Manchester, UK

#BlogAtTheBeach has been on my radar for as long as I can remember & thankfully after five years of Icelolly Holidays holding the event I finally managed to get myself an invite along the the infamous celebration.
Icelolly Holidays are renowned for putting on entertaining, enjoyable and informative events which showcase talents of online creatives in order to teach, inspire and fire up it's guests...

And that's exactly what it did.

I was a bit nervous to begin with, as I'm sure most people attending were; Blogging events were once the normal for me however since becoming pregnant & having my baby I've been somewhat out of the loop.
It's safe to say that travelling down to Manchester to be a part of the event was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I think the phrase 'do something every day that scares you' is more than appropriate & I'm so glad I did it.

I did it! I wasn't mama, I was me... And I felt brilliant for it.

I arrived at the event (after getting lost in Manchester as standard) with my confident pants on, ready to network and learn from the fantastic speakers Kirsty Leanne, Marc McCollin & Katy English. I was welcomed into the Barbados themed event and greeted by Icelolly's head of marketing Darren Kunar who pointed me in the direction of the non alcoholic drinks, which was admittedly like finding a needle in a haystack amongst all the alcoholic beverages - I was definitely regretting my decision to drive to the event! As well as a bar to be reckoned with, the room was adorned with green palm leaves, coconuts and fresh mangoes which together complimented the Barbados theme perfectly & definitely got us in the #BlogAtTheBeach spirit!

There was a 45 minute slot assigned to networking at the beginning of the event where I rather luckily managed to surround myself with a fab bunch of gals.

It was so lovely to be able to put a face to the name in the form of Tasmin from Grandiose Days - I've been following Tasmin on twitter for quite some time now, so it was fab to finally meet her and get chatting to her in real life rather than via laptop. I also met Rosie from Flying Fluskey for the first time who bizarrely was jetting off to Barbados the very next day, so she was extra excited to get stuck into the event. I also met Kirsty from Lost in Landmarks, Danielle from Danielle Levy & Victoria from Doorways And Dresses who all made my time at the event super enjoyable.

After the initial networking session and watching the gals sink a couple of rum punches (so not jealous at all, can you tell?) Darren welcomed us all into a conference room which was rather appropriately kitted out with summer striped deck chairs.
He began the presentation by thanking us for coming and telling us all a little bit more about Icelolly Holidays, what they do and how they're helping others.
Icelolly Holidays is a Leeds based (woop woop woop) holiday price comparison website which over recent years has become bigger and better than ever - They have more than 20 million visitors each year generating over 40 million search queries, a social following of 595k+ and if that isn't enough they have an award winning team to match. Sounds awesome right?
What I didn't realise about Icelolly Holidays is just how much charity work they do & how much they give back to the community. Darren explained that even on the day of the event some of the Icelolly team were taking part in a charity skydive, which I thought was fab - Something I don't think I could ever do myself, but something I'm in complete awe of other people for achieving.

Kirsty Leanne - Creating a community within your niche.

After a quick introduction Darren handed us over to Kirsty Leanne, a plus size travel blogger, or as I know her, a woman on a mission to change the way travel looks. She wants to show both brands and society that plus size people travel too and just part of that is by using her hashtag #PlusSizeTravelToo. Kirsty believes that plus size travellers are made to feel hugely unwelcome whilst holidaying and she changes that by both inspiring and advising plus size people on how they can make the most of their travel experiences. Kirsty Leanne shares personal experiences and tricks of the trade she's picked up along the way on her difficult journey of being a plus size traveller & let me tell you she's doing a bloody good job at doing so!

Kirsty's job on the day was to inspire us into creating a community within our niche, which if I'm honest probably came at the perfect time for me. I've been working on securing my niche which I'm pretty sure I've managed to nail (thanks to Vix Meldrew's Grow & Glow community) the only thing I'm missing is building my community through it.
The aim of my blog is to support other new parents in saying 'we're all in this together' and make light of the tough situations that come with motherhood, I've created the hashtag #TogetherInMamahood which I've been building a community around - I just need to push it to the next level, and with Kirsty's tips & tricks I think I might just be able to do that.

Kirsty's thought provoking presentation began with her asking what our blog's niche is? Did we even know what our niche was or is there a possibility we're spreading ourselves too thin? Kirsty suggested we began narrowing down our niche by asking our current audience what they like & don't like about our content, and to embrace both the positive and negative feedback. Instagram stories and Twitter polls are a great tool for asking your audience why they follow you, what they want to see more of and what they associate with your blog. By doing this you'll really be able to build and grow your blog, turning it into the niche you maybe didn't know you needed.

Kirsty also spoke about creating a community avatar, something I hadn't actually heard of before, but something I'd already done without knowing. Your community avatar, or your target audience is something that's really handy knowing because not only is it easier to write to a specific person, it's also easier to read if you are that person - It's a win win for both parties!

Once you've nailed your niche & target audience, then you can concentrate on building a community around it & we learnt a few simple tricks for doing so.
1. Come up with a community hashtag.
2. Actively share your community across social media & your blog.
3. Engage with similar accounts in your community.
4. Interact with people of a similar nature.
5. Give something back to your community.

Although I'd already started putting some things in place with regards to growing my community, Kirsty Leanne's talk has definitely given me the boot up the bum to keep going - Sometimes all it takes is someone from an outside perspective to push you in the right direction.

After Kirsty Leanne's wonderfully informative talk we were then pushed (although it didn't take much persuasion) in the way of a Caribbean dinner which was served to us Rural Foods. I've not eaten Caribbean food before but I was more than happy with the offering.

I had Caribbean chicken curry which was served with a creamy sweet potato & coconut mash, a pairing I'd never have put together, but something I really enjoyed - And it seemed the sweet potato & coconut mash was a hit with everyone, all of the girls sat around the table noted it as their favourite part of the meal. Along with the curry, there was a buffet laid out towards the end of the table which included vegan kebabs, chicken kebabs, spicy bean salads and Caribbean slaw.

Considering I've not really eaten food like this before (woe is me right?) I really enjoyed everything Rural Foods served up for us - Now I just need to find somewhere like this a little closer to home.

Marc McCollin - Barbados, beyond the beach.

Next up we had the hilariously charismatic Marc McCollin who was on hand to inform us & inspire us with everything Barbados has to offer, and guess what... It's not just a beach holiday!

2019 marks the year of wellness & soft adventures for Barbados, offering an array of sports activities and a wide range of luxurious health and wellbeing options - There really is something for everyone in Barbados and we should look beyond the island being a beach destination, because it's just so much more than that.

Marc spoke about (and introduced us all to) spelunking... Heard of it before? No, me either, you're not the only one - Spelunking is the latest big craze in soft adventure sports for Barbados & what it is exactly is donning a pair of knee pads, a hard hat & getting down and dirty exploring caves, Indiana Jones style. I'm not sure if spelunking is my type of sport (the descent vibes much) but I can certainly see how other people can enjoy it and get a thrill out of being so hands on with the Barbadian landscapes.
Other soft adventure sports to take part in (which also aren't quite my thing because your gal can't swim so great) include paddle boarding, fly boarding & scuba diving, however if you're like me and prefer your feet firmly n the ground there's plenty of hiking to be done on the island, with some amazing coastlines and scenery to be seen.
Heck if you're feeling really fit you could even get yourself a set of wheels and cycle from one side of the island to the other, you might even be able to tick off a few of the 1700 rum shops Barbados has to offer - Not that I'm condoning drinking and cycling of course.

Not only does Barbados offer amazing culture and history, but it's also home to amazing people & even more incredible communities. Marc explained that 33% of people holidaying in Barbados were making returning visits, because they enjoyed Barbadian people & being submerged in their communities so much.

If you're looking at visiting Barbados, Marc explained that May would be the perfect time to go - He advised that the rainy season in Barbados runs from June to November and then it'll be really busy between December and April with people escaping for a bit of Winter sun, so May's the sweet spot.

Admittedly I've always thought of Barbados as a beach holiday, but after Marcs talk I've come to realise that there actually is SO much more to the destination.

Katy English - Creating creative content on Instagram.

Marc ever so kindly handed us then onto the Instagram Queen that is Katy English; And her job to round the evening off was to help spark our creativity when it comes to creative content on our Instagram feeds.

Katy is a 27 year old blogger and photographer who's passions include traveling the world, indulging in a good book and fairytale photography, something that is clearly apparent from her super inventive & creative instagram feed. Katy's enthusiasm for creativity began in January of this year when she set herself the rather huge challenge of learning Photoshop alongside completing a word a day challenge after being inspired by Holly Rose Stones. Each morning using the questions sticker Katy would ask her Instagram followers to give her a random word (and sometimes it was hella random) & she would create a beautiful image to display on her feed from it.

As difficult at this sounds, I can certainly see how Katy's challenge made her fall in love with Instagram again.

I often worry that because of my niche I can't really be as creative as I'd sometimes like to be, but Katy began her presentation by giving us a few simple tips and tricks of the trade, which massively put my mind at ease.

So let's break it down - How can we be more creative?
1. Forced perspective. Like the iconic pizza dress photo or in @ellenextdoor case, the watermelon version, bring something to the foreground of the image.
2. Play with angles. Shooting an image on a hill, why not change the angle of your photo so the road is flat.
3. Tilt your image - Katy gave us a simple. yet amazing example from @allthatisshe which for the life of me I can't seem to find now, but Domonique was sat upside down on a bench & then the image was tilted on it's side. It was so simple, yet so effective - It was brilliant.
4. Add art or some stickers. There seems to be a lot of people adding artwork to their Instagram images at the moment, with one of my favourites being @rhiannaoliviab who has created the #MyTinyDoodles community.
5. Sparkle. Literally! Katy told us about an app she uses called Bokeh FX to add lights and sparkle into her content like this Harry Potter themed image.

Although I've still found being creative on Instagram pretty difficult, what I've taken most from Katy's presentation is her general attitude towards life & work - She's basically a queen! Katy advised us to experiment, trust your own ideas and embrace both the highs and the lows that come with creating content - Sometimes you're going to fail, heck you'll probably fail a few times over, but embrace it, learn from it & remember that tomorrow is a brand new day!

And if that isn't something to apply to all aspects of your life, I don't know what is.

I had an absolute blast attending Icelolly Holidays #BlogAtTheBeach event - Not only was it good to get myself back in the blogging loop and engage with likeminded people, it was also super beneficial for me to not be mum for a few hours - That was really flipping amazing! That being said, I did leave the event after the presentations so I could get home in time to put Amelia to bed (this gal can do both, right?) although the event carried on into the night with beer pong & party games.

Thank you so much to Icelolly for making this mama's weekend one to remember!

Have you been to a blogging event before?


1 comment

  1. I was so sad to not be able to attend. :(
    They're fab events and always a great way to catch up with people, as events seem fe and far between recently.
    it looked amazing and seems you've come away with some great pointers. :)
    Oh and well done for navigating Manchester - I have to say, I was a tad hesitent at that prospect!



C l a i r e M a c © . Theme by STS.