It’s been a busy summer and this year, the one thing we can’t complain about is the weather. It’s been lovely and for once, we’ve been able to enjoy the great outdoors in flip flops, rather than in Wellies! North Wales provided us with lots of greenery, free-roaming farm animals and plenty of much-celebrated local produce. We also explored some of the New Forest in the South of England, with its wild horses and pretty villages. I’ve blogged much less often, though I’ve managed to keep up a weekly post over on JamieOliver.com. Despite the quietness on-line, off-line there were also one or two food events to get to - a blogger supper at Fifteen that I’ve already mentioned, a new kids app launch and a cooking workshop Raymond Blanc (lots more about that to follow) and a brilliant day out at The Big Feastival – also written-up here – with more photos to come. Firstly, though, a few words about Food Blogger Connect (#FBC5) which happened back in June.
Food Blogger Connect (FBC) is a conference, with speakers and workshops around the topic of food blogging, now in its fifth year. This summer it took place at The Battersea Arts Centre – a spacious and eclectic community building. This was my third FBC conference and in fact, my own Polish food pop-up adventures were, in part, inspired this year by some of the talks and speakers at last year’s #FBC12. In particular, I remember Sumayya Jamil’s talk on niche food blogging, which prompted me to start my niche Polish food blog. I also loved meeting The Russian Revels, who held a Russian pop-at #FBC12, inspiring me to come back myself this year with a Polish pop-up of my own at the StrEAT party. Since the weekend clashed with a pre-planned family party, I was only able to attend the very first day of FBC#5, but I did make the most of my time by giving a talk to over 150 food bloggers on ‘How to get Published in Magazines,’ as well as running my pop-up. This year was also special for conference founder Bethany Kehdy, who launched her debut cookbook The Jewelled Kitchen – with a much-talked about Arabian-inspired pop-up on the Saturday night.
Attending FBC is always a great opportunity to catch up with some of my best food blogging friends from around the world – including this year meeting Sukaina from Sips and Spoonfuls and catching up with Sally from My Custard Pie – two ladies (both living and writing from Dubai) who I particularly admire in the blogging world. It was also good to meet Merlin Jobst from the JamieOliver.com team, Leyla Kazim from The Cutlery Chronicles, Jac from Tinned Tomatoes as well as seeing friends I’ve met before such as Kellie from Food to Glow, Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Heidi from Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk. I enjoyed the keynote and other speeches by renowned author and blogger David Lebovitz, who I’d met once before on a trip to Cognac with Martel. I also got to share a little bit of my Polish food with Niamh Shields of Eat Like a Girl and with Fiona Beckett, who wrote three excellent posts including a post on What Motivates Food Bloggers? here.
After David’s welcome and humorous keynote, the conference moved onto a panel discussion with David Lebovitz, Niamh Shields and Emma Gardner entitled: “What does successful blogging mean, anyway?” All three panelists had very different experiences to share with unique views on how to grow your blog and engage with your audience. David’s advice was to enjoy the blogging journey and to not be afraid of sharing your vulnerabilities, perhaps documenting some of your ‘mishaps’ as well as your successes. David also said that bloggers should hold back from filling each post with a hundred photographs of the same dish, taken at slightly different angles, when one good photo will suffice! Interestingly, David also believes that although blogging itself is global, it’s very difficult to tap into an American audience if you are based in Europe and that therefore, we should concentrate on building our platforms more or less where we are based.
Having written her first book, Comfort and Spice in 2011, Niamh is now enjoying much more travel writing – a little later on she also spoke about her recent adventures in Canada. Award-winning blogger Emma at Poires au Chocolat, has, since 2009, balanced blogging with academia. She won ‘Food Blog of the Year’ at The Guild of Food Writers Awards in 2012, wrote a cookery book proposal, but then withdrew it, before returning to Oxford University. Emma now combines blogging with working in Switzerland and Oxford. Emma’s blog is single-focused and she writes in order to share her personal adventures in baking whilst developing her photography. She also adheres to a very strict policy of not taking up any commercial or brand-led opportunities, and carries no advertising on her site.
All three panellists agreed that successful blogging, in their view, was down to sheer hard work and consistency. There is no set formula to overnight success – in all three cases my impression was that all three take their blogging seriously. They work hard on developing a strong voice through compelling writing and are all near-obsessive when it comes to perfecting posts alongside meticulous recipe testing.
Next, I shared the floor with Karen from Lavender and Lovage, to offer some useful tips on making the transition from blogging to writing for external publications. We were both a little nervous, being only the second set of speakers, and having to follow David, Emma and Niamh who were excellent – but the audience was kind to us so thank you! All the slides from FBC#5 can be found here on slideshare.
There were plenty of other talks and workshops on the first day and of course, tons across the weekend as whole. You can read lots of other conference review posts here.
The FBC team had worked very hard to try and ensure that this year we were all offered a variety of talks and sessions, as well as lots of food and drink to sample during the weekend. Although I was quite busy setting up the My Polish Kitchen pop-up, I especially enjoyed meeting Selina Periampillai of Yummy Choo Eats (@YummyChooEats) who served up some traditional Mauritian street food. Street traders Pig a Chic (@pigachic) had completely sold out before I had a chance to get to them and at my table, my bigos and Polish flavoured vodkas seemed to go down very well, too. It was the first time that I’d fed people out on a street and with no kitchen facilities – as you can imagine, it was quite a challenge, but it was fun!
FBC is also growing and travelling to pastures new – this weekend saw FBC Lebanon and there is also a second ‘roaming workshop’ in Dubai coming up in October. The event in London next year – #FBC14 – will be taking place on 6th-8th June 2014, so if you are a blogger with a passion for making new friends and you would like to pick up some tips on topics from writing, to styling, to taking better food photographs, it’s worth making a note of the date and keeping an eye open for any early bird ticket offers.
With many thanks to the FBC team, particularly Bethany and Joslin Kehdy, for inviting to speak and to share my Polish food at the StrEAT party.
My blogging adventures are taking me Stateside very soon, which means I’ll get to compare a UK conference to a US conference – I look forward to sharing my experiences and the differences I notice with you when I get back!
Did you attend #FBC5 this year? What was your experience of it?