It’s been a while since I posted an end of year review, so thought I’d have a go!
It’s been a busy year at Studio 24 and I was really ready for a break by Christmas. It feels like we’re finally coming out of the pandemic years properly. We had our 11th Studio Day at the wonderful Fitzwilliam Museum (a client) with everyone in attendance for the first time since the pandemic. As ever, it is wonderful to see people in person. We’ve managed to create a successful format for these all-staff days. Some games to warm people up, a little bit of business stuff, lightning talks from anyone on any topic (always really creative and fun), and one interactive session where we work on something to improve the agency. We currently have these twice a year and I hope to increase the frequency in 2023.
We worked on a wide range of projects in 2022. Some of the most fulfilling was our work with CBM, the global disability charity. Earlier in 2022, we launched a Ukrainian language version of the Humanitarian Hands-on Tool (HHoT) website in response to the war in Ukraine. This was a fairly short turnaround but felt really important. The HHoT website is focussed on sharing information on how to provide inclusive humanitarian aid.
Later in the year we launched the Inclusive Participation Toolbox which is all about including persons with disabilities in development and humanitarian programs. We’re really passionate about working with charities and not-for-profit and hope to do more of this type of work in 2023.
In May, our long-time client Crossrail launched the Elizabeth Line. We’ve been working with them for over 13 years so it was amazing to see the new London Underground line be available for public use. Though it also marks the end of our relationship as Crossrail shuts down and everything is handed over to TfL. It’s been a great experience and a valuable stepping stone to public sector work.
We also started a bunch of new things at Studio 24. Volunteer days (a few of us helped the Rowan Forest School), Hack Days (the dev team get together to experiment and try new things), we had a work experience student for the first time since the pandemic, and Nicki launched our accessible front-end starter kit Apollo which we now use on all client projects (and is available to anyone as an open source project). We’ve already seen the impact as new staff join and can onboard to our front-end practices quickly.
Earlier in 2022 also saw us finish officially working on the W3C redesign project. It’s been a massive effort over the past 2 years with amazing work across the Studio 24 team and at W3C. After working remotely with W3C for 2 years I finally met some of the core team in person in the south of France in early September, which was amazing! W3C are very busy with the transition to non-profit status. We continue to keep in touch to help support W3C with the final stages of finishing the Beta site before it launches publicly (hopefully in early 2023!).
I attended a bunch of interesting events last year including Web Summer Camp, dConstruct, Boye & Co Digital Leadership Day in Cambridge, and Higher Education Connect (I talked at 2 of these events). It was nice to get back to in-person gatherings where it’s so much easier to meet new people and share experiences.
A few team members moved on to new jobs (always sad to see people go, but I wish them the best). We hired a new Front-End Developer, Miro, and advertised for 2 new roles in December. We successfully hired for the first role, Web Developer, just before the Christmas break and are still looking for a PHP Developer to join the team. It was amazing how many people applied for the Web Developer role, with 215 applications in just over a month! We use the excellent software Homerun to help manage applications, it certainly made processing large numbers of applicants far easier.
For the first time I’ve hired a business coach to help me improve the business (and myself), so far this is going really well. It’s good to have someone external to talk to who has a deep understanding of running agencies. Over the past few years I’ve talked to more people about agency life and there certainly seems to be more people willing to share experiences than there used to be when I started.
I’ve always been fairly reluctant to do public speaking, but also keen to share knowledge and get out there more. It’s something I’d like to make more time for. This year we seem to have had a lot more success with public speaking at Studio 24.
I spoke about the W3C redesign project at Web Summer Camp in September, an amazing conference run by friendly agency NetGen on the coast in beautiful Croatia. I also spoke about writing for accessibility at HE Connect in Manchester in October.
Marie, our Front-End Team Lead, spoke about W3C, Craft and accessibility at Craft CMS’s conference dotCMS in New York City at the end of September.
We’ll be looking for more places to share our knowledge in 2023.
The 41st Cambridge Film Festival, of which I’m a trustee, ran in October half-term, which was great fun. It’s still a really challenging time for charities and cinema, but it felt like a step closer to pre-pandemic audiences and was a really well run festival this year. Highlights included comedy The Banshees of Inisherin, set around the start of the Irish Civil War, Corsage, the modern and brilliantly acted retelling of Empress Elizabeth “Sisi” of Austria, and the hilariously dark Triangle of Sadness. My favourite film of the festival was Sinjar, a superb Catalan film about three women whose lives have been affected by ISIS. It was a well told story with some superb performances and natural realism.
Fitzwilliam Museum had a superb exhibition on called Defaced, a very modern exhibition on money and protest and how it’s been used by society. Some great artifacts such as forged British notes created by prisoners of war in Germany and artwork created with worthless banknotes (due to hyperinflation). I attended the opening and we had a curator-led tour as part of our Studio Day which was fascinating. If you get a chance it’s on until 8th Jan.
I saw the brilliant Best of Enemies at Nöel Coward Theatre in December. I wasn’t aware of the political TV battle of wits between liberal Gore Vidal and right-wing William F. Buckley before. Zachary Quinto and David Harewood give superb performances and the production is very modern and engaging.
As ever, the Panto at Cambridge Arts Theatre, another of our clients, was a great evening out. Panto is so much fun and I’ve really got back into it as an adult.
A couple of book highlights. I’m usually a fiction fan but I really enjoyed Bob Mortimer’s hilarious autobiography And Away and David Attenborough’s important A Life on Our Planet about the threat to our planet through biodiversity loss and climate change.
In November the family all attended a book talk by Randall Munroe, of XKCD fame, talking about his new book What If 2. The talk was at the Department of Chemistry in Cambridge and was hosted by Adam Rutherford. Randall was pretty laid back and told lots of funny stories about his journey writing What If.
One trip with friends to Luxembourg in February where we also ventured into Germany to visit Trier, the oldest city in Germany (founded by the Romans). It was a fun trip, though one of my friends sadly couldn’t join since he contracted Covid just before travelling. In Germany we encountered some quite strict Covid rules, we had to present our Covid pass every time we entered a bar or restaurant. Sensible precautions, but it feels like such a different world already only 10 months on.
I travelled to Nice and Sophia Antopolis, France in early Sept to visit W3C en route to speaking at Web Summer Camp in Šibenik, Croatia. It was my first time in Croatia and it is an incredibly beautiful country. I’ll certainly be coming back.
Family trips this year have been in the UK, visiting family and a long weekend to Leicester to visit the National Space Centre and the King Richard III visitor centre. Both were really interesting, we all love anything to do with space and it was good to see the story of how King Richard III was found in a council car park (we saw the dramatisation later in the year in the film The Lost King).
I plan to start 2023 with My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican with the family and a trip with friends to Porto, Portugal. Should be a good year ahead…