A big landscape in Wales with a snow capped peak in the distance

Reflections on 2020

Of course, 2020 needs no introduction. These are my recollections from that year written in December 2023.

It was my first full year after stopping work for a sabbatical and it started with an unexpected social media storm. I was just sitting down on zoom for the weekly python session with Izzy, when I noticed a post on LinkedIn from her mum about these mentoring sessions we had been doing for the past few months.

I didn’t take any notice and carried on with the lesson. However, one hour later, after we had finished, I realised that was no ordinary post. It had exploded with several hundred thousand views and hundreds of comments. The views on my LinkedIn profile had spiked to 12,000 overnight (for reference my profile had been steadily increasing to about 2000 views over three months – the standard metric at the time). My DM inbox was choked with messages from all kinds of people – from people wanting me to tutor their child, a summer school in Oxford that wanted tutors, and many more just wanting to have a mentor.

Anyway, I won’t recount all the detail, but essentially I saw this as an opportunity to explore a whole new world. I set up an online mentor exchange called meet my mentor and at the end of January handed in my notice with Pure Planet. Essentially, I told them I wouldn’t be returning in April, so it was easiest to terminate as of that date. Of course, I had no idea what was about to hit at the end of March.

I went to the Crickhowell Walking Festival in mid March, and literally the next week Boris ordered us all to stay at home. So my digital life which I’d started to explore became my actual life for the remainder of the year.

My network and presence on LinkedIn grew substantially over that time. Meet My Mentor petered out when covid hit, but I hit on the idea of providing virtual wedding receptions and set up a website called Virtually There which used the Remo software to mimic a wedding reception set of tables. Unsurprisingly, this was not a spectacular success, but it did allow me to explore creative uses of technology and apply them to obscure problems.

However, my next venture proved to be a hit in countless ways. I started a platform called the Artocalypse whose goal was to host live art exhibitions online during lockdowns. We had two weekend events, in October and November 2020. Each one had around 20 artists who created displays of their work in virtual booths inside the platform. It was free to enter with a ticket and each one had about 200 people attend.

As well as the booths, we had live elements on a stage which included interviews, live painting and even an evening of live opera! It was incredible to work with artists from all around the world, none of whom have ever met. We had a discord server where we would gather and that community created enduring friendships and collaborations that went well beyond lockdown.

It wasn’t all a life online this year though. By the time the seed harvest season arrived, lockdown restrictions were lifted and we were able to pretty much do all the work as normal, albeit socially distanced. This was my first summer of seed harvesting and I was hooked. Spending a hot summer’s day in a beautiful wildflower meadow in a private estates all around the Cotswolds is an amazing experience.

I was starting to see the possibilities of how life could be without working.

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One Comment

  1. A year of new beginnings, new outlooks, and new friendships. So glad to have met you. Very much enjoy the possibilities of Artocalypse. You may be across the pond, but you’ve made an impact in my life, for which I am so grateful.

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