Part One of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’   1 comment

Thanks to those whose photo’s I have used – all have been posted in the Facebook event page ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’ and can be viewed by anyone – along with the many other comments and photo’s added.


There is also a ‘Storify’ on Twitter put together by Laura Henry


The preamble before the event

The last couple of weeks before my celebration event on 30th April 2016 were a tad busy, I had done as much pre preparation as possible – including booking the venue, ordering the goody bags, hand writing my contact details in the notebooks for the event (and laminating the covers for the notebooks) , preparing packets of resources that only early years people would appreciate such as packets of stickers and old but unused postcards.

However, that still left a lot of last minute things to do  – including sorting resources for the ‘Upcycle Raffle’  again things that only early years people would think wonderful – books, party hat kits, duplo and so on. The goody bags needed filling, and this involved sorting out 150 of the books on my shelves – some unused. some read but in very good condition.







The things for the tables also needed putting together – twiddle toys, tissues, pens and so on.

And of course there was my presentation that would link the day together, other speakers presentations that needed adding to the memory stick – and a last minute idea on my part – a photographic powerpoint of images from my childminding setting.

And ALL of this had to be transported to Birmingham!

Roll forward to the evening of Thursday 28th April – everything was more or less ready for my friends Dick and Barbara to pick me and all the ‘stuff’ up on Friday morning. Then disaster struck! (My phone which had been previously dropped and broken – and held together with sticky tape and a rubber band) finally gave up the ghost and would not switch on!!!

The Pre event gathering

The broken phone meant a early morning extra task – to go and try to sort phone out on Friday 29th April. Garry and I were waiting for the phone shop  to open, and were first through the door. My options were limited – and the best one was to buy out my contract so I could keep my phone number – vital considering that I had hand written my phone number in all the notebooks for the event!

I came out of the phone shop clutching a brand new phone that was DIFFERENT to my old phone – and I did not have a clue how to use it – but far worse was the fact that I had lost all my contacts!

Up to that point I had been keeping on top of my nerves – just about – but not having my contacts and not knowing how to use the new phone – pushed me over the edge.

However there was no time to dissolve into tears – or indeed to learn how to use the phone, as Dick and Barbara arrived to collect me. We got as much of the ‘stuff’ into their car as we could while still leaving room for me to squeeze on to the back seat – good thing I am not quite as big as I used to be!

We did not get everything in, so I made a note to contact Carol (somehow) to take her up on her kind offer to transport the rest of the ‘stuff’ in her car – along with the celebration cake that she was making, to Birmingham on Saturday.

We parked in the Bull Ring car park and then carried all the ‘stuff’ through the shopping centre and through Birmingham to The Studio in Cannon Street where my event was being held. It was a bit further than I thought – and we had to make two journey’s (thank goodness Dick and Barbara were there to help)

The venue were not only very happy for us to leave the ‘stuff’ in reception for them to take up to the room, they were also happy for me to leave my suitcase in reception for a couple of hours until I could check into reception at the hotel.

What to do for a couple of hours? – not window shopping, as I was tired from all the carrying of ‘stuff’ – so I headed to a coffee shop. Luckily I was in a part of Birmingham that I know really well as near to the Birmingham office of the Pre school Learning Alliance, and I went to a coffee shop that I had visited before. After a very large coffee and a quite large piece of chocolate fudge cake, I felt refreshed. I put a message on Facebook (which I had managed to work out how to access via an internet search) and emailed a few people (again via an internet search) to ask people to text me to try and rebuild my contact list

Just before 2pm and with a grand total of 20 of my 400+ contacts in my new phone (not brilliant but a start). I collected my suitcase from The Studio and walk the short distance to the hotel – and there in the reception was someone I knew – Kathryn Solly – a friend, a colleague AND one of speakers at my event. We hugged and exchange news, then about 10 mins later another colleague, friend and speaker for my event appeared in the hotel reception – Sue Allingham. Hugs for Sue, and then a 3 way discussion.  Sue and Kathryn set of in search of some lunch – and I checked into the hotel.

After I had unpacked, I went back downstairs to the bar area to wait to greet guests as they arrived – so in no particular order (and apologies to those that I have not included surnames (due to forgetfulness or inability to spell!) :- Sue Palmer;  Hayley and Aimee from Northamptonshire Childminding Association; Jennifer McQuillan; Wendy Dimler and her daughter Rosie; Laura Henry; Sarah Edwards and Gemma; – then everything became a bit of a blur for a while!

Some of us went for dinner in the hotel restaurant (including Laura, Jen, Sue P and Sue A and Kathryn who sat on my table) with more joining us as the evening progressed. During dinner I had the message I had been expecting – but did not want to received. I had known since Wednesday that Neil Leitch was ill and might not be able to attend – but I had now been informed that he was still ill and so would not be attending my event. I was gutted, but put on a brave face and text back to say ‘Not to worry, and get better soon’

After a rather long dinner due to so much professional and personal discussion  (and rather slow, but attentive service) some but not all of us,  adjourned to the bar to continue our pre event gathering.

We were quiet a noisy bunch with lots of laughter, and everyone was having a good time – but as we had a big day ahead of us – we all eventually took ourselves to bed.

The Main Event                                                                                                                                        As would be expected I did not sleep much – I did nod off but then woke again – I clearly had things on my mind!

At around 4am I got up and was ready for the day well before 7am when  the restaurant opened  for breakfast. I was joined for breakfast by Belinda who kept my mind off things by chatting with me about other things. However I could not stay for long and had to leave Belinda to finish breakfast alone.

I checked out of the hotel and walked the short distance to the venue – more than a little nervous as this was my first attempt at organising anything like this – and a lot was being placed on trust. I had not even seen the room to be used before – apart from a few photos on the venue website (You take a look yourself if you did not attend – or if interested in hiring it yourself for an event – we were in the Innovate room on the third floor – with lunch being served in the next room called Achieve LINK TO THE VENUE USED )

After a bit of an issue with the lifts – I did not know you had to go to the second floor in one lift and then walk a little way and go in another lift to the third floor. Still a nice man spotted me wandering around lost, and directed me to the room.

I was not disappointed – it was huge and modern – and looked great. There in the room was a face I knew – Elaine (although I do have difficulty keeping up with the hair colour changes!) Elaine asked if there was anything she could do to help – well there was! My friend Carol was due to arrive very soon with the rest of the ‘stuff’ and most importantly the CAKE – but I needed to go through things with Philip about the IT things, fire exits, food and so on – so I asked Elaine if she would mind waiting downstairs for Carol to arrive. Elaine of course agreed.

Philip took me through the IT things and made sure it was all working – with hindsight I should have asked a few more questions about changing presentations and laptops – but at the time I was much too stressed to even think about it. Luckily there were no fire drills planned, and I knew where the meeting point was should there be a real fire.

Belinda then arrived and helped me personalise the room with balloons / things on the tables / goody bags on chairs. More people arrived (stress at this point means I can’t recall who or when) but everyone who arrived early helped. Carol then entered the room with the most amazing cake EVER. I am a great fan of Carol’s cakes and she has made many of our families special occasion cakes – but this one in front of me was HUGE. Carol was then busy putting the cake together and adding ribbons and so on. As I went about finishing setting up the room, sorting out my presentation and welcoming people – I tried really hard not to look in Carol’s direction as I want to see it first in its finally glory.

Finally the room was about finished – and actually in good time for the official registration time. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED WITH THE SET UP

And Carol was ready too!

I was completely bowled over – despite all the discussion beforehand, all the planning of the decorations – and the sneak pre view when it arrived in the boxes.

This is what I saw!


My event represented in a cake!

Carol – words failed me – I know I gave you a hug  – but it was prefect – everything I wanted but I did not express that at the time.

By now people were arriving, so I was kept busy – which was just as well as the nerves were trying to take over. Sue Palmer arrived with a message from Richard House – He was stuck on a train that had stopped due to signal failures – and did not know when he would arrive!

Never mind – the room was going to be full of early years people who are used to coping with change and the unexpected – and that included me!

Lots of people were now busy – chatting – getting refreshments and doing the fingerprint keepsake that my friends Barbara and Dick had produced the outline for


I can now tell you the finished artwork looks fantastic, it is at my house in the kitchen, waiting to be hung on the wall in the ‘middle room’ – which is appropriate as prior to giving up childminding it was a play space. Thank you so much to everyone who left not just a finger print but also some creative artwork – am I surprise at this – no – we are early years people!

The room was busy as people spotted old friends, and chatted to new people, I was busy as well, chatting and introducing myself to people I had not met before – but before I knew it – it was time to take center stage and get the day started


As you would expect I started with welcoming everyone and go through the House Keeping – plus a few more things such as the Upcycle raffle (this had people searching in their Goody Bags to see if they had a ‘winning ticket’), It seems people did like the goody bags – and what a good way to pass on 150 of my books!

Northamptonshire ladies with their bags at the event

Still liking the bags on the way home













I spoke about the Twiddle toys and how important it is to give children (and adults) access to twiddle things. Some one actually said to me during the event that she was taking that ‘fact’ away with her as she had not realise how beneficial twiddle toys could be. And looking at the photo’s sent in I can see that person did have fun with the twiddle toys.



Without further to do I started my ‘linking presentation’, I was feeling a bit more relaxed as the room was full of laughter and smiles – and everyone was focussed and paying attention.

The whole presentation was based on my life story (so far), with my friends and colleagues interweaving  their story and views into my story. The whole idea worked really well – in fact the idea was one of the best that I have had for a while! However the idea was so much more than just the story of my life – it was about bringing like minded people together, to share ideas and information and to make connections that could be used in the future – and it was also about supporting others – so a couple of the guest speakers were having their first go at speaking at a conference

Regular readers will know that I never give full details of presentations within my blogs about events – and that is not going to change now – however there will be my personal overview from my  memory – with a few links thrown in for good measure.

I started off talking about my home life as a child. Anne Gladstone was the first of the guest speakers (who were all speaking for free as their contribution to my celebration event) and she spoke about resilience and attachments. Anne linked it all to my early years and the woman I have become.If you want to find out more about Anne click on link LINK TO ANNE’S LINKEDIN PROFILE


I then mentioned  the fact that I went to school at 2yr 11m – but that despite the uniform it was a Froebel based Kindergarten. I mentioned the differences in school day then compared to now.

Richard House then spoke about three of the ‘great pioneers’ – Froebel, Montessori and Steiner. Richard read us all 3 quotes from each – and all of them were very relevant to today – and could have been written just last week. Worrying that no one has taken much notice and that Government are continuing to make policy that is destroying not just children’s education but their potential and adult lives. Richard had also done some research into the Kindergarten that I attended – it is still going – but there is no mention of Froebel on their website – not even in the ‘history bit’. Richard had an idea why this was – all to do with the Government it seems – taking over all the Froebien kindergartens by saying ‘we want to work with you’ but then destroying their very being – including ethos and practice.

Richard had a present for me – a book about Froebel – a really good gift because on May 4th I will going on a trip to stay in Froebel’s Kindergarten in Germany – thanks to a trip organised by Community Playthings.

These days Richard spends most of his time campaigning and speaking at events, as a starting point here is some information about him click on the link to Early Childhood Action LINK TO ECA WEBSITE

I spoke a bit more about my early schooling and my first school report, which was nothing like the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile – and was just a basic how I had settled and if I was happy.

Next to speak was Sue Palmer – who spoke about the research that proves that an early start to formal learning makes no difference in the long run. I was surprised to learn how long some of research ran – right into old age. The impact on social skills and life skills from trying to ‘rush through childhood’ is not in doubt – and can be seen in comparison tables – and not just about education.

Sue also spoke about how we had first met ‘face to Face’ and how my childminder stocked handbag had come to her rescue, when I was able to produce a nappy sack to hold the beads from her broken necklace. This produced much laughter in the room.

Sue also had a gift for me! It was a badge! However it was a very special badge – it was an UPSTART badge and Sue said I was now an ‘honorary member’. What a privilege, as UPSTART represents everything I believe in terms of early education – and as well as Sue Palmer, I already know another very active member Suzanne Zeedyk. For information about UPSTART  click this link LINK TO UPSTART . For information about Sue Palmer click this link  LINK TO SUE PALMER WEBSITE

Many people came up to me to mention becoming more involved in campaigns and they particularly are interested in UPSTART – one lady who lives in Worcestershire like me – is very keen to become more involved. I also saw lots of people talking directly to Sue.

I then talked about the transitions in my own childhood – new schools, new houses, mum going out to meetings and so on.

Next to speak was Elizabeth Thomas (or as most of us know her Beth Thomas). Beth spoke about transitions and how we can support children. She gave some case studies – worrying that some children do not have things explained to them, or opportunity to ask questions. Beth them went on to give some details of some research she is going to carry out in the near future.

Over the rest of the day several people came up and spoke to me about transistions – and said they were taking some thing back from Beth’s presentation that would enable them to support the children in their care more.

We should have had an open mike session then for thoughts from the room – but we didn’t as we were running a few minutes late – only a few minutes mind you – not bad after fitting in 4 speakers and 4 linking bits from me – in just 1.5 hours.

There was then opportunity  to have some refreshments and network and do some of the tasks related to making keepsakes for me.


I have decided to end here – and write this blog in parts – as it is already too long, and I need to do other things – so rather than keep you all waiting – I will write part two later.







One response to “Part One of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’

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  1. Pingback: Part Two of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing. Making Connections’ | Penny's Place Childminding

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