Last year I wrote a blog post on ‘Doing Something That Scares You’, and shared how mid-June had become a date that over the last four years has taken on significance for me in my personal challenges. It’s time for the 2016 update.
This year I’ve gone with the classic bait and switch approach. On the surface it looks like I’ll be marking the anniversary by putting on the hometown comeback show for a band called Bivouac and releasing the first record from my co-owned label, Reckless Yes Records.
There are many reasons why this show, this venture, is a great fit for my annual push. Firstly, the band themselves. I’ve loved Bivouac’s albums for a long time; they were one of the local bands that made me start seeing that no town is a total cultural trap, that led me to discover other local bands. They mean something in my personal history and they mean something to a lot of people I really admire. On that level alone I’m thrilled to be helping to put on one of their first shows in twenty years.
And I’m doing that as half of Reckless Yes, as we put out our first record, turning this from a good thing to a great thing. As an entity Reckless Yes wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye six months ago. A chance conversation with Pete Darrington led to a whimsical domain name purchase which led to making something from nothing. It led to a renewed energy for the music scene in Derby and the part I can play it that. More surprisingly (and to be honest the best bit about the whole thing) is it led to a brilliant and unexpected friendship.
Reckless Yes has been one of the absolute joys of the first half of 2016…and it’s about to get an even bigger role in the future. We’re keeping a few secrets as ideas become plans but alongside it I’ve been keeping a secret of my own too.
Because while this would be a tremendous way to mark the anniversary it’s not The Big Thing. That would be the announcement that after 12 years I’m leaving Local Government.
I joined the public sector in 2004 as an enthusiastic and somewhat naive digital content strategist (although we weren’t called that then). I found myself at Derbyshire County Council in a sea of eGovernment money being used as binds to enterprise level tech. It became pretty apparent to me (and I’m sure to those around me) that I was a disruptor, not because I wanted to make things difficult for me or anyone else but because when something seems to be contrary to common sense you question it; when something is broken you look for the fix.
Over the following decade there have been the best of times and the worst. I’ve had some amazing colleagues at both Derbyshire and then Nottinghamshire County Council, I’ve been honoured that my team have allowed me to lead them. I’ve also grown an utterly mind-blowing wider network and gained virtual colleagues and friends. Just like with Reckless Yes I’ve been blessed to work directly and virtually with people who can balance shared passion and constructive challenge and who know that success is the product of relentless hard work.
And I’ve worked on things that have interested and delighted me. From using the local elections to showcase the potential of social media to the organisation in 2009, to delivering a sector-leading set of digital platforms with Digital First. I’ve done my fair share of gritting duties, despaired at third-party systems, shouted into the void on the ‘single Local Government website’ debate, given side-eye to services wed to their jargon. I’ve discovered my voice through blogging, and several tribes through being part of unconferences, co-founding LocalGov Digital and joining that elite bunch of LocalGovCamp organisers. I’ve won some awards and had people ask to listen to my ideas about things. I’ve been GritGirl and CitizenSarah; I’ve been the lone wolf, a Wild Thing and an Epic Visionary. I’ve spoken at events in Glasgow, Exeter, Birmingham, Leeds and Stockholm. I’m part of the DL100 for my digital leadership and I won a Lifetime Achievement UnAward. I’ve shed tears of frustration and joy during my time and I’ve met some really, really wonderful clever, funny and lovely people.
It’s been, on balance, a blast.
But, all things must pass.
We all know the sector is changing and the pressures it is under are many. I have not lost heart or interest, I’d happily continue living my double life of local government and music. But sometimes circumstance makes a choice for you, even when you don’t want to choose.
I’ll be leaving as we close the Digital First project at Nottinghamshire County Council at the end of May. This two-year acceleration project was an unexpected journey for me, but has ended up being a great note on which to take my bow. It’s work which is incomplete but I’ve no doubt that the talented team that remain could do an awesome job of moving this on to the next phase. I’m looking forward to watching from a distance at what this Council does, but also what happens elsewhere in the sector as Carl Haggerty, Phil Rumens and others take LocalGov Digital forwards too.
What will I be doing? I’m not entirely sure. Having managed two careers for the last four years I’ll still be busy…
I’ll be remaining as editor of Louder Than War and working with the team at Big Cheese on the now bi-monthly Louder Than War magazine; I’ll probably pick up a bit more freelance music writing too, maybe even get round to writing up the couple of non-fiction music journalism books I’ve got on my list.
And I’ll be doing more with Noble and Wild. Music PR mainly but helping folk with their digital communications too. Reckless Yes we’ve already talked about but I think it’s fair to say we’re only getting started with where this is really going.
Other than that I’ll be hanging out on a lot of Scottish beaches with my kids this summer and getting my head back down into my fiction writing. I’m looking forward to having more time at home with my family, to living a life which doesn’t fully revolve around the construct of office hours and commutes, to being free from political restriction. I’ll probably continue blogging here but maybe more about music and other stuff as much as local government and digital.
So, that’s it, it’s time to take on this year’s challenge – self-employment and a more complex-to-organise but simpler life. Who knows what life has in store – maybe this is more of a see you later than a goodbye to local government – I never rule any possibility out.
Thank you to everyone who has been on my local gov journey with me, especially to my digital colleagues at Derbyshire, my AMAZING team at Nottinghamshire and to my LocalGov Digital tribe. You’ve made the tough times bearable and the good times great and for that I will always be thankful.
I’m really bad at approving and replying to comments on here but you can find me on Twitter.
Come to the Bivouac show in Derby – it’ll be ace! Or come to our DIY night – Six Impossible Things – there is free cake! You can also hear me and Pete on the radio each week – The Rumble is on Radio Andra every Tuesday from 8pm.
You can keep up with my writing (music journalism, freelance writing and authoring) here and find my author archive on Louder Than War here.