’m so with you re this whole tweeting nonsense whilst an event is going on. If I’d taken the time and trouble to prepare a talk, I’d want people’s attention. I’d so love to have been there, esp with the speaker line up, but it sounds like it was as similar to Britmums in that, in the end, its about who you meet than quality talks. I felt the same re Britmums – glad I went, but not sure I’d go again. I reckon we should just organise our own regional socials, its easy enough with social media to organise…! PS Seeing Renata’s smile in your pic, enjoying herself for a whole day sans NHS, is wonderful.

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      It was a pleasure to be with such lovely people and this thing about tweeting when people are speaking (especially when the organisers are putting a prize up for the best session tweet) is something that really doesn’t sit well with me – not just because I don’t have the ability to do so

  7. Jazzygal says

    I’m jealously reading some Blogfest 2013 posts (via Steph’s Two girls) feeling that we in Ireland are missing out on so much. It is refreshing to read your honest review of your experience. Although I wish we had this opportunity you have just voiced the fears I have of such an occasion. I would love the social aspect of it too though!

    xx Jazzy

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      I wanted this to be my view, not one constructed to keep the organisers happy and feeling smug! The social aspect is brilliant and I think with a bit of good social media you can arrange a meet up pretty much anywhere – the ones here in St Albans have gone from a handful to a load of us – it’s great.

  8. Ben says

    Having been to a couple of conferences now I have a similar issue to you, is it really worth the money for what is essentially a social? Feels like a well organised tweet up would be just as effective…..

    • Jenny; Cheetahs In My Shoes & Just Photos By Me says

      Ben, I agree with you I think. Well organised and open tweet up with loads of tea and cake would be just fine

  9. Mummy Glitzer says

    Good summary, also not sure if I will go to any conference again as ultimately, my fun was gained from being with like-minded people. I was low on spoons by lunch and done by the end, feeling rather relieved that my travelling companions wanted to go and get a meal before heading home to Bristol! I spent much of the following day laying on the sofa; actually I’ve spent much of the time since then on the sofa having come down with some fluy infectiony thing. x


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