Now taking LEGO model commissions

LEGO model of Newcastle Central Station

I spend a lot of time with LEGO: building it, supervising the build of Durham Cathedral in LEGO on regular shifts, and dreaming about it.

So, in a not-so-strange turn of events this year, I’ve been asked a few times if I could build a LEGO model on a commission, which is something I’m now offering under my LEGO alter-ego, Bricks McGee.

I can be fairly wide-ranging with my LEGO commissions, and have been contacted about some of the ideas below:

  • A LEGO model of a local church, to be used as part of a fundraiser for the parish
  • A LEGO mosaic of a favourite family photograph
  • A microscale model of company headquarters building in LEGO
  • Bespoke LEGO models to help celebrate a specific occasion (e.g., an award a company has won)

I’m open to all ideas

If you’d like to see some more examples of my MOCs (My Own Creations; a bit of a twee LEGO-fan phrase for custom built LEGO models), head over to my Flickr account.



Why I love web consultancy work

This week, a 12 month web design consultancy contract I’ve been working on came to an end, and the client immediately invited me back the following week to look at renewing it for an extended period: something I’m very happy about!

The train journey back from London gave me time to reflect on why I enjoy web design consultancy work so much, and from that came this list.

Web consultancy doesn’t require pitching or tendering

Generally speaking, the web consultancy clients I have worked with haven’t asked for a tender or for me to do a creative pitch: I talk to the client, discuss their issues and aims, and suggest a course of action, and a likely budget and deadline. From there, I’m sometimes asked to provide a CV or profile of my web expertise: easy, and more time to get on with the work itself.

Simply, I enjoy the consultancy work because I get to talk with the client, rather than at them, which is what pitch-style commissioning tends to breed.

I get to talk with the client, rather than at them, which is what pitch-style commissioning tends to breed.

The work is varied, challenging and thought-provoking

I love building websites, but web consultancy gives me another perspective on what I do.

I find it also gives me a chance to think about my other clients with the benefit of distance, so I come back to the office refreshed and often with the solution to other projects’ challenges in my head!

Chance to work with some impressive clients

Many of the high profile clients we’ve worked with have come to us for specific consultancy work. We’ve helped:

  • the University of Edinburgh with HTML & CSS training, as well as WordPress websites
  • the Scottish Government optimise their web content workflow and strategy
  • write web design exams and assessments for another country’s curriculum
  • Northumbria University, acting as a visiting lecturer for their students and helping develop their web design projects

We also work with some great brands and organisations as a more typical web design agency, but consultancy, by its very nature, seems to attract a greater density of high profile clients.

Consultancy clients buy lunch

Finally, and most importantly, consultancy clients tend to buy lunch! This does tend to be because we’re on a client site and they have a canteen, but a free lunch is a free lunch…

If you’d like to work with me on a web consultancy project, contact me via Peacock Carter Ltd!


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!