A Blogfest for Inclusion

I'm honoured to have been asked to join a group of leading writers and speakers at Mumsnet's #Blogfest2015, a huge one day event that promises to be a 'glittering celebration of great writing and sharp ideas'.

I've watched the You Tube clips from last year and they aren't exaggerating!

mumsnetI'll be joining Swazi Rodgers of Chocolate is Not the Only Fruit and Soraya Cotwal of I Happy Now 2 talk at a round table about creating diversity and inclusion in the predominantly white, middle class, non-disabled world corner of the internet that is the blog world. Blogging holds such power to create change when we work together, that it's important to harness that for all.

I'm feeling rather nervous as I've never attended Blogfest before, although I will know many of the faces present. It promises to be a day of inspiration, of motivation, of collaboration, change and much food for thought.

One of the women speaking at Blogfest is Camila Batmanghelidjh who runs the charity Kids Company. I had the great fortune to meet Camila at Britmums Live, and to join her in a discussion about blogging for change alongside Lindsay Atkin from Lilies are Like and Chris Mosler from Thinkly Spread.

Camila is one of two people I have ever met in my life that exudes a kind of serene grace, supreme confidence and a certain something that sets them apart, in a quite distinct realm of their own. 

She is the personification of true beauty, inside and out. 
She is calm and quiet and firm. 
She instinctively commands one's attention and speaks with absolute authority. Like the other unique person I was fortunate to meet many yers before, she had the strangest effect of making me feel overcome with emotion in her presence, reducing me to tears. 

Camila Batmanghelidjh, Lindsay Atkins, Hayley Goleniowska and Chris Mosler talk blogging for change

This was rather awkward when I met Camila as I was on stage with her, preparing to talk about the power of collaborative blogging. Being a quivering wreck didn't really help when trying to deliver several key points in a tight time scale. But far from looking disturbed by the embarrassed emotional speaker next to her, Camila reached into her colourful bag and produced a large tissue of incredible floral print to offer me to wipe my damp eyes. Here was a woman who listened intently to others, while looking into their soul and instantly understanding everything she needed to know.

Of course to hear her speak about her work with vulnerable children, of her upbringing and the hardships she has personally endured only further my admiration for this unique and humble woman and strengthen my belief that we can all reach out and make a difference to others. You can hear her recent Radio 2 interview with Jeremy Vine and join her campaign to See the Child here.

And so, I shall be on the first train out of here in the morning, hoping to arrive in London in time to listen to Camila again, ready to gain power and strength from her words to enable me to take our work where it needs to go to create the most change. I hope she doesn't have the same blubbering effect on me second time around, and that I will make it through the round table discussion on inclusion without so much as a lump in my throat!

Oh, and the second person who had the same effect and changed me just a little bit?

It was Pope John II back in 1984 in the Vatican City. 

I was a slightly bored teenager, tired from queueing for 2 hours, whose hand he happened to shake.

Big, squidgly and with a firm hold is what I remember. And tears. Tears that everyone one took as I sign that I had been stood on and injured. But no. Tears that my encounter with him had taken me by surprise.

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