Are your New Year resolutions sometimes short lived? Whether you’re thinking of making life-changing decisions or a few minor adjustments, these motivating stories will inspire you to value every moment of 2018
Words: Kaz Russell-Graham
Harry Langley- Sportsman
Returning to sport after breaking his neck during a university rugby match, Harry is passionate about playing wheelchair rugby for top division team Canterbury Hellfire (promoted to the top division last season). Despite needing 24-hour care, he trains hard and aims to be part of the National squad for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
Now aged 22, Harry was in his fresher year at Sussex University, delighted to be playing first team rugby against St George’s medics, when the accident happened. Head first in a ruck and his head on the ground, his body rolled over and his chin hit his chest causing a fracture of his C5C6 vertebrae. Though a
blur, he recalls the St George’s team demanding an immediate ambulance and then being in St George’s for six weeks, two of which were in intensive care. Still flat on his back and unable to move, Harry was lucky to be found a place at Stanmore, a special spinal injury hospital. “I hated it at first,” he recalls, “but I made a lot of friends and built a support network. In fact, because I train at Stanmore I still go and see how they’re doing.”
During those months, Harry’s immune system was trying to work on his spinal cord and to avoid pressure sores he was moved every two hours. Eating was done lying down. “I just took each day at a time, keeping busy and doing things,” he says. “If you stop and think it comes crashing down.”
At last the doctors made it clear that a recovery was very unlikely – although there were cases of people improving in the home environment. Harry has met people in a lot of pain. He focuses on what he has, rather than what he hasn’t got back – and fills his day with things he can do, not thinking about the things he can’t.
When he left hospital, still bedbound, he was positive but realistic. And then he found out about wheelchair rugby. “As soon as I was in the chair I was hooked,” he recalls. “I was very slow at first. Other people were a lot quicker but that was a complete motivation to gain fitness and ability, which has helped with every day independence.” Harry cannot move his fingers and has no triceps use; he can only throw the ball in a ‘certain way’ and wears kitchen gloves to protect the back of his hands (a tip from other players), which he must use to push because this method uses his biceps – which work. He is improving his game all the time.
What inspires you?
I can’t thank my family and friends enough. There were around 20 people at the nationals, with mates, girlfriends and family and it was brilliant. I don’t have one role model; it’s about taking the little things. Music is good, if it has a strong beat, and head phones on to be in zone. I am quite a confident and positive person, and I’m definitely motivated and determined about the trials. I am more passionate now than ever about rugby. I train four times a week: twice in Canterbury and twice at Stanmore. My grandparents got me an ‘arm bike’ for training and I’m always breaking my personal best.
My aim is to gain enough independence to live on my own. And of course, Tokyo 2020! I am looking forward to the stages to prove to myself I can make the elite team… I’ve got three years – and I really love sushi! For my next stage, I also want to work at finding out what I can do, and what I want to do. It’s a tough one. I have done public speaking – it was great but I was more nervous about that than I was about playing!
• Visit www.cantrugby.co.uk/wheelchair.htm
Sam Giles – Artist
Sam received an ART31 award last year (2017) for his work with young people in ARTTALK. Growing up isn’t always easy, an issue that resonates with his own experience, and ARTTALK uses the arts to help. Sam is employed by Future Foundry – a ‘profit for purpose’ company that helps young people progress in a variety of ways such as promoting the creative industries and providing access to training and workshops. He also works at UCA (University of the Creative Arts) in Canterbury.
Now aged 26, in his own words, Sam didn’t get on at school. He found his way to art college and became involved with Strange Cargo in Folkestone, working on community projects. Steadily, without being taught how to be a freelancer, his network and career grew. He took a fine arts degree and then he and Lisa Oulton, Director of Future Foundry, began a Student Makers Market (now in its fifth year), which gives the skills that university doesn’t, helping them take full control of their creative business. “Lisa was a great mentor for me,” recalls Sam, “and I want to help others so they don’t have to struggle.”
Sam and Lisa noted how pressured and confusing young lives could be – with trouble at home or difficulties at school. They approached ART31 at Gulbenkian in Canterbury and created ARTTALK, which offered young people ways to use the creative process to manage feelings, and how to support themselves using art – especially appropriate for those experiencing grief or with loved ones seriously ill.
“I was in exactly the same position as a lot of these young people, not sure of who I was or what I was doing,” explains Sam. “I fortunately got my foot in the door and met people who led me to the next stage. A lot of people don’t have access to equipment, workspace – or mental space. We create an environment that can allow meditative things to happen; it’s a safe, calming place and nothing outside matters. Then there is the potential to take a step forward. For example, if someone creates a collage, can they apply that to a business and make a gift card? I want to help people learn to be brave and to say, ‘yes, I can do that!’”
What inspires you?
In kids I see the benefits of the arts so much. In places that are run down or deprived, children come into a workshop and can take time out from anything difficult in their lives. If they can just have five minutes when they can’t think about that stuff because they’re absorbed in making, I think, wow, this is what I’m meant to do! They should have equal access to whatever this thing called art and creativity is. They are entitled to it – everyone is because it’s a great feeling when someone says it’s amazing.
I am working on lots of projects to do with regeneration and the first step is to get the creative industries involved; I’ve seen it in Berlin and in Margate. It brings kids and the community together; you feel better and reduce fighting. We are planning to work in Sheppey and Gravesham with our project Circular Kent, which challenges people to find creative solutions to resource depletion. We are open to anyone, regardless of class or creed. It’s about breaking down barriers and giving opportunities.
• For more information, visit www.futurefoundry.org.uk & www.art31.co.uk