Big Weekend 2019 is our biggest yet! We felt like we were building up to Big Weekend 2019 for YEARS...we suppose considering our last Big Weekend was in 2017, we were! And then it was over in a flash! Bristol was 2019's host city and the weather was not the kindest! Luckily we were inside the Bristol Marriott City Centre for much of the event, starting with the Friday Evening drinks reception and the opening of our Exhibitor Halls. Attendees enjoyed a drink whilst chatting to Sponsors and Exhibitors and introducing themselves to others. The 'main event' so to speak was our Saturday conference. This year over 340 people came together to make this happen; our biggest number to date! Numbers changed a bit on the day but we believe we welcomed at least 188 people to the event with alopecia, 122 of whom were attending an Alopecia UK event for the first time; 90 of these coming along on their own. We didn't just welcome attendees from right across the UK, but from further afield too. We were delighted to welcome friends, old and new, from Ireland, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Greenland. The conference timetable included a variety of talks and workshops covering a host of topics, including treatments, support options, products & services and research. Workshops were led by staff members from the Centre for Appearance Research including 'Moving towards what you want from life and away from appearance concerns' and 'Informing another of your (in)visible difference'. Things were kicked off in the morning with an Introductory Talk from Alopecia UK Chair of Trustees, Simon Ray and Charity Development Manager, Jen Chambers and Communications Manager, Amy Johnson. This session also included two moving personal experience talks from Serica Hunter and Amy Harmsworth. The Exhibitor Halls were split across two rooms which were bustling with attendees keen to find out about products and services. Our Gold Sponsors, Eylure, Freedom Wigs and Trendco, were all as popular as ever. Eylure showcased their C-lashes, specially designed for those with alopecia (and there was even a pair thrown into the attendee event bags). Eylure staff were on hand to help attendees with eyelash applications. Freedom Wigs, including owners Deanna and Gary, had travelled all the way from New Zealand to join us. At the Freedom stand, the team were demonstrating the technology of their 3D head scanner, which is used to get the most accurate measurements for custom made to measure wigs. Trendco had a wide range of wigs on display from their Amore, Noriko, Hi Fashion, Gem, Platinum, Sentoo and Ellen Wille ranges. They also had Christine Headwear too. Our Communications Manager, Amy, was enamoured with a more radical and unusual custom-made piece that was on show on their stand (made her feel very 'punk'! - see photo) The team from Hair Solved (our Silver Sponsor), was on hand to explain all about their Enhancer systems, which offer an option that unlike wigs are not taken off by the wearer. In addition to our fabulous sponsors, we had the following exhibitors too: Ally (alopecia friend-finding app) Aspire Hair Centre for Appearance Research Farjo-Saks Ltd (scalp concealer products) Finishing Touches Group (permanent make up) Headscarves by Ciara & Lemonade Wigs Hipheadwear Joli Cameleon UK Masumi Headwear MiMo Wigs Ltd As if that wasn't enough, our ambassador (and author) Sue Hampton was there with a selection of her books. Plus the fabulous Connie, from 'Created by Connie' was available to adorn some lucky attendees with Henna Crowns. Connie has written this fabulous blog post about her experience with Big Weekend 2019 and we urge you to have a read. Our 'Alopecia & Me' Session was facilitated by our Support Project Manager, Kerry Montgomery and featured our Charity Administrator Naomi Hall, Trustee Harry Brunt along with Nikky Odutayo and Jo Tucker. You can take a look at our full event brochure here to see the full line up of Sessions and Workshops that we had on offer in Bristol. The day was rounded off with our raffle which raised over £800 for Alopecia UK - thank you to everyone who bought a ticket! Plus a fabulous and moving poem with illustrations by Toria Lysaght who delivered her Wonderful Me Doodle workshops, not only for adults during the lunch break but also a separate session for kids on our Kids/Teens floor. Kids and teens had a floor all to themselves with activities run throughout the day by The Kings Foundation. Alopecia UK's Young Person's Ambassador Joelle joined in the fun and games including a Fun Science Workshop and Wonderful Me Doodle Workshop. Following closing talks in the afternoon, the room was quickly turned around for an evening of dinner and dancing! The dance floor was full from the moment we heard the first bars of Whitney's 'I Want to Dance With Somebody' to the closing line of an empowering and moving rendition of 'This Is Me' at the end of the night - this was definitely the 'greatest show'! Our Spanish friends turned the dance floor blue with their matching outfits and brought so much energy and Flamenco spirit to the evening! (Pictured below with AUK's Jen and Amy - what Amy is wearing cannot be explained so we won't even attempt to!) On the Sunday, for those happy to brave the elements (a bit of rain wasn't going to spoil the fun!) three groups headed out into the City with their own tour guide. Learning interesting facts about Bristol (including the Dual-Time clock and the remarkable story of Sarah Ann Henley). Coaches then took the groups up to the Avon Gorge Hotel where we quickly managed to grab group photos in-between rain showers, followed by lunch and then goodbyes. Further photos from the weekend will follow as soon as we have the professional photographs sent to us. Discussions are taking place regarding future plans for further Big Weekends and as soon as we have information to share we will do! A final thank you to our Diamond Sponsor, Concert Pharmaceuticals for their generous support, to our Gold Sponsors, Eylure, Freedom Wigs and Trendco and our Silver Sponsor, Hair Solved. And a HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us for Big Weekend 2019! We had a ball!