Anyone who know me in ‘real life’ would know how much I had been looking forward to BML16. I booked my tickets back in March, thanks to my lovely sponsor childcare.co.uk. For the past two years, I’ve followed the event on social media and everyone looked like they were having an absolutely fantastic time, and were coming away full of creativity, inspiration and tips for making their blog even better.
Did I come away feeling like this? In a nutshell, no.
In previous years, the event has been held over two days – the Friday afternoon and the Saturday up until about 4pm. This year, it was from 9am Saturday morning until 7pm until Saturday night, which is a long day, especially if you have to travel. I think this was possibly the main reason why I struggled so much – it was so jam-packed and intense, and I was bloody knackered from my 4am start! I had got the train from Birmingham in the morning, and had a booked a room at a local Travelodge for the night, intending to go home Sunday feeling refreshed. That didn’t happen – I’ll explain more about that later.
I have only been to London once before and was nervous about the journey. I did a bit of work on the train and enjoyed a coffee, and I had arranged to meet one of my blogging besties, Zara from Mojo Blogs, and Jenni from Odd Socks and Lollipops at Euston, so we could navigate the tube and walk to the venue together.
We arrived at the venue, The Brewery, at about 8.30am, giving us plenty of time to take a breather and see who else we recognised. There were so many people milling about and if I’m honest, I recognised very few! Once the doors opened, I popped my suitcase in the cloakroom and then headed up to register.
We went into the big main room – which was big – and grabbed a much needed coffee. I hadn’t really decided which sessions I wanted to attend so we had a look through the program and planned our day. At this point, I realised that none of the sessions particularly jumped out at me, but I was more than willing to give them a go. The atmosphere was pretty electric in there, and I was really excited to be finally at BML16!
Once the introduction and first couple of talks from some bloggers was finished, we played a game of ‘pass the parcel’ to celebrate BritMums 5th anniversary, and I was over the moon to be the one that landed the final prize – a beautiful engraved necklace from Merci Maman. I put it on straight away and haven’t taken it off since.
It was then time for a coffee break and a chance to mingle with some of the fantastic brands in the brand hub. We popped in to see Mam, and pick up some of the bottles (which I’ve given to my pregnant friend!) and some dummies, and have a cheeky cupcake.
We said hi to Munchkin who gave us bags with their great beakers in – perfect for Benjamin – and The Clangers, who gave me a comic for the boys. After coffee and crepes, the sessions started. Zara and I went to the same ones, and nether of us felt we learned anything from them. Maybe we have been blogging long enough now to know these things, or have been to too many blog conferences and heard the same things over and over again. I also felt like one or two were more about the speakers blowing their own trumpet, rather than giving out practical advice. Whatever it was, I felt a little bit disappointed by them. Still, the main attraction of the event for me was the chance to meet with and socialise with other bloggers, including Maria from Suburban Mum, who I’ve been speaking to for almost a year, and to chat to some brands.
We then went and sat outside in the covered seating area in the courtyard to get some air. It was incredibly hot and sticky, and as soon as we sat down, the heavens opened and the thunder started.
It was so noisy but so calming out there, although we had a very wet dash back over to the main building for the keynote speech by Cherry Healey. I have to admit to not knowing who she was before this, but I’m now a huge fan. She is hilarious!!!
After Cherry Healey’s chat, it was time for the bloggers keynotes. Anyone who gets up and can read a blog post to hundreds of people has my admiration, but I particularly loved Mama’s Haven’s emotional post about losing her baby son, and The Dad Network’s Interview by his son, which had me in tears of laughter.
It was then time for the Brilliance in Blogging Party, which was sponsored by Kate and Mim Mim. Apparently my kid are huge fans of the show (bad mum for not knowing that!) and loved the photo of me with Mim Mim!
I met up with Rachel from Blogging Mummy, and we certainly enjoyed the glasses of Prosecco that were on offer! Finally, it was the Brilliance in Blogging Awards, hosted by Carol Smilie. The atmosphere was absolutely electric (no doubt thanks to the wine on the table!), and it was really lovely to watch. By this point though, I was absolutely knackered, and was looking forward to finding some food and going to bed!
We collected our huge goody bags, and headed to the hotel where lots of bloggers were staying. There were a couple of organised meals, but to be honest, I was so tired and socialising was the last thing on my mind. I took my case up to my room and went down to the restaurant, to enjoy a meal and a glass of wine on my own (which was lovely and peaceful!) before going back to my room for a shower and a bit of OITNB on Netflix. I was fast asleep before 10pm!
It was a good job I had an early night because I was very rudely woken up at 5am by the fire alarm going off. I threw on a t-shirt and some leggings, grabbed my phone and stumbled down the stairs with crazy hair and bleary eyes. I won’t go into detail, but the evacuation was very poorly organised. We were allowed back to our rooms about half an hour later, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. Bang went the lie in!
After I had breakfast, I went for a walk round the block with Rachel, and then went back to my room for a couple of hours before I checked out and headed home, which gave me chance to have a look through the goody bags and reflect on what I had learned over the weekend.
I learned that I do have the confidence to sit in a restaurant and eat alone. That I am fine sleeping alone in an unfamiliar place. I learned that I can manage tubes and trains without a problem. I learned that if you want to talk to someone, you have to make the effort to go and talk to them because actually, they might be just as shy as you in real life. So, whilst I didn’t come away learning much about blogging, I came away learning lots about myself, and deepening some friendships, and that’s a win, right?
Whilst I feel a little disappointed about the weekend, I also know that I want to go again next year. I really hope the organisers look at changing it back to it’s original two day schedule, but whatever happens, bring on BML17!