Archive for the ‘Bristol’ Category

Bristol JS talk – ReactJS & React Native

I attended another excellent Bristol JS talk last night. Bristol JS seems to be going from strength to strength every year with great talks and speakers appearing regularly, a growing community and a huge waiting list for attendance at most talks. The venues used are also lovely and there is frequently free beer and pizza. What’s not to like 🙂


Jack Franklin talking about React JS

Last night’s theme was React JS – Facebook’s UI framework, which is definitely the coolest kid on the javascript block right now. Jack Franklin gave an excellent introductory presentation on React, how it works and how to get into it. It was an insightful and accessibly talk full of ideas on approach and some useful, simple code samples to show how React Components are structured and work together.

Next up was a lightning talk by David Moody about a very slick site he built in React. It used the Redux pattern to implement a very clever SVG zoomable 2.5D UI. Worth checking out….

Last up was Colin Eberhardt doing his talk – Geeking out about React Native. Colin gave some fascinating insight into how React Native works from a technical perspective and why you might want to use it. He compared it to other similar native mobile development options and explained some of its good points and bad points. Ultimately he felt confident that it had become a strong technology which has some legs on it and will probably be around for a while.

The talks were all filmed so expect links to these on the Bristol JS site soon.





Temple Studios, Bristol: A New Space…

The River Avon running through Temple Quarter

The River Avon running through Temple Quarter

At the start of this month I moved offices into the new Enterprise Zone of Temple Quarter, Bristol. I have been a Bristol-based freelance Interactive Developer since 2007. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working across several of the main digital/co-working hubs in the city. My latest stint involved a couple of years at the wonderful business incubation centre of Spike Design (you can see me playing table-tennis if you flick through the pics – exciting, no? 😛 ), in the equally lovely art and design centre of Spike Island. My time here was the best I have had in a co-working space: a very talented, diverse and friendly bunch of thirty-odd freelancers and small companies under one massive roof, often working together in a bustling beautiful building surrounded by probably the nicest section of the gorgeous Bristol harbourside. The cafe isn’t bad either. If you’re looking for a desk and somewhere great to work in Bristol, you should go and check it out….. And so it was with some trepidation that I decided to move into a brand new development in the new Enterprise Zone of Bristol.

The break out area in Temple Studios

The break out area in Temple Studios

Temple Studios has been built in what was the old Post Office sorting office and bills itself as a creative and digital campus. It’s a fascinating building of brick walls, parquet flooring, with a rustic, industrial edge located right next to the entrance of Temple Meads Station. The space has been fitted out with interesting lighting solutions, comfy furniture, break out spaces, communal kitchens and a desire for the companies and tenants within it to nurture and benefit form each other’s existence in this shared space. A table tennis table may have just turned up too 🙂

The new office!

The new office!

My situation within the building came about due to my old friends and colleagues Hype and Slippers taking a space within Temple Studios. They are a successful and up-and-coming digital agency populating their working habitat with a mixture of their own team members and freelancers. Having shared a co-working space previously with them in another great building, the Tobacco Factory, I was really excited to join forces again. They are an incredibly talented studio: “Creating high-quality, beautiful, well considered work across identity, print and digital design disciplines, we hand pick in-house and freelance talent on a per project basis.” – check out their work on Behance.

Alongside me in the office are some other great peeps who, in the short time I have been there, I have very much enjoyed my time with, namely:-

  • Studio Chirpy is the freelance identity of Bristol-based graphic designer Max Saunders, delivering quality work through identity, print and web.
  • 83 Pixels is the small but perfectly formed web design and consultancy of Shane Griffiths.
  • Mitch Bartlett is a multi-disciplined designer.
  • Motion Imaging aka Paul Thomas, a freelance front end web developer.
  • Rosa Park is our newest member. She is the editor of Cereal: a beautifully produced quarterly food and travel magazine.

Around the rest of the building are an eclectic bunch of creative, (mainly) digital companies ranging from product designers to photographers, high-end 3D production houses to digital agencies. A couple of note, due to me being friends with them, are:-

To conclude, I wanted to punctuate my new move to Temple Studios by documenting the kind of place it is and the sorts of people and companies you will find there. It’s an exciting time and the place has a really good buzz to it. It’s full of talented, creative and friendly people so if you get a chance to visit or want to join in, come and say hi. I have really high hopes for the area in general and it will be fascinating to be here and watch it as it develops. It’s one part of this fantastic city that has always felt like a bit of a let down, I don’t think this will be the case for much longer….

River Avon, Bristol.

River Avon, Bristol.

Super high tides and large amounts of rain this week. It’s the highest I have ever seen the river here in Bristol.

UWE Bower Ashton Degree Show 2012

I recently attended the University West of England Bower Ashton Campus Degree Show 2012 in Bristol. I was very impressed with the quality and output of much of the work on show. The campus specialises in creative arts including film, digital, graphics, animation, illustration and fashion. I exhibited my own work here as a 2000 graduate which led to my first proper job in the industry. It’s a great place to pick up new talent and get inspired. Get down there if you haven’t already, it’s closing soon:-

Here are some of my favourite pieces on show:-

Illustration by Joe Todd Stanton –

My First Year at Spike Design

I am a freelance Interactive Developer. I have been freelancing since 2007. Like many other freelancers, I started doing this from the comfort of my own home. “That must be amazing!”, friends would often say, “You don’t have to go to work/see your boss/get up etc.”. And, in part, there are some amazing things about working from home…. BUT after over a year, moving from your bed to your desk and back again, not seeing other human beings, having no work/home divide and being able to spend all day in your pants, well, these things start to eat away at your soul.

I decided enough was enough and I found a desk to rent in another company’s small office in the Tobacco Factory in Southville, Bristol. There were a couple of other freelancers there and a few employees. It was a great move and I enjoyed the change immensely. However, after a year I felt that I needed to move on to pastures new, meet more people and find further opportunities. I first discovered Spike Design when it was hosting a Bristol Jelly co-working event that I attended.

(From the website) Spike Design is a creative business incubation unit based in Spike Island, the largest of its kind in the South West. With low-cost desk space, excellent facilities and tailored support, this unique space offers the environment and opportunity for young companies to grow.


When I first moved to Spike Design in November 2010 it was quite a different place to what it is now. An agency had just folded and they had dominated the space. There was a huge vacuum where the 30+ employees had been and I happened to join at the same time as a few other individuals. Some of us decided to locate ourselves in this empty area. I think there were ten or fifteen freelancers in the whole of Spike Design at this point. Spike Island is an old tea-packing warehouse, Spike Design is just one corner of one floor of this massive building, we definitely did not make the place feel very busy. However, over the last twelve months our community has blossomed and grown and we now number nearly forty individuals. Tenants are very diverse in nature, from plant importers, product designers and editors, to photographers, script-writers, marketers and illustrators. There seems to be a slight lean towards digital with numerous designers, developers and a couple of small agencies all working in this field.

My favourite things about Spike:-

  • A Sense of Community. Although I don’t actually work with most of the people I am around every day I feel like we are part of something. I have made some good friends here, we hang out outside and inside of work, have lunch together and help each other out.
  • Business Cross-Pollination. Spike Design is, after all, a business incubation centre and I have seen the dream alive and kicking: photographers taking pictures of the product designer’s products whose websites are then built by the web developers. Editors helping with wording, marketers helping with other tenants messaging. It seems to be happening more and more in the time I have been there and it is a great example of the benefits of a place like this.
  • Scalability. The size of the space and the way the desk system works allows for easy scalability. If your business is growing and you need another desk, it’s very simple to get this extra space for a minimal fee and a month-to-month commitment. Then, if you decide you need more or you need to shrink again, it’s simple and financially painless to do so. This is a great help if you are a small business.



  • The Cafe. Spike Cafe serves coffee, pastries, cake, drinks and well-made meals. There are different specials every day and there are benches outside for when the weather is good.
  • Friday Breakfast Club. Every second Friday we get together for coffee and pastries in our glass meeting room. It’s a great way to meet new tenants and other people you don’t happen to see during your usual day-to-day activities.


  • Table Tennis. There is a table tennis table and lots of people to play of all abilities. We occasionally have a tournament in which the elusive Golden Bat is passed on from mantle to mantle. For me, table tennis is probably my favourite sport and also the ultimate work break, so this is a huge pull.


  • The Exhibition Space. Every two or three months a new exhibition takes place in the expansive Spike Island Galleries. As Spike Design tenants we receive a tour of the latest exhibition by the curator of the gallery. It’s a great way to gain some insight into the current works in the space.

So….. there you have it. It’s been a poignant year for me and I wanted to try and document this influential part of it. I hope it sheds some light on what goes on here at Spike Design and encourages you, should you be looking, to join a great co-working space in Bristol.


Flash Games Workshop at the Pervasive Media Studio

Pervasive Media Studio logoI spent yesterday at the Flash Games Workshop at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol. The day was graciously organised by @dancourse, one of the directors of Thought Den, a local digital design and build agency based in Bristol. Myself, @seventy9 and @dancourse spent the day trying to hammer out an AS3 game. I had the bright idea of leveraging the freely available Box2D physics-based framework to make a gravity-based planetary spaceman rescue game. It soon turned out that Box2D is an incredibly powerful framework with a very steep learning curve – the kind of learning curve that might take more than an hour or two to get rolling with! So, much of the day was spent painfully trying to make the simplest of things work within an unfamiliar code base.

I find it’s difficult times like these where real breakthroughs can happen in learning to code…. and so on paper it may not look like much was achieved, a lot went on in the old brain department. I had a great time hanging out with and working with my two other coding pals for the day and I left feeling inspired to do more and finish the game we had started. In fact @seventy9 worked on it more that night and so things have progressed even further already. I will post another blog if/when we get our little game into a viewable state.

Fame Fame Fame

A non-flash blog for a change. Last week I somehow ended up in the local paper talking about football….. local football at that: something I know very little about. I did not know I had been propelled into the upper echelons of stardom until a friend of mine saw me in there and called me up to let me know. Anyway, for those that wanted to see it….. here it is in all its glory 😉

Vox Pop of Sam in the Bristol Evening Post

Me in the Bristol Evening Post

#Jelly Coworking in Bristol

I spent yesterday at a Jelly Coworking event in Bristol at The Office Bristol. What is Jelly you may ask? (from their website):-

Jelly is a casual working event. It’s taken place in over a hundred cities where people have come together (in a person’s home, a coffee shop, or an office) to work for the day. We provide chairs and sofas, wireless internet, and interesting people to talk to, collaborate with, and bounce ideas off of.

You bring a laptop (or whatever you need to get your work done) and a friendly disposition.

The Bristol Events are organised by local Freelance Learning and Development Professional Lee Cottier and you can follow his Jelly tweets on @CoWorkingWest. It was my second Jelly event and I have really enjoyed both of them. As well as sitting there productively getting on with my own work, I have met numerous contacts, helped out and been helped by other local freelancers and homeworkers, and, made it into town for a refreshing change of scene from the usual work routine. There is coffee, tea and biscuits provided for a pound and I would thoroughly recommend the event to anyone who works from home or freelances – many thanks to Lee! And Lee, if you are reading this I forgot to give you a quid – oops, sorry – I’ll give you two next time 🙂

Media Sandbox Showcase and Publication Launch

I attended the Media Sandbox Showcase and Publication Launch at the Watershed in Bristol yesterday. It showcased six catalytic investments to innovative Research and Development pilots funded by regional agencies that were produced at the Pervasive Media Studios. I have been meaning to get down to open Fridays at the PMStudios but have been so busy lately that I have failing to do so. Seeing what is coming out of this place and the people involved was very interesting and inspiring and shall definitely be making an appearance to try and get involved in what seems like an amazing place.

I was particularly impressed with the projection mapping work done by AntiVJ. A local flash dev I have recently met a few times George Crabtree did the Air front-end, hopefully he will be doing a presentation on this at one of our upcoming Bristol Flash User Group meetups. I also saw an old friend who heads up a Bristol company called Nomos Media, he produced one of the other projects called AudioEnable and gave a very interesting presentation on it. It is a mobile-device audio recording, sharing, rating and community app, he showcased some school children enjoying using the software and I can see it’s potential for all kinds of other markets/audiences.

At the end of the presentations there was a launch for a book that beautifully showcases the projects followed by some very nice food and drinks. It was a great time, thanks to all who were involved 🙂