Updated: Jan 17, 2020
I have been lucky enough to work with some truly inspirational people in this job. In September 2018, I even wrote a blog entitled ‘Inspiration: three amazing ladies‘ about motivational speaker, author and coach Julia Chi Taylor, artist Athena Jane Churchill, and digital marketing expert Sue Harbottle-Sear of Konzepts.
Of course, it is impossible to write about being inspired by your clients without writing about Clive Collins of Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm. You might think growing Christmas Trees is a difficult job if you are able-bodied; imagine doing it if you were restricted to a wheelchair. That is exactly what Clive does and he doesn’t just succeed, he excels. This month he won the ‘Triumph Over Adversity’ award at The Rural Business Awards (South East) in Canterbury. Along with Catsfield employee Toby Ballard, who was named ‘Rural Young Person of the Year’, they will now go forward to the national finals in Manchester next February.
Which brings me to Tom Doughty. He is a friend of Clive’s and noticed some of the work we had helped him. He heard him on BBC Saturday Live just before Christmas last year and was really impressed. You can listen to the show here.
Tom is restricted to a wheelchair but, like Clive Collins, this hasn’t stopped him achieving amazing things. In 1998, at the Korean Paralympics, he won a silver medal for Great Britain in table tennis. He also went to university and had a successful career as a social worker. While he now longer competes in table tennis, he still hand-cycles around the Cheshire lanes on most days.
These are all inspirational things but none of them are the thing that brought him to Blueberry. What made him contact us was his music – Tom is what you can only describe as a unique voice among guitar players.
As an adolescent he was known as an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist, having started to learn on a second-hand guitar that cost just 50p. This all changed in 1974 when he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with spinal injuries. He lost most of the use of his legs and, most worryingly for a budding guitarist, his hands.
Inspiration often comes from triumph over adversity and Tom is a shining example of this.
One day, he had a lightbulb moment while listening to Leo Kottke’s album ‘Greenhouse’ at a friend’s house and knew he had to find a way to play guitar again. Replacing his fingerstyle playing with a lap slide approach, and a great deal of perseverance and not a little ingenuity, Tom found a way he could play guitar using a tube on his forefinger to depress the strings. For Tom, this was a wholly new approach to guitar playing.
In 1999, he gave up his career as a social worker to follow his dream of being a professional musician. Today, he is writing and producing music that blends pop, jazz, folk and blues, allowing him to create his own unique acoustic sound. He has released four critically acclaimed albums: 2003’s ‘The Bell’, 2006’s ‘Running Free’, and 2008’s ‘Have a Taste of This’. His most recent album, ‘Can’t Teach an Old Dog’ was released in 2016.
His skill and determination have taken him, and his rather impressive collection of guitars, all over the world, including playing ‘Eleanor Rigby‘ in Bahrain with the British Paraorchestra. This year he has performed on a number of impressive venues, including the hallowed Ronnie Scott’s. To see Tom playing ‘Catfish Blues’, click here.
If all that wasn’t inspirational enough, Tom is also an advocate of playing music as a form of release. He believes physical impairment should not be a restriction. In this vein, he has just completed his second tour of hospital spinal injuries units across the UK. His workshops act an inspiration to the patients. Here he is from a couple of years ago on the BBC, click here.
As with all the inspirational people I work with, it is Tom’s determination that is truly motivating. He wants to get his music to as many people as possible. We are currently working on some avenues to national exposition. His music deserves to be heard because, when you look beyond the wheelchair, here is a man who expresses himself perfectly, and with humility, through his instrument.
To learn more about Tom, click here.