I’ve just come back from the most fantastic weekend in London, which was filled with visiting amazing museums – including both old favourites and new discoveries – and attending the Blogtacular conference, which was so colourful it felt like a rainbow had exploded! You’ll be able to read about the museums I visited over on my other blog, Museum Diary, over the next couple of weeks. But here on The Bear & The Fox, I wanted to tell you a bit more about Blogtacular!
It began early Friday afternoon with a photowalk around Shoreditch in East London. Photowalks were limited, and allocated by a lottery, so I was thrilled to get a space. It wasn’t difficult to find our meeting point – all I had to do was steer towards the group of ladies dressed in all colours of the rainbow. I felt a bit underdressed, in my navy striped dress, but was at least glad I had opted against black. Lol.
Since moving to Berlin, I developed a love of street art, so I thoroughly enjoyed the walk around Shoreditch – an area of London I had never been to before. It was amazing how many creatively painted walls we could find in just the relatively short area we covered. I’ve only included a small selection in this blog post, but I have uploaded the rest of my photos to my street art album on Flickr.
On Friday evening, we were all off to the West Elm store on Tottenham Court Road for a ‘Paper Maker Party’ – there was calligraphy, paper weaving, colouring in, paper gem and paper flower making, and a photo booth with the added option of getting your pics printed out if you posted them on Instagram.
There were also two very talented ladies, doing portrait illustrations of the party guests. I waited almost an hour to have my portrait done by Ella Masters, but it was totally worth it! I’ve been using it as my new avatar on my social media accounts – and whilst waiting, I had some great chats and made some new friends. (I’m also glad I took a cue from the photo walk earlier in the day, and wore my yellow ‘backup cardigan’ along with a white shirt I had picked up in the afternoon, instead of the grey top I had originally planned to).
Then came Saturday morning, and the big day itself. There was an 8:30 start for anyone wanting breakfast and the chance to network before the actual presentations and workshops started, and I wasn’t going to miss a minute. I stuck to my yellow and white outfit from the night before, paired with my ‘blogger’ necklace (a gift from a fellow speaker at another conference a few years ago) which has already seen three other blogging conferences in three different countries, so of course it had to come to Blogtacular too!
It was my first time at Blogtacular, and everyone in advance had reassured all the newbies that it was a really friendly occasion, not at all cliquey, and very much like being enveloped in a big hug. I could sign to that! I found it much easier to strike up conversations with people I had never met before than at other conferences or events I’ve been too. Considering how colourfully everyone was dressed yet again, if nothing else there was always ‘I love your dress/shoes/bag/necklace!’ as a conversation opener, haha. And I employed my tactic which I have perfected over years of attending conferences, of always turning round in sessions to introduce myself to the person or people sitting behind. I always find it difficult finding an ‘in’ with someone when sitting down at the end of a row, especially if they happen to be turned away in conversation with the person on their other side. And before you know it the presentation has started and you’ve missed the right point to introduce yourself. But if you unexpectedly turn round to say ‘hi!’ to whoever is sitting behind you, the element of surprise is almost always a conversation starter! I’m still working on a strategy though of approaching people I don’t know to pose with me for photos – I feel a bit awkward larking around in photo booth by myself, but haven’t quite managed to crack the ‘hey, I don’t know you but will you be in my photo’ level of social interaction yet, so I just took some photos of the pretty photo booth itself. Next year!
Besides the photo booth, there were lots of other fun things to do in between the presentations, such as the two minute flat lay challenge with the team from Mollie Makes, or the chance to sit down and make some new friends whilst beading bracelets. There were a couple of market place stalls too, and as well as some Blogtacular swag, I purchased a beautiful wooden bird brooch from Anna Wiscombe, and key note speaker Lisa Congdon’s book on ‘The Joy of Swimming‘, which I then immediately had signed.
And then, of course, there were the presentations themselves. As well as keynote speakers Lisa Congdon and Enid Hwang, who opened and closed the conference, there were three sets of workshop with three speakers each to chose from. And boy was it a difficult choice! I ended up with a very inspiring talk by Kate O’Sullivan from A Playful Day, about ‘creating a community who rise with you’ (also my favourite presentation of Blogtacular over all – no disrespect to the other speakers, but something just clicked here for me); a joint presentation by Andrew Trotman from Microsoft & Ella Williamson from Gadget Girl Ella, about ‘why content is king in modern media’; and a creative writing workshop with Laura Jane Williams from Superlatively Rude. Here are some of the most inspiring or thought provoking quotes I took away with me from the presentations:
“The root of happiness is connection!” (Lisa)
“It’s not about the number of friends or relationships you have, it’s about the quality!” (Lisa)
“There’s this idea now that if you don’t record something and share it, it doesn’t exist. It isn’t real.” (Lisa)
“Engaging content demands attention!” (Kate)
“Don’t assume everyone read the last thing you published.” (Kate)
“Keep the story simple and on target.” (Kate)
“Memory isn’t perfect, and that’s okay. Chronology is for Bores. Sentences are like bottoms – all sizes, shapes and weights are welcome.” (from Laura’s creative writing guidelines)
“Your time and energy are your most precious resources.” (Enid)
“You don’t have to chase everything you see others doing.” (Enid)
As much as I was looking forward to being back with my family, I was sad to see the weekend come to an end. So much inspiration – I have a thousand and one new ideas for both my blogs, or at least that’s what it feels like – so much colour and creativity, new friends made, new blogs discovered. The food was amazing (hands down not only the best conference lunch I’ve ever had, but also the best overall in terms of looking out for attendees with special dietary needs!), and I even managed to sneak out at lunch time to see the Museum of London. It did mean missing out on some networking opportunity, but the entrance was *literally* next to the conference venue, and anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that it would have been impossible for me to resist. And to top it all off, we were given the mother of all goodie bags to take home! To be fair, I’ve received some great goodie bags in my time, but what was special about this one was, that it was all filled with items from independent designers, crafters and makers, and not corporate sponsors. A great way to find new stores from independent sellers to support! A big thank you to everyone who contributed – I’ve tagged them all in my Instagram post.
All in all, I’m really glad I managed to make it to Blogtacular this year (I planned to go the previous two years, but life got in the way). I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the new friends I’ve made, and hoping I will be able to make it there again next year. In the mean time – besides getting down to work and implementing some of those many new ideas on my blogs – here are a couple of other action points I’ve taken away with me from the weekend:
- Subscribe to the A Playful Day podcast.
- Start an enamel pin collection.
- Buy some yellow shoes.
- Take up swimming again.
Finally, just a another big THANK YOU to everyone for such a spectacular weekend. The speakers, the organisers, the bloggers, the sponsors. Everyone. Thank you!