8pm February 13th 2016...
It's exactly one year since I suffered a heart attack at the wheel of my car whilst driving home from a football tournament after the happy and proud moment of my One Minute Briefs team getting to the final. Here's what happened: http://creative-account.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/what-it-feels-like-tohave-heart-attack.html
I thought it was the end of the world, whether I survived or not... but with the help of family and friends I have been able to rebuild my confidence and return to work. I have been able to achieve things that, at the time, I thought would never be possible and I wanted to put the last year into words as a lot of people have helped me along the way.
Firstly, I must thank the NHS for their amazing work during the weeks I was in hospital. Their level of care was outstanding and they made the experience as good as it possibly could be at the lowest point in my life. I will never be able to thank them enough. When I left the hospital, I attended 'cardiac rehab' a day a week. This wasn't easy. At 26, I was half the age of the next youngest person in the group and I must admit that I really didn't want to be there. You start asking yourself 'why are you here'? I wasn't allowed to run or even walk too fast. I found it embarrassing as I'm used to running around a pitch and playing football every week but that couldn't happen. I had to start doing weights at ONE kilogram and follow the set program. But my confidence was on the floor and it was helping me. When I was at home, I was too scared to do anything but this was making me become active again and realise that life wasn't over. Week by week, I began to do more and more until I was asking them to let me run on the treadmill when the plan was telling me to walk. I started to feel like I could live normally again. In fact, when I had finished the course, I asked them if I could play for a few minutes at the end of a football tournament in memory of my old football coach Craig Sellers who had passed away in his car of a heart attack just two weeks before I had mine.
They said if I make sure I warm up properly I could play a couple of minutes as it was so important to me. And, it was my intention to. I was nervous about kicking a ball again, especially after it happened playing football but it was even more scary when I realised my team only had ten players plus me. Of course, me being me, I couldn't let them play a man down so I ended up playing the whole thing, scoring in the final and being announced as man of the tournament. Probably a bit of a sympathy vote, but I could still do it and by just getting out on the pitch I was able to start believing in myself. It was amazing to be a part of something and pay my respect to a great man too.
This really helped to motivate me and return to normality. I needed to as well. As I was freelance I wasn't getting paid for weeks and weeks but I don't like to sit and do nothing... so I decided to write a book for One Minute Briefs. Then create another book for Agency Quotes with Vikki Ross. People were telling me to rest but this gave me something to focus on and it was something I had wanted to do for a long time but never had the time to devote to it. Just a couple of weeks later I had two books published and on sale. Again, just putting my mind to something made it happen and it's amazing to see pictures of the books in people's homes and agencies along with the great comments about them that I have received.
Then I had to start thinking about 'real' work and I must thank McCann Birmingham for allowing me to work from home for a few weeks before a full return. They have an amazing team there who had sent me messages of support throughout and it was amazing to travel down there to work with them for a few weeks afterwards and work on some great campaigns for E-Lites, Vauxhall and Evans Halshaw as well as make a return to table tennis! The reception I got from everyone when I returned was amazing as they have such a friendly team and I hope to see them all again soon!
I then did a stint at the Leith Agency in Edinburgh in a freelance creative team with Stephen Hunter. It was great to work with someone who I'd originally met through One Minute Briefs and we worked on some great campaigns for Irn Bru, Famous Grouse, Sourz and.... Drink Aware! Whilst I was up in Scotland I was able to see a lot of my family who I hadn't seen in a few years and I will be making an effort to see them a lot more as life is too short not to! I also held a One Minute Briefs meet-up and there was a brilliant turn-out.
The OMBLES have been truly amazing in the past year. They were very supportive whilst I was ill and extremely loyal to the brilliant creative community. I always try and reward them for their efforts when I can and I have been able to give away thousands of pounds worth of prizes to the winners and I support them where I can. It was great to attend the Chip Shop Awards to cheer them on and see quite a few pick up awards. They even somehow persuaded me to dive in the hot tub afterwards in the middle of the event :O
Around the same time I was joined by one of the OMB followers, Aga, to host a stand at the D&AD New Blood Awards for the 3rd year running. It was an amazing success with the walls full with ideas even if it was on the hottest week of the year in the greenhouse that is Spitalfields Market in London! Was amazing to meet such great new creative talent and have lots of OMB followers visiting the stand.
Not long after this I was delighted to be announced as one of the NABS Centurions for my services to the creative industry. I was extremely pleased to receive this as it's not just about the work. It's about the efforts to try and make a difference and help others so it's extremely rewarding and I'd like to thank everyone who nominated me.
In the Summer, I also had a great meeting with Jon Butler, the MD of Big Brand Ideas. He asked me to take on a creative director role within his agency on a freelance basis and I was very pleased to get involved. It's been amazing to work with such a great team and help to produce concepts for great projects. I have continued to work each week with them til now and even joined in the weekly 5-aside with them to try and get a bit of fitness back! Big Brand Ideas also sponsored my OMB event in Manchester. Hosted by their digital lead (and my best mate) Adam Britton, we had an amazing night of speed networking, OMB tournaments, talks, awards and a ping pong tournament/dance off at the end before moving to the main room for some dodgy dancing and more JagerOMBS. After having to postpone the original event date due to being in hospital, I was glad to finally bring everyone together for what was a memorable night. See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeXQTEoHfBo
Shortly after, I was at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and delighted to pick up the award for Best Social Media for One Minute Briefs at the UK Agency Awards. Against such great competition, it was a great result and great to have two OMB followers Bernie and Phil there as guests. They outlasted everyone on the dance floor too!
Back closer to home, One Minute Briefs picked up Best Social Media at the Cheshire Business Awards and I was extremely pleased to be part of the Big Brand Ideas team that picked up Best Agency on the same night.
Then it was back to London again for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Here I achieved my lifelong ambition, to meet Caprice! And I got a selfie with Carol Smillie too. Was amazing to win a Social Enterprise Entrepreneur of the Year award and also a special award for Social Entrepreneurial Spark. An amazing night in which I never expected to be up on stage alongside some amazing entrepreneurs. In the same week I was also announced in the Social Buzz Top 50 alongside amazing names at Facebook, Twitter and Google etc and announced as a judge of the Chip Shop Awards.
I was now starting to get more and more busy and lecturing at various colleges and universities, when Simon Lewis got in touch and I started freelancing at Manchester creative house Magnafi. I have been working with them a lot since then on some brilliant projects including Bloom & Wild's debut TV ad, Samsung and, of course, the NHS.
The NHS is definitely the work I am most proud of. When Simon first asked me to get involved I saw it as an opportunity to say thank you for everything the NHS did for me last year and I wanted to get the amazing OMBLES involved. We set a brief to come up with an idea for a film to positively promote the NHS in uncertain times due to the cuts by Jeremy Hunt. We received a massive amount of entries and the campaign reached 500,000 people over social media in just two days. We were then contacted by the NHS to make their music video to help their campaign to get the NHS Choir to Xmas Number 1. Of course, we agreed and brought to life the winning concept by Stephen Hunter using wedding vows to show the relationship we all have with the NHS. The odds were against us with the likes of X-Factor, One Direction and Justin Bieber in the charts but I believed we could do it.
We created the music video which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8qHXlShfUQ and began a #LoveYourNHS social campaign that saw celebrities including Holly Willoughby, Michael Sheen, Luke Shaw and Chris Evans, as well as the public get involved by sending us pics of themselves holding up pics saying 'I DO' when posed with the question 'Do you #LoveYourNHS' This campaign reached millions of people along with radio and TV appearances and, as we began to overtake Bieber in the charts, he himself tweeted his support! Unbelievable.
And the rest is history, literally. We made history on Christmas Day. Sitting watching the Official Chart show, we awaited the result and at 1pm we were announced as Number 1. All the hard work had paid off and it was a truly overwhelming experience as family, friends and doctors began to get in touch in tears at the amazing story of the NHS. Simply amazing.
So, where do you go from Christmas Number 1? January was quiet in comparison but still very busy and, with lots of exciting projects in the pipeline, Magnafi offered me the position of Creative Director. Today, a year on from what happened, I accepted the offer and I'm relishing the challenge of making some amazing work with amazing people.
My experience has taught me to make the most of every opportunity.
Let's see what the next twelve months brings.