Durham Cathedral Young Patrons: a great chance to support something worthwhile

I attended the Durham Cathedral Young Patrons launch event in Durham last week, and am proud to become one of the first to join this scheme.

The Young Patrons programme is just £60 a year (£5 a month) to join, and the scheme’s funds are used to support the cathedral’s restoration and other work. Membership is open to all under 40 years of age (consider joining the Friends otherwise!)

There are a great range of benefits to membership, including 10% off purchases in the restaurant and shop, and invites to a host of events throughout the year. The event that stands out for me – alongside events for Lumiere, the stunning bi-annual light festival in Durham – is a film showing in the cathedral’s bell tower in October.

If you’re interested in joining, there’s more information about the Young Patrons on the Cathedral’s website.



A list of LEGO events for AFOLs in the UK for 2015

Looking around the web, there doesn’t currently seem to be any single list of the AFOL and LEGO events in the UK for 2015, so here’s one I’ve put together.

If you have a LEGO event to add in, please get in touch by Twitter (@RichardCarter) or contact me.

And, obviously, check the event details with the organisers and/or venue before going for the most up-to-date times, before you go!

Upcoming LEGO events in the UK

Event Date Venue Organiser/LUG Information
Northumbria Brick Show Sunday, 31 May 2015 Bede Tower, Burdon Road, Sunderland Northern Brickworks (?) Lego displays and traders. More information.
June 2015
LEGO trains at Perth, Scotland Saturday & Sunday, 9 – 10 May 2015 Dewars Centre, Perth Perth Model Railway Show LEGO display at model railway show: largest model railway show in Scotland. More information.
August 2015
Bricktastic LEGO Show, Manchester Saturday & Sunday, 15 – 16 August 2015 Manchester Central Fairy Bricks LEGO show in aid of the fantastic Fairy Bricks charity – stalls, LUG displays and play too.
October 2015
Great Western Brick Show Saturday & Sunday, 3 – 4 October 2015 STEAM (Museum of the Great Western Railway), Swindon Brickish Association It’s back! One of the largest Lego exhibitions in the country.

Past LEGO events in the UK in 2015

Event Date Venue Organiser/LUG Information
January 2015
Brickish at London Model Engineering Exhibition Friday – Sunday, 16 – 18 January,
10:00 – 17:00 (15:30 close on Sunday)
Alexandra Palace, London Brickish Association Brickish members will have a 7m long display, and the guys from FairyBricks will be there too to fundraise! More information
March 2015
Brickish Weekend at NSC Saturday & Sunday, 7 – 8 March 2015,
10:00 – 17:00
Space Centre, Leicester Brickish Association Brickish host a weekend for families and Lego fans at the National Space Centre; models on display, and sets to buy. I’ll be volunteering with Fairy Bricks on the Saturday – come and say hello! More information
April 2015
Northumbria Brick Show at Tanfield Railway Saturday & Sunday, 18 – 19 April 2015 Tanfield Railway, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear Northumbria Brick Show (Facebook link) Great-sounding Lego event at “The World’s Oldest Railway” – Tanfield Railway – in the North East of England
May 2015
Yorkshire Brick Show Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 2 – 4 May 2015 National Coal Mining Museum, Overton, West Yorkshire Brickish Association More information.
LEGO trains at Glenrothes, Scotland Saturday & Sunday, 9 – 10 May 2015 Lomand Centre, Glenrothes, Fife, Scotland Glenrothes Model Railway Show Lego train display at a model railway show in Scotland. More information (Brickish).
Portsmouth Brick Show Saturday, 23 May 2015 Portsmouth Football Club Fratton Park stadium Southern Lego Train Club and Brickish Association members First ever Lego show in Portsmouth, with some traders. More information.


Peacock Carter is 8!

Wahey! Peacock Carter is 8 years old this November.

8 years in the same business: quite a daunting thought! As I’m sure many other SME owners and staff can attest, there is a lot of room for change in 8 years:

  • We’re now a limited company, having started as a partnership
  • Almost like the Sugababes, I’m the only original member of the company left: people change, and move on. The first time is a shock to the system, but new blood (and more importantly, new ideas) have been invaluable in getting us to where we are today.
  • We focus much more strongly on ecommerce these days; I put this largely down to our move, several years ago, to almost 100% open source software, including the fantastic Magento platform (our Magento experience here).
  • Training courses are one of top 3 things we do in terms of revenue these days: building a website is one thing, but having a well-polished training course can add so much more value to a client.
  • We’ve never been entirely reliant on clients in the North East (as much as we love clients on our doortsep), but by focusing on specific platforms, we’re attracting clients from all over the UK, and world, at a greater rate than ever before. That’s pretty cool, even if Skype is a bit of a pain!
  • It’s fair to say we were not very picky with clients when we started: we were lucky enough to work with some great clients early on (and still do work with some clients who even predate Peacock Carter’s existence), but we made naive mistakes and dealt with some clients who I’d like to think, in my newfound wisdom, we wouldn’t deal with these days (all team members even have access to a “bad client smells” list these days). Perhaps part of this, as with any new creative business, is the need to build a portfolio of work.

One of the many reasons I’m still here is that I find a challenge in the way the business constantly evolves; it is almost as addictive as running a business!

Party like its 2006!

As is our tradition, we celebrated with our team and selected clients, suppliers and hangers-on last week: we’ve worked very hard this year and I’m proud of where we are, and where we’re going as a company. Plus, I like the fact I get to keep the giant balloons after the party.

In all seriousness, it’s taken me this long to give myself reasonable breaks from work when I need them: I’m hugely guilty of never switching off, but the odd week (or even few days) away from work leaves me more refreshed than before: time off is a necessity to stop you burning out, so use it!

Keep it simple, stupid

What’s interesting (to me, anyway) over the last few years is that we’ve stripped back to basics in terms of our service offering: we’ve returned/are returning to our core four platforms: MediaWiki, Magento, WordPress and Drupal.

This seems to be a process we go through every few years: we have our core technologies (particularly MediaWiki and Magento), and over the years we accumulate more offerings to try and provide a better solution to clients; after a few years we then shed the less useful of these platforms, and return to a few core platforms. One useful outcome of this is the chance to evaluate new technology in an appropriate environment, but maintaining these sites is a bit of a hassle long term, especially as new developers take over projects!

So, thanks for the laughs, blood, sweat, tears, support, memories (and money to fund my Lego habit, of course), and keep them coming!


Durham Cathedral in Lego – 105,000 bricks and a lot more fun

Durham Cathedral in Lego - altar

As most of you will know from my frequent, unsubtle mentions on Twitter, I’ve been volunteering at Durham Cathedral in the past year.

As one of the 70 or so volunteers helping to build Durham Cathedral in Lego since July 2013, we’ve now raised over £105,000 from individuals and organisations donating towards — and more importantly, adding a brick to — – the scale model of the cathedral.

This project supports the Open Treasure project, a £10 million+ project to conserve the cathedral buildings and create a new museum and exhibition space (worth watching the video of plans narrated by George Clarke).

Take a look at this time lapse of a year of progress for Durham Cathedral in Lego: after 15+ months of volunteering now, it’s a great reminder of how a little time each week can help build something fantastic.

And, of course, if you’d like to come and add a brick (or better, 20!), the model is staffed from 10 – 4pm on Monday – Saturday, and 12 – 4 on Sundays.


Creative Sorbet: design briefs to cleanse your palate

When you’re busy, it’s really easy to move from one design project to another quickly, and after a while I find that designer’s block sets in and I struggle to think creatively for client projects.

One remedy I have found to this is to expose myself (not like that!) to other designers’ work: read a design blog; look through portfolios. This helps to distract me momentarily from the project at hand, and gives my brain a break, to the point where I can usually progress beyond a blank page to a concept for the client.

The other thing I do is to work through sample briefs not tied to a client or internal project, which allows me to test my skills, learn new techniques and refresh myself. This is a little like sorbet in a meal: these little projects cleanse your design palate in anticipation of a new project.

Sample design briefs to energise your creativity

As such, I find these simple briefs I’m using/have used re-energise your creativity between projects. Creativity needs some constraint to help you focus your ideas, and a simple brief like those below helps me.

Feel free to use them too, and suggest your own on Twitter to me, and I’ll add them here.

1. Book cover for the next James Bond novel to be released
2. Beer engine clip: redesign the logo for your favourite beer, and think about its application at the bar: how would it look among other brands?
3. Football club shield/logo
4. Wall mural for a multicultural suburb of your city
5. Illustration style portrait in two colours
6. Isometric style map of your local area
7. 1920/1930s style railway poster for your city/town