In 2013 I decided to start taking blogging seriously. I wrote every day, I was constantly on social media and I spent every evening reading and commenting on blogs. I threw myself as much into the blogging community as I possibly could and it felt like I had found my place in life. I finally felt like I belonged.
The following year I found myself shortlisted for the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging awards at Britmums Live – a conference that had never been on my radar before. I nervously bought a ticket and couldn’t wait to see what this event held in store, to meet so many bloggers for the first time and to pop my blogging conference cherry.
Britmums Live 2014 started on a Friday lunchtime in June and went on until Saturday evening. It was situated in The Brewery, a really beautiful and iconic venue in London. When I first entered the building I found it vast, slightly disorientating but lovely to be in. The ceilings were high, rooms that needed it had intimacy and there were big spaces to socialise and gather together. The building being over a few floors didn’t suit everyone but it was perfect for me and the main room with it’s two levels, stage and big screens was perfect for everything from the keynotes to the awards. It was grand, elegant and a sociable space.
The first time I entered that room and sat to listen to Emma Freud speak I was blown away. I was surrounded by 700 of my peers, other bloggers, many of whom I looked up to and felt inspired by. The feeling in the room was electric and I could not believe I was at my very first Britmums. It was such a surreal experience.
I spent the two days of the event moving from session to session, sitting on fake grass outside eating a punnet of cherries with my friends and just taking it all in. There was so much to see, so much to do and so many brands to chat to. With young children many of the brands were appropriate to me and talking to them pushed me out of my comfort zone – as did talking to other bloggers, many of which I felt I knew from reading their blogs for so long.
I remember hearing Kirstie Pelling speak about pitching and thinking how family travel was such a long way in the future for me but feeling so inspired by her, and learning so much. In another session Di Coke taught me all I know about giveaways and I am so glad I heard her speak so early in my blogging career. I remember squeezing into Lucy Heath‘s blog design session. The room was overflowing, everyone eager to hear Lucy speak and I felt privileged to be in the room, learning from the best.
The awards ceremony was lovely, with wine on the tables, blog names coming up on the big screen and everyone cheering as Katy Hill announced the finalists and winners. There were speeches and photo opportunities and it felt like such a celebration.
The event closed on the second day with the blogger’s keynote. This was such a huge part of the conference for me and something that I still wish had been on the first day so that everyone was there for it. So many had to leave early on the second day to catch trains but it was still a time for celebration, hearing bloggers read the posts that had touched the blogging community through the past twelve months.
Throughout the event I spent time with so many bloggers, cemented online friendships and felt like I really belonged. I put my nerves aside and spoke to so many people, sometimes managing just a quick hello and other times full on conversations. I left that first Britmums Live feeling on top of the world, like I was part of something special and so inspired to do so much more with my little space online.
The following year Britmums was much the same except I had more confidence, knew more people and knew by that point that a lot of the sessions weren’t for me. I wanted to chat to brands, go to a couple of sessions and catch up with bloggers.
Through those years I heard so many inspiring people speak. I have Benjamin Dutton-Brooks‘ story etched on my mind forever and learnt so much about Ella Woodward‘s rise to foodie fame. We heard from Carol Smilie and Caprice and so many more bloggers in their keynotes and sessions. 2015 was as inspiring and uplifting as 2014 had been and I loved every minute.
But, in 2016 something changed. Britmums Live moved from the two day format to just one day yet tried to cram everything into that one day that we’d come to know and love from the two days of the years gone by. It was also the same price for the one day event as it had been for two days, something that made no sense.
The event was still at The Brewery but started early and finished late. There was the keynote – this time by Anne-Marie Cockburn, and there were sessions, less breaks and the blogger’s keynote before the awards. People left early to get trains, everything felt rushed and I left feeling disheartened, happy to see so many of my lovely blogging friends but hoping that the format would change again the following year.
The one day didn’t work for me. There wasn’t enough time to chat to my friends, try and learn something and talk to brands – plus, the brands were an odd mix that year of people trying to sell us photography equipment and an oiled up man in boxers walking around. It felt like Britmums Live had lost it’s way and I hoped that at some point the event I loved so much would be back on track.
This year’s Britmums Live came around and I was hopeful. The event was just one day but with a shiny new venue – County Hall on London’s prestigious South Bank. There were experiences organised from a trip to Parliament and an Insta-walk to a trip on the London Eye and seeing the Sea Life Centre. These experiences sat either side of Britmums Live, on the Friday and Sunday which was great for anyone who was in London anyway but not the sort of thing many people would travel up especially to do.
The day of Britmums Live came and it was a long day – starting at 8:30am and going on until 9pm. But, it was a day that started and ended with blogging friends. The new venue was lovely and the food was incredible compared to previous years. But, strangely, there was no big welcome, no inspiring keynote to start us off and no ice breaker. I remember playing pass the parcel one year and breaking a Guinness World Record another. Instead, the day started with us going from breakfast straight into sessions rather than on the usual enthusiastic high.
The sessions were great and varied – apart from some that were direct repeats of ones from other conferences. Plus there were other things to do like an art table and getting nails done whilst talking to some of the sponsors but, for someone like me – a typical family lifestyle blogger – the brands just weren’t relevant. There were probably half a dozen at most and the ones I spoke to seemed only interested in promoting themselves rather than working with bloggers and for this reason we ended up with a three hour gap in the middle of the day – time with the brands sandwiched between lunch and a tea break. This was strangely planned and a time which went on too long for a lot of people.
I saw people leaving at this point or slightly later before the blogger’s keynote and in all honesty if I hadn’t been up for an award I would have probably left after the keynote too – the part I always look forward to most.
The keynote this year was as emotive as the other years with Laura reading a post that left the audience in tears – much like Jenny‘s post had a couple of years before. The blogger’s keynote this year though had so few people in a room that just wasn’t as grand or as well laid out as it had been at The Brewery.
It was then time to head on our City Cruises boat down the Thames for a couple of hours. It wasn’t the best laid plan as many didn’t come because they couldn’t get off to catch a train – and what if we were delayed and they missed their train home?! Instead, Britmums offered plus one tickets to this part of the day for awards finalists, something they’ve never done before – and something they’ve never had to do before. The plus ones bulked out the boat and soon after we left the dock the awards started.
Unlike previous years there was no celebrity announcing the awards, there was no famous keynote before them or fun end to the day like the Good Enough Mums Club from a previous year. Instead, there was the Britmums founders and a cardboard cut out of Big Ben along with party blowers on the tables. There was no screen announcing the finalists and instead there was just a small dance floor used as a stage. The physical awards may have been the same but the whole ceremony couldn’t have been more different – it really lacked the wow factor of previous years. The Britmums social media accounts didn’t even announce all the winners. It was a sad state of affairs followed by nice food that took too long to be served and free flowing wine that didn’t quite make it the whole way round the boat.
However, this Britmums Live was the same as other years in one way. It was a great opportunity to meet up with other bloggers, some I had never met before, to catch up, laugh, chat and have time together. The blogging community is an amazing thing and none of us see each other very often so whatever format a conference takes seeing other bloggers will always be a highlight for me and hearing some speak so passionately about their blogs, their skills and their blogging future can never be anything but inspiring.
But, I got my train home feeling deflated and sad. I had hoped Britmums Live would be everything it had once been – and it wasn’t. This year I hoped that with a new venue, new agenda and even a new time of year that Britmums Live would jump back into the blogging calendar with both feet, that it would cement it’s place on the blogging map and it would, once again, be the event that we had all come to know and love.
But for me, it wasn’t. Britmums Live was an incredible event. It was an event that 700 bloggers once went to, that they got sponsors for, stayed in London for a weekend for and planned months in advance. But this year there couldn’t have been more than 250 people there – with tickets still available the night before. Britmums planned a smaller event with experiences to get people excited and a completely new look but, for me at least, it just didn’t work.
I loved the Britmums Live that I first knew. The one with inspiring keynotes, a celebrity handing out awards and Twirlywoos dancing in the courtyard. I loved the Britmums Live with The Brewery sign to take photos in front of, with outside space to make use of and with enough time to not only learn something but catch up with hundreds of blogging friends too. I loved the Britmums Live that had dozens of brands, a room decorated like a picnic area for you to relax and eat cake, a tennis court for you to have a game against your friends, so many competitions to enter, silly costumes to wear and so much to do that you had little time to feel bored or even consider going home.
But sadly I think that Britmums Live has gone, never to return. But, I won’t cry that it’s over, I’ll smile because it happened and I am so glad that I got to experience Britmums Live as it was, when I felt like a small fish in a big pond and when I got to sit in a huge room with a vaulted ceiling surrounded by 700 people who loved blogging just as much as me.
I’m so sad that Britmums Live isn’t like that anymore but I am so glad I have the memories I made through the last few years and I am so glad that I have the whole blogging community around me and that, really, is what it’s all about – regardless of whether we go to Britmums Live again in the future.