A chill wind slices through the trees, casting down a swirling shower of autumnal colours. The impending darkness hangs just beyond the sun as it eases into its resting spot. In fields as far as the eye can see, potatoes jostle to be plucked from their black fecund bed.

My sisters sit to the left of me – all side ponytails and in matching party dresses, garish pink and green satin raras hanging from a velvet sweetheart neck bodice – each of us in our prescribed place in Dad’s car.

We’re on our way to The Howdells’ party.

Not just any party. The main barn will be decked out with decorations – the likes that would make a Kardashian shindig seem modest – and the spread will be unlike any you’ve seen before. There’ll be trestle tables bulging under sarnies of every denomination and pickled goods and sausage rolls and pizza and quiche and vol-au-vents and chicken legs and chicken wings. There’ll be a station to construct your own fajitas or duck rolls, the hoisin sauce glossy like newly sprung oil. There’ll be the dessert table; a showy cheese platter centre piece, flanked by trifles and wobbly jellies and cupcakes and butterfly buns and fruit salad. There’ll be a DJ, a classic touch in this competitive village party industry, where spending anything under a grand is unheard of. And everyone from the village school is invited.

Well. Not everyone.

I look down at my bright green tracksuit bottoms, trying desperately to remain still should the friction cause them to combust. I am not invited. Mrs. Howdell has politely disclosed to my Mum that Terrible Teela the Troublemaker and Wanton Vandal (must remember to add this job title to my CV) is not welcome. (Spoiler alert: I turn into a goody two-shoes circa junior school and repair my reputation.)

How do I feel? I totally respect my parents for allowing my sisters to partake of this immeasurably rewarding social experience, punishing merely the perpetrator of (spent) crimes. But also, this is bull. I feel like I’ve felt every time I’ve been left out of a social engagement since. Like a flammable loser. A friendless reject. It’s not a nice feeling to experience.

And so, when I heard about #CommsHero week, and saw the guestlist via all-consuming PSA Tweets, I knew I would do ANYTHING to get to the party. The FOMO is real when it comes to #CommsHero.

And it didn’t disappoint.

Alright so there were no trestle tables of savoury goods – since Cozzy V struck, errthing’s moved online, in this case to the Airmeet platform – but there was still a veritable feast in terms of the breadth of speakers. And perhaps it was that lure of a peek behind the curtains, or maybe it was a seven-year-old me, terrified that my name would precede me and my invite would be reneged, but I also asked The Choud (that’s Asif Choudry to you uninitiated few) if I could help out in some way. He could obviously sense the party pain I was carrying, noted the battle scars, the jaded affectation behind my dead-eyed stare, and offered me a prime role.

It wasn’t quite the DJ, but an MC, a classic touch in this competitive conference CPD industry, where usually, generally, a couple of speakers are eked out over a day. I was to be responsible for around ten of the sessions of the 15-minute Q&A over the Monday and Friday. My big moon face was to be broadcast to the anticipated 300 onlookers, and I would get to speak to some of the big #CommsHero types I’ve previously fangirled over. Which is pretty much everyone.

I’m almost 29 years away to the day from that fateful car journey to The Howdells’ Farm. It’s as if Asif – the entire Resource team including Lee Hird – is some merchant of magic, bestowing a light which shines from my face. In every conversation, every interaction, the legacy of CommsHero, the legend of the hardworking but resolutely hilarious Northern team permeates and is celebrated. It’s an institution that’s gathering pace; in its ambitions, its fanbase and its merch. I laugh, make jokes, interact with speakers, network with attendees, and when it’s all done, I’ll have a t-shirt, personalised notebook and two competition wins in the form of Sharpies and donuts to compensate my feeling of loss.

And that sense of community, that comes from a shared experience, like being at the same party.

And in some version of reality, that little kid in her fire hazard trackie is getting her fill of a showy cheese platter centre piece, and all the sausage rolls she can handle.

It’s a lot.

Teela Clayton

MA PR & Strategic Comms student @ LBU 2020
Member of CIPR & PRCA