I’ve had a really relaxing Christmas break with the family this year, only opening my laptop to read my friend’s advent murder mystery. I sit here drinking a Christmas beer (a Belgium beer called Père Noël by De Ranke) writing a short post summing up 2023 and my hopes for this year. In a minute I’ll get back to that murder mystery and try to work out whodunnit!
2023 was a challenging year for many digital agencies. With the economic slowdown continuing many of my peers at other digital shops reported difficulties winning new work. We experienced similar challenges throughout a lot of 2023, but I’m glad things picked up in the autumn and we finished the year with 3 new charity clients – something I’m very proud of (both for the effort my team put into the sales work and the fact we’re increasing our roster of charity clients).
We hired local strategic digital marketing firm Sookio to undertake a positioning review for Studio 24, which really helped focus how we talk about ourselves. So far we’ve updated the Studio 24 homepage and have a new tagline “Building a better web, together.” We have a whole new website in the plans which we will launch later in 2024!
During 2023 I worked with the excellent business coach Susie McFarland. Our monthly sessions (and a few in-person workshops) really helped dig into different areas of running an agency and how we can improve it. I found this really useful and we have a ton of really valuable, actionable stuff to help improve the agency in 2024.
In July I joined the BIMA Sustainability Council, it’s an area I think is really important for all businesses to tackle and I hope to help move things forward within the BIMA community. Around the same time I started looking at what it would take for Studio 24 to become B Corp accredited, something I am keen to achieve in the next year.
Late September / early October was a particularly busy time for me. Across 3 weeks I hosted a Boye & Co Digital Leadership meeting in London, attended the HE Connect conference in Liverpool (my first time in this amazing city), and travelled to Barcelona to talk about the W3C redesign and accessibility at DotAll, the Craft CMS conference. This was an amazing experience, I took along 2 of my work colleagues, met many lovely folk in the Craft CMS community, and after the conference enjoyed an extended trip with the family exploring Barcelona.
In December I travelled with another colleague to Brussels for SymfonyCon, met up with a friend and took the opportunity to meet up with our client, W3C, who were also attending. Although remote work can be great I really enjoy seeing people in person!
Looking back on last year’s post we did start having quarterly in-person company days last year, which I think is really needed now we’re a remote first company. Among many client website launches I was very proud to see the new W3C website redesign launch live in June which we received a string of awards for, culminating in the Gaddys award which Emma travelled to sunny San Francisco to accept the award!
Family and friends
My family and I saw My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican in January, it was simply amazing. The way they used puppetry to mimic the animation of the film was beautiful, the music was incredible – the band suspended up in the trees – composed by Joe Hisaishi, who worked on the original film. They have another run on now so if you can see it I’d recommend it. Other theatre trips included the brilliant Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Hammersmith Lyric. Daniel Rigby was a sparkling ball of energy as the Maniac. And Dear England at the National Theatre. I went to this with friends and took Bill along, who really enjoyed it. It was nice to see such a mixed audience of young and old watching a play about football!
As well as Barcelona and Brussels for work, I travelled to Porto with friends in January. It was an amazing trip, and like typical Englishmen the 4 of us happened to be out walking with our umbrellas just when the flash floods hit Porto – flooding the streets and causing a lot of damage. We managed to walk for 5 minutes in the old town before, utterly soaked and up against torrents of water, we holed up in a cafe and waited until the rain passed with hot chocolate!
Family trips this year were in the UK, with a big family meet-up in Bath (my first time there), a trip to Southwold and Latitude Festival, and trips to Oxford, Lewes and Norfolk.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to Wimbledon this year and I took Bill along. Was brill to see world class tennis players compete, including seeing Carlos Alcaraz in the practise courts.
One of the highlights of the Cambridge Film Festival this year was watching documentaries Senna and Maradonna in the presence of filmmaker Asif Kapadia. Asif was at the festival for a couple of days and was very generous in his Q&As (often expanding on really interesting points linked to the original question) and talking to the Youth Lab team about how to get into filmmaking.
What does 2024 hold?
I want to spend more time relaxing and enjoying time with family and friends. I hope to have an extended holiday this summer travelling across Europe with my son Bill (by train we hope), once he’s finished his GCSEs.
I want to see more theatre. I am off to Soho Theatre tomorrow and we have a trip planned to Stratford-upon-Avon (which I’ve never visited). The brilliant Matthew Baynton (of Ghosts fame) is playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which has to be seen!
I’d like to learn something new. Not really sure what, but probably something creative. I shall await serendipity!
I have a few work resolutions for 2024. One is helping improve how we use documentation at Studio 24. Reading the GitLab remote handbook it’s clear written documentation is key to working successfully remote first.
I’d like to attend more in-person events where I get the chance to collaborate with people from different backgrounds. The Boye & Co events are good for this, they bring together people across client-side, government, academia, and industry. Cross collaboration is something I really value and I feel always brings out good results.
And I’d like to create more. Although I lead an agency I’ve always loved making things with technology, so hope I get the opportunity to build something useful this year.
That’s me for now, I hope you have a most excellent 2024!