It’s been a tough couple of weeks in Manchester; as a city we’re heartbroken by the devastating incident at the Ariana Grande concert recently. But heartbroken doesn’t mean broken, and the city’s response as it rallied to help victims and support the emergency services has made me so proud of my home town.

Nothing can take away the grief, confusion and anger we feel in the aftermath of such an event, but looking at “the helpers” has certainly enabled me to find some solace and light in the darkness.

I’ve felt a surge of gratitude for the people of Manchester. I feel honoured to be a part of a community that’s faced such chaos and carnage with compassion and solidarity.

Yes we’re grieving and we’re angry, but we’re standing together and we’re going about our days as usual. And I know I’m not the only one facing my daily business with just a bit more determination, a bit more resolve and a bit more Mancunian grit than usual.

I’ve been busy finalising arrangements for the upcoming VA conference, and I’ve gone at it with even more vigour than usual. This year is going to be bigger and better than ever, and I’m SO glad to have this opportunity to showcase my home town in a positive and constructive way.

The theme is Showcase Yourself and  – especially in light of what’s happened, when there might be a tendency to shut down in fear, stay home, make yourself small and “safe” – I’m feeling really passionate about inspiring people to get out there and make the most of themselves, their business, their lives and the numerous opportunities available to them.

Adversity makes me even more determined to love this life that I’ve worked so hard to create for myself, and I want so much to help others to shine as brightly as they can too.

Excitingly, we’ve had to move the conference to a bigger venue to accommodate a bigger than expected audience, but perhaps even more satisfying for me is the fact that most of this year’s audience members – for the first time- are from outside of the North West.


We’ve booked people in from Yorkshire, London, Scotland, the South West… all over the UK. This wider audience is a direct result of me putting myself out there, including speaking at the conference in London earlier this year. I was SO scared about doing that, but I did it and I loved it and it payed huge dividends to be seen and heard OUSIDE of my comfort – and geographical – zone. The ripples just keep getting wider and wider.

Here in Manchester we just get on with it: we’re known for our no-nonsense, can-do approach, and this year’s speakers are all experts in getting on, getting out there and making a difference.

I want all our guests to arrive in this beautiful city and feel the warm welcome that we’re famous for. I want them to have a laugh, learn a lot and leave with a renewed sense of determination and a resolve to stand up and be the best they can be, right here, right now.

In the words of Tony Walsh, who performed his poem This is the Place at the vigil the day following the attack:

“If you’re looking for history, then yeah we’ve a wealth

But the Manchester way is to make it yourself

And make us a record, a new number one

And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on.”

We will, of course, be providing plenty of brews over the two days, and along with the cuppas there’ll be a huge helping of Mancunian spirit: a hard-boiled determination, a fairly roguish sense of humour, and a down-to-earth approach to getting things done.

It’s all about standing up, working together, supporting each other and making things happen. You CAN showcase yourself, make yourself bigger, reach out to a wider audience, get out of your comfort zone and succeed, and we’ve got the strategies and skills to help you do just that.

Wherever you’re coming from, it’s sure to be worth the journey.

If you haven’t booked your place yet, you can do so here.

See you there!

Jo x