For the sixth year running I get to put ‘pen to paper’ and create my review of the year. A look back at the stuff I have done, the places I have been, the things I have learnt, the sounds I have heard and the things I have seen.

It’s become a tradition that I look forward to every year, it helps clear out my mind and gets me ready for the next years experiences; a bit like a disc de-frag, the consolidation of the years experiences captured as a memory of the year, to look back on and remind myself of all the good stuff in moments of challenge and to generally put some context to what was happening when the world changes around you.

It has been a busy year (all the reviews say that though), it’s been an impactful year with changes to so many parts of the life we live. The origins of this blog were a review of the music I had heard, a way of ‘formalising’ my playlist of the year but over the last three years I have used it more and more to reflect on the year gone and prepare for the year ahead.

Travel has played a bigger part in 2018 than ever before, I have had chance to talk about my passion, digital transformation in healthcare, on three continents this year, the air miles really have stacked up. With three very different trips to the USA my obsession with the American Way hasn’t waned at all. To see the way politics is impacting on life to such a degree in the US right now is fascinating and to see it in a few different places showed me that there isn’t any part of America that is generic and to think of it as one whole is just unbelievably wrong.

The big holiday of the year was a road trip through Florida, arriving in Orlando first and being able to visit Harry Potter World in all its fabulous glory was amazing. Walking around in lovely sunshine and on the last day in Orlando taking a 7 second drop into a zoom the flume at Volcano Bay was not something I expected to enjoy as much as I did, what a great start to the adventure.

The next part though, picking up the Ford Mustang and heading off down the Florida Keys was spectacular. The drive itself, the views, the next hotel in Fort Lauderdale was just amazing. By chance ending up at American Social on a Sunday afternoon on Las Olas was an eye opener, Drake pumping out of the most amazing sound system and every customer rapping and bouncing along was amazing and then the bike ride back to the hotel which was an adventure too.

The drive to Miami then was the thing of dreams, roof top off the car and a slow drive in to the city. Perhaps a little clichéd that we (I) insisted on Kendrick and Drake as the accompanying soundtrack. Miami is now first on my list of American cities to revisit, an amazing experience walking around seeing what I think could well be the best shopping experience in the world, the art and architecture, the food, drink, sounds and people really made it feel very special. It’s a bustle city and yet you can find a peaceful spot somewhere with such ease to watch the world go by, not to mention one of the most awesome book shops I have ever been in; Books and Books.

Then back to earth with a bump, Las Vegas and the worlds largest health tech conference (HIMSS), the first of two visits to Las Vegas in 2018 proved to be an odd one, amazing food and the general Las Vegas experience was awesome as was seeing David Guetta at the Wynn but HIMSS itself felt like you were captured in a pin ball machine, just too big and too much at the end of the holiday to really cope with; although I did get chance to present as the MC for the conferences first International Stage and be a judge in the Canadian start-up of the year competition so perhaps need to reflect more favourably on the visit.

Particularly because two months later I got to have a return trip to Las Vegas for my little brothers stag do (bachelor party)! Pool parties, trips into the desert (in a Ford Mustang again) a zip line down the longest shopping mall in the world and shoe shopping in Tom Ford all highlights of a great occasion. Driving in the desert with a great friend with a play list built for the two of us was awesome, Hoover Dam, dust storms and the Grand Canyon were all highlights of the year, but getting time with my brother in such an extraordinary place meant the world to me.

Trips to Brussels, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Sitges, Seattle and many trips to London; time in Oxford and Birmingham; a wonderful weekend in Scarborough with some of the best friends we could ask for all made up more of the travel too. I think Barcelona is still my favourite city on earth though, even after experiencing so much this year. Being able to spend time in Sitges and experience a different type of Barcelona highlighted the way that the Catalonian lifestyle permeates everything that happens, the food, music and diversity of people never ceases to amaze me. The political backdrop in Barcelona continues to sway the city, the country and perhaps the whole of Europe a little but it is still the most beautiful place to be in the heart of.

Films and TV continued to take over a little in 2018 from going to see live music, is it an age thing or a lazy thing I am not sure but I think there has been some awesome movies out this year that I have thoroughly enjoyed, although I do still worry I live in Marvel Land a little too much:

1 – Quiet Place 6 – First Man
2 – BlacKkKKlansman 7 – Leave No Trace
3 – Avengers: Infinity War 8 – Ant-Man and the Wasp
4 – Baby Driver 9 – Mission Impossible: Fallout
5 – Black Panther 10 – Annihilation

The world of TV continues to change and evolve and bring a different type of entertainment to us all, the list of TV has to be a list that has come to me to be watched this year rather than simply being released this year;

1 – Big Little Lies 6 – First
2 – Sinner S1 7 – Bodyguard
3 – Handmaid’s Tale S1 8 – Sharp Objects
4 – Killing Eve 9 – Handmaid’s Tale S2
5 – Westworld S1 10 – Jessica Jones S2

When I look at this list though there is a lot of quite down and miserable TV in there, I need to find something cheerful and life affirming for 2019 to watch maybe, although there is something to be said for disappearing into a dark world and trying to work out where it will go next.

Every year new sounds, new styles and new artists come to the fore bringing a new listening pleasure for me. This year has seen some great album releases; George Fitzgerald (Both Albums), Maribou State, Honey Dijon, Everything is Recorded, Tycho, Rufus du Sol to list just a couple of recommendations, seeing Neneh Cherry (also she is in Leeds in February and puts on an awesome show if you can make the date!) back on the list is heart warming too, what an album that is.

The Dekmantel best of 2018 is also one I now can’t get off the speaker too. The list as a whole is a bit different, some slightly more downbeat stuff in some ways but the disco influence keeps coming out strong to keep it mostly a head nodding experience…

1 – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing (12” Mix) – Gloria Ann Taylor 17 – Leave A Light On – Tom Walker
2 – Look Ahead (Extended Mix) – Honey Dijon 18 – Roy Keane – Brame & Hamo
3 – Addison Lee – Not3s 19 – Water Baby – Tom Misch & Loyle Carner
4 – It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) – Peggy Gou 20 – At Night (Peggy Gou Remix) – Shakedown
5 – Young, Dumb & Broke – Khalid 21 – Turnmills (Club Mix) – Maribou State
6 – Half-Light (Night Version) – George Fitzgerald 22 – Shot Gun Shack – Neneh Cherry
7 – Bad Bad News – Leon Bridges 23 – In The Air – DMA’s
8 – Greasy Spoon – Sam Fender 24 – Horizon (Poolside Remix) – Tycho
9 – Techno Disco Tool – Mella Dee 25 – Girlfriend – Christine & the Queens
10 – Opal (Four Tet Remix) – Bicep 26 – Desert Night (Jesse Rose Mix) – Rufus Du Sol
11 – Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded 27 – Surprised By The Joy – Richard Ashcroft
12 – I Feel Joy (Feel The Spirit) – Nona Hendryx 28 – Beat 54 (Krystal Klear 12” Mix) – Jungle
13 – Vincent – James Blake 29 – Sincerity Is Scary – The 1975
14 – This Ain’t Freedom – Liife & Roland Clark 30 – Slow Disco (Piano Version) – St. Vincent
15 – Controller – Channel Tres 31 – Under the Moon – Claptone
16 – Perth (Dusky Remix) – KiNK 32 – Han Jan – Peggy Gou

Peggy Gou features three times in one list which shows the obsession with the music she has put out this year and the Gloria Ann Taylor song, whilst an old song, was such an amazing moment in the Black Madonna essential mix earlier in the year that it had to make the list. And like the ‘old days’ when I used to make copied of this as a CD and hand write the track listings I can now share this playlist by the wonders of Apple Music; click HERE to listen.

Having said we didn’t make many gigs this year we did make Hannah Wants in March at the Mint Warehouse in sunny Leeds, a great night in a proper dance club venue, we did feel old though, made a bit worse by being told on two occasions in one night that it was good to see two older, well dressed people enjoying themselves at a ‘proper’ night! When Bicep got played on the night and the place went a bit bonkers though it was good to see how music that you have fallen for really hit the audience in the spot it was made for.

A family trip to Centre Parks in Nottinghamshire was a lovely weekend, spending time with our nieces and seeing the joy that family time brings was super, I hope that 2019 gives me more time to spend with them, seeing them grow up so quickly and become little adults built on awesome experiences, even if that is riding ponies in Centre Parks, is a lovely thing to see.

The chair of my organisation suggested a weekend at Oxford University in March as well, go and spend a weekend considering what the Automation of Business in 2022 should look like was the offer, and it was an amazing opportunity to mix with some wonderful brains and really see where this thing we do all day every day is taking us. The journey home though was when the second ‘dump’ of snow arrived, really quite an adventure as by the time we got to Sheffield everywhere was picture postcard beautiful and terrifyingly slippy in equal measure. Quite how we made it home I will never know, but then heading to the Cats Pyjamas on a craftily booked on line 9 o’clock dinner was quite the eye opener, watching the snow come down and the people of Headingly who had set out to celebrate St. Patricks day revel in the weather was hilarious.

Electronic Music in the City is a new Leeds city wide one day event that celebrates all elements of what makes up Electronic Music, for an inaugural event it was nothing short of amazing, venues all over the city with some of the best DJs and sound system you can see, perhaps the most astonishing though was seeing a hero of mine, KiNK take to the stage at Sheaf Street for a demonstration and conversation about making electronic music. He proceeded to make a melody based house music track with just a drum machine and loop as all his other kit had simply shut down on him, such amazing talent and a lovely friendly guy too. Talking of friendly dance music super stars, I also got to see Andy Butler of Hercules and Love Affair play in the sunshine on the roof of Headrow House after a big Saturday out, awesome experience even if I didn’t go and speak to him after and my friends did, what a DJ!

Ibiza this time was made brilliant by friends being there at the same time and some amazing repeat experiences, going to Ibiza though is like putting on a favourite pair of shoes, everything just fits nice, so sharing it with Tim and Rich this year was simply awesome, already looking forward to next year which we planned whilst there. Seeing the sun set from Mambo does two things to me nearly every time, it helps me remember all the times that went before and there have been some startling moments but it also makes me wish for people I have known in my life that ought to have seen that sun set, and that’s a sad edge to the experience.

Being able to get to a conversation with Matt Haig at Waterstones in Leeds was really interesting too. After a busy time at work and moving house and fitting back into life in Yorkshire it was great to hear from him and some of his interpretation of what we should try to consider and believe in to ensure that the light at the end of every day is bright, and if it isn’t then what he thinks we as humans should try to do. The audience that night was full of stories of beating the black feelings and sadness and what inspires them to set about on the war to beat mental health issues at every turn, truly inspiring stories for us all.

My top five book recommendations this year are as unconnected to each other in style and content as I think they have ever been on this blog, I know I enjoy the beauty of a book but in 2019 want to again try to promise myself to put Twitter down and pick up a real book more:

1 – Hit Refresh – Satya Nadella

2 – How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

3 – Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer

4 – The Book of Humans – Adam Rutherford

5 – Out of My Tree (Midsummer House) – Daniel Clifford

My cook book collection doesn’t normally make the top 5 books I have read but Daniels Clifford’s story of how he made success happen is truly amazing, as are the recipes and the photographs, well worth a look. Satya’s book continues all year to be a point of reference and a source for great quotes.

The biggest event of the year though had to be the Corbridge-Carr wedding. An amazing day seeing my brother so happy, a day full of The Proclaimers, cardboard Gary Lineker and many many smiling faces. I was very proud to be asked to be best man and to give the speech a go, it seemed to mostly go down ok with laughs at the right moments and not too many fluffed words, still the most nervous I have ever been for giving a speech, give me 20,000 people in an auditorium any time over a group of family and friends who want you to be great, how odd is that! Standing at the front with the wedding party, holding the vicars book of words and seeing how the bride and groom were with each other filled me with joy for the future of two families linked together now over a very happy couple.

Trying new restaurants was one thing I spoke about in last years review, or rather looking forward to being back in Leeds and getting around to the many new places to eat that had sprung up; which we have done and really enjoyed but perhaps the real exploration has been looking at new restaurants in new cities. The Wilderness in Birmingham, American Social (On a Sunday) in Fort Lauderdale, Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds, Hide Above in London, Barnsley House in the Cotswolds, Bibendom in Kensington, Fera at Clarridges, Freak Scene in Soho, Harvest in the Bellagio in  Las Vegas, Mignonette in Miami, Reserve Roastery in Seattle, The Old Bookbinders in Oxford, Alfresco in Sitges, The Percy Arms in Chatton, Oddfellows Café & Bar in Seattle, White Bait in Wellington, Bodega 1900 in Barcelona, Tapas24 also in Barcelona, Nobu in London, The Ivy back in Leeds have all added to the pallet and the senses at different times in 2018. But the one place we keep going back to in the later part of 2018 is The Reliance in Leeds, I have truly fallen for that place, you can rely on the Reliance!

I have always wanted to see the Chilly Gonzales show, how does one man manage to pull off a show of classical piano, rap and classic interpretations of dance songs in one show with a comedic value added for good measure! Well he does, and at the Leeds show with some of the best seats in the house you could see the raised eye brow for each moment, the way he ‘conducted’ his fellow musicians and indeed how absolute genius like he is on the black and white keys.

We decided that one of the things we would do is get on board with the vinyl junky experience, getting help from the team at Richer Sounds in Leeds we picked a setup we are very proud of and set about the business of creating a collection, old stuff we loved, jazz stuff we hadn’t heard before and soundtracks. The original deal struck was all music had to be pre-1990 but I couldn’t resist hearing Portishead, Massive Attack, Mo Wax and Oasis on the set up so we are now heading down a simple yet diverse collection of sounds.

It’s a year since leaving Ireland and the most amazing team and wonderful experiences, in September a couple of the team got in touch to ask if I would be willing to accept the O’Moore Medal for services to Health Informatics in Ireland, a prestigious honour that I jumped at the chance of. It was huge for me to go over, see the team, reminisce about what we had been able to do and dedicate the medal to four people who made it possible, Kevin, Fran, Joyce and Tony, four parts to a team I will never ever forget. The medal sits pride of place in my new office in Leeds and I am so thrilled to have been part of that journey.

Revisiting Seattle this year was a great learning experience, spending time with Virginia Mason for two days to understand what the way of Toyota has done for how they run a huge hospital was inspirational as was a whole day with the Microsoft team bringing colleagues up to speed with what the next digital leap will be in healthcare. I also had 8 hours to myself in Seattle, a great day exploring, the origins of Starbucks, the head offices of Amazon (Even the Amazon Go shop) the Jimi Hendrix statue, the oldest street, the Pike Market experience and the University campus all to a great soundtrack wherever you went. Three top picks for me for Seattle, go to the Amazon Go store to experience what shopping in the future will be like, take lunch at Oddfellows Café & Bar and see the stars of local film and fashion and spend an hour in the Elliott Bay Book Company, now one of my favourite places in the world.

More than 12 months ago I was asked to deliver the key note at the New Zealand health informatics gathering in Wellington in November, with our leave booked and our suitcases packed we set off on a 10 day trip to New Zealand in November. First stop off Singapore, with 10 hours to spare we headed into Singapore to wander around and get a feel for the city, we ended up at Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay, a modern way to really celebrate an amazing natural environment. Then off to Wellington, we explored so much of Wellington, Cuba Street and the diversity on hand, Weta and the whole concept of Welliwood that has sprung up off the Peter Jackson films being based there. We saw where Hobbits would hide and where Hollywood stars took brunch and had an amazing time, although the 25-hour return journey was a real endurance test.

Being able to deliver the key note in New Zealand though was something special career wise. I bounced on stage and told a story of digital music, Singapore development, American jugglers, Magic engagement tools and the Twilight Zone. One of those moments I will always now remember; and as far as speeches goes it made me some new friends too.

Last year I continued a new tradition of also considering the people I had worked with or met over the year and the impact and memories they brought to what I do and who I am. Working with Molly Gilmartin and the Forward team was an inspiration to how the start-up ethos can and should impact on what we do; having Molly work with my team on what it means to be a disruptive leader and then later in the year see her inspire the whole department at the All Staff Meeting was a great experience, whatever Molly does next will be worth watching that much I am certain of. Bringing two speakers to meet the team in Leeds also had a huge impact, the same it did on me the first time I met them, Dr. Jessica Barker of Cygenta and Jamie White of Leading Social delivered inspiration for new ways of thinking and applying that thinking to what we do to the whole team and it was great to see them hear these inspirational voices for the first time and reflect on the impact they had on me the first time I heard them.

Kindness, sincerity and authenticity are three traits I want to model always, working with a hero of mine Gwyn Thomas on two occasions (and one planned for next year) was a great experience and one I cherish dearly. Meeting Wayne Dyson, not a supplier but the true embodiment of a partner was also exciting and I can’t wait to see where the partnership takes us next, when one ‘supplier’ cares so much about what we do it can only be a good year ahead! And reaffirming the relationship with a colleague like Andy Williams and then being able to so rely on one person to support you through some challenging actions has been brilliant.

Moving house meant we had new neighbours to meet, we had been very lucky in Ireland to have made some amazing friends, here in sunny Leeds though we have made the best of new friends in David and James, true gentlemen and scholars of everything they do.

What a year, so much happened, I haven’t even described what it was like to be at the CIO100 with an old friend, to have the secretary of state visit us and describe us as ‘mind blowing’, to work with a talented a team unlike any I have had the honour to call a peer before, to meet so many new people and create new relationships that I think are now more and more partnerships.

So as always a statement or rallying cry for 2019 needs to be created off the back of the year that was. In the past I spoken about bouncing out of bed every morning, about taking each day as a new opportunity and about how to create the right environment for change. As we head to 2019 for me my outlook needs to be that change will happen, in Leeds we have somewhat built a future on the Robert Frost quote,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

In 2019 I am committed to the development of what we do, who we are and how we do it, I want to use the Emily Dickinson quote as a mantra for why,

The brain is wider than the sky!

I guess my mantra for 2019 though will be to follow in the path of the ever wonderful Fatboy Slim and applying his vision of a good DJ to my life,

A good DJ is always looking at the crowd, seeing what they’re like, seeing whether it’s working, communicating with them. Smiling at them. And a bad DJ is always looking down at what they’re doing all the time and just doing their thing that they practiced in their bedroom.

2019, the year of looking up, smiling and being part of the team!