Yes, I am perfectly aware that it has taken me almost a year to get this post up… If I distract you with lots of pretty pictures will you pretend not to notice how long it has taken?
As I celebrated my nine year (!!) anniversary of starting his blog last week, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about blogging lately – about how we blog, why we blog, what we each get out of it, and how we motivate ourselves to carry on. The interwebs have changed a lot since I started blogging. Most people who started out when I did stopped blogging ages ago started out with no game plan other than to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing their words in a publicly visible forum. When we discovered that there were other freaks out there just like us, beetling away at their computers in the dead of night to publish their recipes, we were genuinely thrilled and firm, lasting friendships were quickly formed. But since the discovery that blogging can be a way of generating cash/getting a book deal/kick-starting a new career, it seems that a lot of the whimsical fun has been sucked out of food blogging and that it has become a more unfriendly and competitive place.
But despite all the cliques, in-fighting and aggressive competition, I still believe passionately in blogging as a community activity – there is power (and much love and support) in a union, as they say. So when I am given a chance to meet up and speak to other food bloggers and feel like a real-life, in-the-flesh community for a while, I always jump at the chance. Why else would I have boarded a plane in the middle of London’s short summer last June and flown directly into the middle of Cape Town’s cold, wet and windy winter? Of course, there had to be bloggers involved – I was returning to speak at the annual South African Food & Wine Blogger Indaba, which took place for the third time in Cape Town in June last year.
This event is the premier food blogging event in South Africa and I am proud to be one half (together with the fabulous Colleen) of the business partnership that organises it. The event brings together food bloggers, wine bloggers, traditional media as well as social media specialists and people connected with the food and wine industry for a packed day of presentations, demonstrations and workshops. The inaugural Indaba in 2010 was an intimate affair of 60 people; by 2011 attendance hit triple figures; and by 2012 we were heading for 130 attendees – which meant only one thing: a LOT of goodie bags to be filled! I had barely dragged my luggage off the plane from London before being set to work at our venue, headline sponsor Pick ‘n Pay‘s snazzy conference centre, just one person on a veritable production line of goodie-bag assistants, filling our three (!) bags to bursting point with items from the super-generous sponsors.
The next morning Colleen and I were up surprisingly early, given the fact that we had been up, talking, laughing and
playing with the dog completing last-minute preparations the night before. Just to start the morning off with a bang, we received a text message from one of our speakers, Alida, saying: “Don’t panic, but I’ve had a very bad fall and can hardly walk. Are there lots of stairs at the venue?”. Nothing like adrenaline first thing in the morning to sharpen the senses!! Registrations were already underway when we arrived at our sponsor Pick & Pay’s conference centre and soon the lobby was buzzing with bloggers and squeals of recognition (“Oh – you look JUST like your profile picture!”). While attendees were mingling, Alida managed to arrive safely and the fabulous Mark from Pick & Pay put on his emergency medical technician hat and tended to her ankle. “Oh, don’t worry about me,” said Alida “I’m flying high after all my pain meds!”. And on that note, the 2012 Indaba kicked off. After coffee, pastries and general chatter, we moved to the auditorium where our super-professional master of ceremonies Paul Raphaely (affectionately known as NoMU Paul, a.k.a. the sheepdog) welcomed us all and officially started the day’s proceedings. Both Mark from Pick ‘n Pay and Paul Galatis (affectionately known as Yuppiechef Paul, a.k.a. Luigi) from co-headline sponsors Yuppiechef had a few words for attendees and then the blogging presentations kicked off.
First up was… erm… me, with a keynote speech on Ethics, Etiquette and Why We Blog, followed by a host of other talented speakers: Alida Ryder on Monetizing Your Blog; Linda Harding on Building Your Blog Brand with Social Media; Carine Visagie on Writing for the Web; and John Gardner on Pinterest for Bloggers. It was wonderful to see all the speakers sharing their specialist knowledge so freely – often people are so scared that sharing somehow diminishes their own success, but I think that the morning’s sessions proved quite the opposite. We also had a brief demo before lunch from the infectiously enthusiastic Sanjai, showing off what the Zoku Quick Pop maker can do – truly impressive! But of course, man cannot live by blogging alone and after a morning’s learning we were ready for lunch – a spread from the team at Source Management caterers washed down by wines from Van Loveren’s newly-launched Tangled Tree range of wines.
Photo © Browniegirlblog
After lunch, a fabulous buffet spread laid on once again by Source Management catering, participants could select two from a range of available workshops to attend – one early afternoon and one late afternoon – covering a wide range of topcs. Workshops included:
- Food Writing by Sam Woulidge
- Food Styling and Photography by Sam Linsell & Tasha Seccombe
- Photography Basics by Jeanne Horak-Druiff
- WordPress and Plugins by Mark Forrester
- Writing and Publishing a Cookbook by Sarah Graham
- A hands-on Cake Decorating Workshop by Grace Stevens
- Basics of Food Styling and Props by Sam Linsell
- SEO and a live blog audit by Neil Pursey
- Post processing in Photoshop & Lightroom by Alida Ryder & Jeanne Horak-Druiff
- a Grappa and Food Pairing by Jacqui Thatcher of Profumi d’Italia
- a Gorgeous By Graham Beck Bubbly and Canapé workshop by cellarmaster Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira himself
The pics below are a presenter’s eye view of my photography workshop
A tough choice, wouldn’t you say!! My only regret is that because I was teaching two workshops back to back, I was unable to attend any myself (and I did so desperately need bubbly and canapés…) – but by all accounts, all the workshops were hugely informative and and enjoyable. After a brief break to catch out breath, it was time to charge our glasses with a little more Tangled Tree wine 9I was particularly smitten with the spicy Shiraz!) and get comfortably seated for the Indaba charity auction. This year, we selected the Lavender in Lavender Hill, a social enterprise which aims to plant 1,000,000 Lavender Plants in Lavender Hill, a deprived community in Cape Town, South Africa. The vision is to create an urban farm for the production of lavender products, bringing skills, jobs and recognition to the area. The auction highlights included a fantastic Banquet-in-a-Box giveaway from Pesto Princess (represented on the podium by the lovely Candice, complete with tiara). With able help of auctioneer Damon and his able assistants Devin and Donald (who even modelled some of the auction items for us!) we were able to raise an amount of R15,600, and CEO of the charity Marcelle van Zyl was in the audience to see the amount raised. A KitchenAid mixer sponsored by the lovely folks at Yuppiechef was won by a clearly thrilled Roxanne.
But after you strip away all the teaching, the learning, the eating, the drinking and the fundraising, you are left with the most important part of the day – THE PEOPLE. Without the tireless support and encouragement of every single person who worked on, assisted with, sponsored, talked about or attended the Indaba, it simply would not take place. And so my favourite part of the day was the people-watching during the auction, when the hard work was over and we could just enjoy being a community of like-minded people. See if you can spot yourself (there are also a few extra photos in my Flickr album of the day)
I think I speak for all the attendees when I say that we had a fantastic day – there really is no substitute for meeting people face to face and I do believe that every year lasting friendships are formed at the Indaba. I also feel that the breadth of topics and calibre of speakers is world class – and just to whet your appetite… this year’s Indaba is provisionally scheduled for mid-August 2013 and I can think of no better reason to plan a visit to Cape Town – or, indeed, South Africa. (The Indaba represents even more fantastic value for money if you are paying in foreign currency!). Keep an eye on the SA Food & Wine Blogger Indaba website for news of the next event. And if the stellar line-up of speakers did not persuade you, take a look below at what I found in my bulging goodie bags – thank you to each and every generous sponsor who made the day possible! (Fellow-blogger Nicola George even recorded herself unpacking her goodie bags!)
Three goodie bags per attendee – count ‘em!
An apron and a truly amazing Wuesthof knife from Yuppiechef
Fresh pesto from the fabulous ladies at Pesto Princess
Fresh Clemengolds clementines and an adorable mini-cool bag from Clemengold
Sweet and savoury store cupboard essentials from Rhodes
Decadent soft toffees from Sweet Temptations
HOPE TO SEE YOU AT THE FOOD & WINE BLOGGER INDABA 2013!