“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.” 
Alfred Lord Tennyson

I’ve used this quote in previous end of year round ups on this site but it still feels rather fitting, even if as 2019 gets set to dawn hope feels a very difficult thing and ‘happier’ seems farfetched with society setting the stage as it is. But personally, on an individual level, hope and happiness are both smiling at me.

This past year has been one of my toughest. The first half of the year in particular was packed with health challenges and situations which made it feel like not just living under, but actually within a black cloud most of the time. Reckless Yes was an anchor through this time, stopping me from getting lost in that darkness completely and offering comfort through sound.

The last quarter of the year though has been a revelation, and in the last month I’ve found more joy and both personal and career satisfaction than in 11 months which came before it. This is the time from which my hope for the new year shines.

2018 taught me patience, resilience, and ways in which to save myself…I found courage, and I finally started to allow myself to do less, but do better. And the year wasn’t without achievements even if overall it felt tough.

This year I…

  • had my debut novel, The Winter Passing, published. I was deep into the details of the book – the wonderful cover design by Marcus Galley at Mammoth Creative Works, the typesetting by Biddles, the packaging experience, the light-touch marketing – but it’s been an absolute thrill to see the story find readers, some of who absolutely fell in love with it. Those reader numbers are now in their hundreds (not bad for an indie author, an indie publisher, and a first blast at this industry) and the reviews are 5 Star. The book has made it into a couple of select independent bookstores and as well as being able to tick off writing a story I’d like to read I feel I’ve achieved bringing the DIY ethos of the record label to book publishing. The second book in the series is set to be published in 2019.
  • we had a hugely busy year at Reckless Yes – four albums, an EP, two big shows and a book. We remain committed to our mission of helping artists find the fun in being a creative business, growing a community, and making actual things. We’ve had to place big amounts of trust in each other, and find partners who we can similarly trust. On the whole we’ve done pretty well with all that and we’ve failed fast, and failed well where we haven’t. As ever, it remains an absolute honour to work with artists who are creatively brilliant and generally have the ‘being a good person’ thing nailed. Reckless Yes will be an even bigger part of my working life in 2019 and I can’t wait to share some of the plans we have. Join our mailing list here to hear about it all first.
  • rebuilt my professional confidence from scratch and committed to myself and my future by working with business coach Matt Essam. Part of this meant having the courage to call an end to things which weren’t right for me, and stop judging myself so harshly for a failure to succeed as a square peg in a round hole. Part of it has meant committing to my real (professional and personal) purpose and giving myself permission to succeed in those areas. Coaching has benefitted me in the past and the serendipitous meeting with Matt at a Mainframe Derby event was a key part of 2018 being about recovery and not a catastrophic crash and burn.
  • I re-launched my agency, Noble and Wild, with a focus on supporting independent musicians and labels to create success in their careers. I’ve taken a lot of my experience in the industry – as a journalist and label co-founder – and fed it into the services I’m offering and I can’t wait to really get this all going in 2019. Alongside Reckless Yes this agency (and the two really work hand-in-hand) is going to be a huge part of my working life in 2019, while I also remain available for work around creating conversations and content which connects in other industries too.
  • I wrote less about music, and felt better for it. I found the transition away from being an editor in 2017 harder than I’d anticipated, but have found a new type of opportunity comes from letting go on things which have had their season. The start of the year was full of focus on the independent culture site I founded for Derby, Storge, but I’ve moved away from those scenes and it’s likely to be something I say goodbye to in 2019.  But I’ve loved contributing to Louder Than War magazine (interviews with The Coral and The Oh Sees among others), Loud and Quiet (an absolute joy to interview Haiku Salut for this – a band and people I find incredibly inspiring as well as lovely to spend time with), Drowned in Sound, and Get In Her Ears and intend to carry on writing across these publications as well as pick up a couple of new things for the new year.
  • In the last quarter of the year I committed to my health and healing myself. I’d been in a bout of depression and anxiety since September 2017 and partly through the change of circumstance, but partly through my efforts to look after my body and mind, that has slipped into the background. I lost nearly 2 stone (although will have to re-lose 3 of those lbs post-festive excess) and I started running. As a lifelong resister of moving at speed it was weird and wonderful to find myself actually enjoying Couc25k and putting my trust in a process. I’ve signed up for RED (Run Every Day) for January and I’m twitchy to get back out in the local countryside doing something which makes a massive, massive positive difference to my mental health and helps with getting stronger physically too.
  • I didn’t get a holiday in 2018, or really get to travel at all, and by the middle of summer I knew my priorities were out of whack as I wasn’t as present in my home and with my children as I wanted to be. My changed circumstance has rebalanced that – I’ve been able to do the school run, and chat to my children over their after-school snacks, I’ve been able to go to school events and mostly I’ve just enjoyed hanging out with them whether it’s on walks or doing the weekly food shop. Time passes so quickly and I’m privileged I can make changes to give myself this time with them – and in 2019 I intend for that to continue.

This year has been one of transition – change rarely feels good while it’s happening but I’m feeling confident for the place the turbulence got me to. I’ve learnt so much about myself in the last 12 months and even in the dark days there were bright sparks of opportunity, the light of the amazing people I’m lucky to have around me. So yes, the world might be in all kinds of trouble and looking pretty frightening but it’s with hope I look forward to finding what happiness I can in 2019 – and that hope extends to you too.