Inspiring, Inclusive Blogfest

"Why am I doing this?" I thought to myself as I stood cold and alone on an empty station platform in the pitch 6.30am darkness waiting for my train to take me forward 4 hours to Blogfest.

I reminded myself that today was going to be a day of learning, my brain primed like a sponge to absorb writing tips from the finest in the game.  It was also about sharing some thoughts on inclusion and diversity in blogging at a round table at the Mumsnet Blogfest event in London.

Hayley, Soraya and Swazi discuss inclusion at the Blogfest round table.

"The next train to arrive at platform two is the 6.47 to Plymouth."

I felt uneasy, vulnerable, watching out for any sign of railway staff. A shiver of cold ran down my spine, made worse by my damp hair and the urgent need for the first hot drink of the day. 
I sheltered on the bridge, watching the heavy rain fall in vertical cords and flowing like urgent waterfalls from blocked gutters.

Only two minutes to go now. 
The board said so.

This warmed me, and, along with the reassuring thought that I would soon be in a designated seat on a comfortable train with a buffet car, I relaxed. 

Only one minute to go.
The board announced the end of my wait.

The station mistress arrived and we chatted about the appalling weather and joked about her very fetching high-viz waterproof trousers. 
We talked for some time. The train did not arrive, it simply disappeared from the board like a figment of our imaginings.

A taxi was ordered. It didn't arrive. The carriage that promised to take me to London in time to listen to Think Bombs by some of my gurus, such as Camila Batmanghelidjh and Francesca Martinez left without me on it. (Fortunately you can watch them on You Tube here.) 

What to do? Go home and give up, or carry on and make the most of the little time I would have there?

Of course I carried on, and although missing the Think Bomb sessions I was immediately filled in on how wonderful they were. Francesca Martinez had said of her Cerebal Palsy, "accepting yourself for who you are is an act of civil disobedience." Such a wonderful and important line, for those of us who try to dispel a notion of 'normality'.

Speakers take to the stage for Think Bombs at Blogfest

During the afternoon, hearing the advice from Save the Children campaigner Chris Mosler of Thinly Spread (who I am still annoyed about not getting to hug) and TV personality Carrie Grant who works for more understanding of neurodiversity and Crohn's disease. Individually we are a lone voice in the wind, but together, and aligned with unexpected allys, we are all a very powerful driving force for change.

And the micro discussions with bloggers in passing as I scoffed some mouthfuls of lunch on the fly were enough to motivate, to supply ideas, to bring focus for the months to come.

Such as lovely hugs from Liska at New Mum Online and Jen Walshaw from Mum in the Mad House were fleeting moments that told us we are all part of one big family.

A few precious minutes with Hugo's Mum, Leigh Kendall who writes about baby loss, reminded me of the strength we have within us to carry on and even to help and support others despite going through the most difficult of times ourselves.

Jax Blunt looked the most like her avatar of anyone I have ever met. And hers was the round table session on techie tips that I would have like to clone myself to attend, for she is so giving with her knowledge and expertise, and I am so very clueless.

I was pleased to spend a little time with Joy Jackson and give her a copy of our book I love You Natty. Joy is such a generous and supportive #SENblogger.

Our round table discussion on inclusion in blogging, hosted by Swazi, Soraya and I, was over far too quickly. We all agreed we could have said so much more as we scratched the surface of what motivates us, holds us back, what stops others blogging and how we can get our minority voices heard more widely. 

We had so much in common, from feelings of under-confidence, or nerves at attending big events, or our shared experiences of shock at prejudices we have encountered, to feeling ignored by brands wishing to work with bloggers. And we all shared a universal belief that blogging should reflect the real world as it is, and provide a mouthpiece for those who feel unheard.

I left the Tips for Writing sessions early, feeling impolite and embarrassed for walking out, as I rushed back to the station to head home, wanting more and with a head full of ideas from great authors and journalists, and giggling that to write a book you have to ignore domestic chores to the point where your children are 'crawling with nits'.

One thing is for sure though, I was sure why I had done the journey and I was honoured to have been invited.
Next year though, I will not be standing on the station platform alone in the pouring rain at 6.30 am or heading back to my family aching and yawning and smelling faintly of perfume mixed with train journeys and cities at 10.30 pm. 

I shall catch the night train next time and not miss a moment of Blogfest 2015.

You might enjoy reading The Significance of the Birthday Party Invitation, a post about what our children teach us about true inclusion.

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