For love not money: wise words from Cardiff Bloggers Meet

Now I’ve moved from Liverpool I miss the social meets a lot. Things like Ignite Liverpool, tweetups, Twestival, TEDxLiverpool, and Social Media Cafe turned online mates into real life friends and it was great.
Plus, there’s a kind of comfort in walking into a room and knowing you’re among people who can recognise any given Last Exit to Nowhere logo instantly.

 So although work meant I couldn’t make the first Cardiff Bloggers Meet I was able to get to last night’s – I think it was the first the second one organised sans Hannah Waldram and Ed Walker – held in Jolyons, and it was a packed house. 

Liverpool didn’t have a bloggers meet so I didn’t know what to expect from Cardiff Bloggers. The answer was a buzz of chatter, and a lot of friendly types.
I’d gone with No.1 Friend Glyn Mottershead, and we skipped the blogging surgery that preceded the meet, arriving just ahead of the first talk by Amy Davies, whose Cardiff Arcades Project chronicles the city’s fantastic Victorian and Edwardian arcades through photos and interviews with the shops and occupants.
She spoke honestly and very engagingly about the project – which recently resulted in an exhibition – and had some great tips on blogging and blog projects, around the ‘love not money’ theme.

So, some of the standout points from Amy’s talk:

Pluses: Blogging can give you confidence, you get a buzz from doing things other people are enjoying. (For Amy, it also enhanced her career as a prospective employer knew the arcades project site)

Pitfalls: Others taking your work without consent – particularly relevant for Amy’s photo project. She said: “People take the piss” (sad but true)

Use your community: When she started out Amy canvassed the idea on Twitter and got a lot of positive support from her networks. So she did it.

Cost: A big blogging project can bring losses. Amy warned that as well as being an investment of time, there are financial implications that come with buying domain names, business cards, equipment etc. On the plus side, Amy now sells her photos from her project and received donations towards staging her exhibition. But she said: Think before you start about how much time and money, because it can be demanding. Some exciting blogs start up that don’t continue because of that commitment”

Traffic: The arcades project site has between 3-4k hits a month but, Amy stressed, “targets don’t matter. They did, but I don’t worry about it any more”

 One thing Amy said that struck a real chord with me: “Remember why you do it. Love what you are doing and never forget the reason why you started. As soon as anything becomes too much step back and reassess what you’re doing, because if you don’t love it there is no point.”

Also guest speaking at the event was Jeremy Rees, a volunteer broadcaster for the community-driven Radio Cardiff.
Now, Radio Cardiff came as a bit of a surprise to me as I’d never heard of it – Jeff explained why pretty quickly; there are parts of the city that can’t receive it, and I live in one such dead space.
“If you live in Weston-Super-Mare, you’ll get it” Jeremy said, ruefully.

From what I learned about Radio Cardiff, and it’s small but dedicated team, the theme of ‘For love, not money’ couldn’t have been more true:

Little acorns: Radio Cardiff operates out of a converted garage in Cardiff Bay and purely run by volunteers. It is the only radio station in the UK that has receives zero grant funding and survives by benefits and advertising.

Passion is everything: Jeremy has a Saturday morning show on Soul and Motown music – “I have a passion for radio; I work full-time but get up at 5am on Saturday to do the community radio, because I love it it’s not a chore”.

Collaboration is vital: One of his other jobs is to coordinate the news output on the station. He said: “My dream is that people throughout the city write news and send it a central point and it gets disseminated via the radio. I would love local people to get involved”

Planning for the future: Radio Cardiff licence ends in 2012 but there will be moves to keep it going and to increase the number of people who can hear it. The volunteers are also looking into internet radio.

Social media can be a double-edged sword: “Increasingly it is how we find out what is happening, and now people find out about us” … but the Radio Cardiff Twitter feed was set up by an “inspired volunteer who left and now no one has the password” (This is a nightmare I’m familiar with; a former, enthusiastic colleague set up myriad Liverpool Echo accounts on social networks, didn’t tell anyone, forgot the passwords, left – and it took a long time to get them shut down. We didn’t manage to close all of them and just had to start again.)

Your audience is… unpredictable: Radio Cardiff was set up to broadcast music of black origin to minority groups in Cardiff but its’listener base is diverse and large, only in the evenings is it a markedly younger demographic.

Your audience is… listening: How do you know if you have an audience? “I’m reassured when I make a mistake and people get in touch no matter how early it is”.

So, two very different, fascinating projects – both with messages that I took lessons from. I had a fantastic time at the meet and I did indeed meet a lot of truly nice people.
So – blog advice, interesting speakers, friendly faces and red wine… not your average blustery Monday September night at all. Thanks @cdfblogs!

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