This will be my fourth Britmums Live, the largest blogging event in my calendar. It's a combination of workshops, awards and speeches, a chance to meet brands if you wish, to learn to chat, to indulge in a sneaky Prosecco or two. I always come home with a new spin on blogging, I learn tips and tricks, and most importantly it is a chance to mix, network and make true friendships with like-minded writers.
|Hayley from Downs Side Up at BritmumsLive 2012|
Each year is different, I think because we progress along our blogging journey and we therefore go with different expectations and ideas, confidences and questions. In the beginning I had no idea where my blog was going. I wrote voraciously and, if the truth be known, it was a very cathartic, healing experience for me. I cried many tears into my keyboard as I wrote late into the night.
Britmums Live in those early days was overwhelming, daunting, the unknown. Arriving alone from Cornwall, I felt like a country bumpkin out of water. It became an event that cemented what I wanted to do. It was at Britmums that I spoke publicly for the first time, and I am still humbled at how people supported me through my raw emotions as I read What to Say When a Baby is Born with Down's Syndrome. A close network of bloggers have become true friends that I cannot do without.
I can think of a handful of bloggers who listened and cried too, who have since experienced something in a subsequent pregnancy that necessitated them falling back on these words and those in Dear Mum-to-be. They could never have known that evening. For me this is what blogging is all about: helping one another with our words, accepting and respecting each others' differences and painting a rich online tapestry with our real lives.
In subsequent years Britmums Live became an opportunity to learn and to listen to other advocates, SEND bloggers and charity campaigners. It is always a great honour to speak at this event, to share our experiences of where our blogs have taken us, and to motivate others, asking them to believe in the power of their words.
Last year, I came home buzzing about collaboration, of working closely with other bloggers to make a real difference. It's been a busy year and much has been achieved by many, but in recent months I have become a little saddened by some of what I have witnessed in the blog world. I took a step back and looked at my old blog and wondered if its time was up. Was it time to let the younger, more enthusiastic writers take the blog reins?
Others have felt a shift too:
Marianne Wooley mused about whether her lovely blog Mari's World has a sell by date. Her piece prompted me to put my feelings into words.
Clare Toplis at Ninja Killer Cat wrote a Blog Song about the values she places on the important elements of blogging
Alice Talbot wrote about how the way some bloggers speak about their children makes her feel uncomfortable.
Siobhan Calthrop of Everyone Else is Normal sat reeling at the vitriol that erupted online after the General Election #GE2015 and asked if we were Seeing Red About Turning Blue?
Kate on Thin Ice looked at out blogging motives too this week in What are My Reasons to be Cheerful? over on Striking Mum.
Capture by Lucy noted that she is taking fewer photos of her children, whilst acknowledging that they have a right to a say about what gets uploaded online in this post Family.
Annie Spratt, relaxed and at peace with herself, wrote a very poignant piece about taking fewer photos, and instead living the moments rather than witnessing them through a lens, and keeping some precious snaps back just for her family. She too has been blogging for four years and feels she is finally getting the balance between blogging and family right.
And this is precisely why I am going to Britmums Live again this year:
- To remind myself that we should "Sod the stats." (Her Melness Speaks).
- To think about how our blogs evolves along with our families and how the way we blog will change too.
- To celebrate the bloggers who have moved into published author arenas.
- To remember that the majority of bloggers have honourable motives and integrity.
- To focus on my original reasons for writing and my unique voice, and try to keep that in my heart when I write. There is never a sell by date for writing what we feel for our own audiences.
- To learn about how to protect my family, to strike the balance between sharing enough to support, and keeping enough back just for us.
- To witness writers giving each other a boost, to grow in self-confidence, whatever their type of blog. To reconnect with some of the most wonderful women I have ever met.
- To listen to many of my heroes speak, including Victoria M Wright.
- To catch up with friends old and true and to remember that I am a multi-facetted human, not simply a 'special needs Mum'.
- To remember that it is a proud moment to be nominated or shortlisted for an award, but that every blog is a success if it helps, boosts or supports the writer or just one reader in some way. Awards are a lovely way to celebrate blogging and an excuse to get dressed up, but they are not a blog's 'raison d'être'.
- To join with the incredible Michelle Pannell and Karen Canard to discuss how we can use our words for good in a Digital Activism: Shaping the World We Live In round table session. Do come and join us if you are able.
Maybe blogging has changed, maybe it has become fast-paced and glossy and monetised. Maybe my little clunky Blogspot site is a little basic next to the many hundred of thousands of wonderful sites run by energetic and enthusiastic writers 20 years younger than me. But I do think that there is a place for my homely unsponsored pages in the world. My visitors are mostly parents of a child with Down's syndrome and I hope that arriving here at Down Side Up feels like sitting down with someone they know for a cup of tea.
I think there are plenty of years in this old blog dog yet. Dear Britmums and the blog world at large, thank you for everything. I'll stay a while longer if that's OK.