In early 2015 Colin Oakley asked if anyone he knew fancied setting up a meet-up for front-end web developers in the Newcastle area. Sam Beckham and I replied in the affirmative and Frontend NE was a thing.

Fast-forward 4 years and it’s time for me to bow out of the meet-up.

Over the 45 months I was involved we put on 59 speakers and hosted 2000 attendees. It has been one hell of a ride! A huge learning curve, an exercise in iterative design (both the format of the meet-ups themselves and the processes behind them), at times hugely stressful, and enormous fun.

Why I have to let go

I’m sure there’s a shortlist of the most stressful things in life. Alongside the things I am very glad not have had to contend with (death of a loved one, illness, injury, divorce) most lists have a new baby, moving house, job loss and new job on there.

Our second child was born late in 2016, and that’s when things started to become difficult. My wife bore the brunt of the sleepless nights in those early months while she was breast feeding so I made sure I was around to provide as much support as I could.

With the new arrival came the need for more space. We’re a family of minimalists, so it was time to up-size from a flat to a house before the new fella began crawling/walking. After 6 months of searching, staging and hard negotiation we moved into our new wreck home just before Christmas 2017.

So 2018 kicked off with some serious renovation work which we’ve just gotten to the end of. Well, the end of ‘phase 1’, anyway!

To make things harder, I was made redundant in early 2018. I fell back on my freelance instincts while looking for a new job but found a new role pretty quickly. I’m still working on some of those freelance projects, which have taken a lot of effort outside of normal working hours to honour.

So the time I had always put into organising the meet-up became harder and harder to come by, and it was really taking its toll. I could see my marriage, my kids and my own wellbeing suffering.

Coming up for air

After months of refusing to entertain that Frontend NE might be one of the things that had to give, I made up my mind some time in August. It felt timely that the decision was made just after we had booked Robin Hall and Ade-Lee Adebiyi to talk on looking after your mental wellbeing.

December’s meet-up has just passed and it was the first I haven’t been involved in. It wasn’t without a tinge of sadness that I headed straight home from work, rather that to Frontend NE, but it felt right.

The month since my final meetup has been everything I hoped it would be. I’ve had some breathing space (well, as much breathing space as being a father of two allows!) for the first time in recent memory. Instead of organising speakers, sponsors, pizzas, drinks, hands-on-deck, I’ve been able to start one or two of those pet projects that have been in my sights for years. I’ve had that wee bit more time to spend with the kids; a wee bit more to be with my wife.

Thanks and see you at the conference

While I’ve stepped back from the month-to-month routine of the meet-up, I’m still very much part of the Frontend NE conference team as well as the day-to-day business operations.

Thanks to everyone who has come to the meet-up over the years, and sipped a beer as I introduced speakers, delivered messages from sponsors, led prize giveaways and generally had a ball.

It has been a pleasure getting to know you all; be sure to say ‘hi’ if you see me around and hopefully I’ll see you at the conference on April the 3rd!