LONDON – Creative, gritty, with a sympathy that conquers, Monica Costa is one of the very first mom-bloggers and the founder of London Mums, an organization born in London as a support and networking group for other mothers and children, who with advent of social media has turned into a multimedia platform that today also includes a quarterly printed magazine. Created by Monica in 2006 after the birth of her child, London Mums is now a network of over half a million users which has also earned it an important recognition by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. From Johnny Depp to Zucchero, from George Clooney to Julia Roberts, his guests include numerous celebrities; but the real stars, for her, remain above all ordinary people, like those from whom she always returns to her beloved Romagna.
Monica, how and when was the idea of London Mums born? How does it differ from other websites?
“In London in 2006 I founded the group London Mumsto which the magazine of the same name belongs London Mums Magazine, aimed at mothers to suggest ideas that can cheer and entertain their children. Initially the group’s goal was the exchange of ideas and advice, but gradually the need to create something more structured led me to the idea of a network broader using the internet. In 2006, social media was not yet widespread, so I like to think about London Mums like an ‘ante-litteram blog’. The idea came to me in a room of the ‘breastfeeding cafe’ in Putney organized by the local health authorities to promote breastfeeding among British mothers who are a little reluctant. I created a ‘mailing list’ on a piece of paper, which I still have. From there I wrote to all 20 mothers present and proposed to meet at the V&A Museum to have a coffee and go out for a day out in the name of culture (a passion of mine). 50 mothers came to the appointment with as many strollers, to the point that the museum keeper asked me – in a semi-joking tone – if that was ‘National Pram Day’. There have never been so many newborns in that location. It was clear that each mom had invited my friends to email and there had been the classic word of mouth. All this in the pre-instagram / pre-facebook era. The enthusiasm of the mothers struck me a lot. I therefore decided to create a network that would include all the mothers of the capital. The fact that I am a precursor of the ‘movement’ of ‘mummy-bloggers’ excites me. The creation of this vast network – which now has half a million users – has earned me a popularity that has gained appreciation and recognition from successive mayors in the British capital from 2011 to today (Boris Johnson, now outgoing Prime Minister, and Sadiq Khan, mayor still in office). Mayor Sadiq Khan also awarded me the title of Ambassador of Italians to London during a ceremony held in the prestigious City Hall, otherwise known as City Hall. ”
After the London Mums website, London Mums magazine was born. Let’s talk a little about her: business woman or mumpreneur?
“The London Mums magazine it is nothing more than a further means of communication between London mothers. It is true that the world is moving towards paperless (without paper), but I love going against the tide and then I don’t believe much in the idea of a life without paper. I love reading paper books and newspapers too much. I don’t think our society is ready yet to give up the pleasure of smelling the scent of freshly printed paper. The same sponsors of my magazine love the idea that the newspaper is free and that it can be found in supermarkets. During the pandemic, many print magazines closed their doors while London Mums magazine survived. I work hard and have a decent reputation to the point of having interviewed many Hollywood super stars and rock stars, including Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Spandau Ballet, Andy Garcia, Patsy Kensit… and the list doesn’t end there. Business woman or Mumpreneur? Mumpreneur is nothing more than a way to say entrepreneur mom. I like to emphasize being a woman. We still live in a very macho world, where we women often have to scratch our nails to make our way. London, however, compared to Italy offers more opportunities, in general, and to women in particular. In reality, more than an entrepreneur I feel like a dreamer, a free spirit who still believes in the ideals I had as a child. I’ve always chased my dreams. And I did well, because I made almost all of them. My magazine was a secret dream. As a child I wanted to create a newspaper made up of good news only and I succeeded “.
These days London and the whole world mourn the passing of the first and most famous mumpreneur, Queen Elizabeth II. The endless procession of people who wanted to say goodbye to her, according to a survey, was made up of about 68% of women, some of whom arrived on purpose from very distant lands. What do you think?
“In the days of mourning for Queen Elizabeth, as I strolled in Buckingham Palace among the expanses of flowers, letters and impromptu works of art created to pay homage to a beloved sovereign, I reflected precisely on being a woman here in Great Britain. A country traditionally of strong women. Traditions that start from Elizabeth I, pass through Queen Victoria and the suffragette movement up to Elizabeth II. The example of so much female entrepreneurship in all fields somehow stimulates the world of women who find themselves or who land on this island to be enterprising. I don’t know if I would ever have had the courage to do everything I have done in the last 24 years if I had stayed in Italy. Having said that, however, I really admire Samantha Cristoforetti. If I were a child today. in Italy, perhaps, I would aspire to become an astronaut “.
Romagnola doc, viscerally in love with her land, to which she recently dedicated a successful book, “Noi di Lido Adriano”. Yet for many years you have chosen London: what do you like about the British capital, how did you get here?
“Another dream in the drawer was to write a memoir to bequeath to my son. This dream has also come true. We at Lido Adriano came out in full pandemic last summer, but it was a real success with the public. 600 copies sold in the first 20 days, also thanks to word of mouth. Romagna will always be in my heart. I am 100% Romagna even though I grew up in Bologna. London is the city that adopted me when I grew up. 2022 marks a milestone for me: I spent more years in London than in my Bologna. Samuel Johnson said ‘Tired of London, tired of life’ – if you are tired of London, you are tired of life. London is a city in constant evolution, where changes are perceived every day. It is like a pleasant vortex, from which you do not want to escape but rather from which you want to be carried away. I am urban. I love concrete and asphalt, the confusion of people.I prefer the so-called ‘bu zz ‘, the noise of human beings in turmoil, in the silence of the countryside or mountains. It’s not for everyone, I admit. But you are one of us, then you can no longer do without everything that a metropolis like London offers you. Beyond the monumental beauty, it is the climate of innovation in all fields – from music, to art, to culture – that makes me feel alive and which I would never want to give up. I came here in 1998 from Milan, ‘head-hunter’ – recruited by an English company looking for multilingual graduates. I speak six languages, so I was an ideal candidate for them. I acclimatized almost immediately. In London I speak all the languages I have learned over many years of hard work and educational travel. My sixteen year old son Diego is perfectly bilingual. I have always been very interested in bilingualism and I have always spoken to him in Italian. This too was a dream in the drawer that I realized. An achievement of which I am very proud “.
London has given her so much in terms of personal and professional fulfillment, including an honor conferred on her by Mayor Sadiq Khan as Ambassador of Italians to London. And then Brexit came. How has your relationship with London and the British changed? Do you see a change of mood in the London Mums community too?
“Brexit has really saddened me. I have always enjoyed the benefits of being part of the European Union both as scholarships, Erasmus and other programs, and the fact of traveling with Interrail with a backpack on my back since the 1980s. then. I don’t really understand what the British needed to take this step back. For now there are only disadvantages. There are tensions. I have not yet noticed it directly. But to avoid problems in the future, I will take British citizenship. I have postponed so far but by now I have made up my mind. The London Mums community reflects the multilingual and multicultural environment of London, where the Brexit effect is not felt. At least not yet. London, at some point, after the announcement of the outcome of the referendum for Brexit, she had declared herself independent. Sadiq Khan asked to separate London from the rest of the United Kingdom. He was mocked, but his sentiment was none other than that of all of us Londoners. I say deliberately ‘we Londoners yes’ cause I feel like a real Londoner! London is a permanent state of the soul, not just a city. It enters your DNA. ”
Do you ever think about returning to live in Italy? Maybe not far from Lido Adriano …
“Is there a backup question? Another secret dream would be to spend several months in Italy, not just the summer ones. And you guessed it! Romagna is always my number one destination. My dream is to get a small apartment. to Rimini to alternate with London and Lido Adriano, where I already spend the summer with family and friends. Rimini is a lively town both in summer and in winter and I love to dance and sing – they are my hobbies. Or in Cervia, the true pearl of Romagna. Who knows if I will realize this dream too one day … “