Guest Blog: Firestorm

I’d like to introduce my first guest blog Firestorm, written by the very talented artist and creative blogger Lee of Elevatedby. Lee is one of the amazing people I have blogged about recently, who inspire me to achieve on a daily basis and I’m delighted he has agreed to share a little insight into how he feels to be working as a creative in his element.


This may seem a little off topic, but please do bear with me as the metaphor unfolds.  Lets set our minds back to 29th and 30th December 1940.  On these two nights from 6:00pm till the early hours of the morning over 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on our Capital City of London.  More than 160 civilians died during those two nights, and many more died later due to injuries sustained. Buildings were completely destroyed including 19 churches, 31 Guild halls and all of Paternoster Row (which was the centre of London’s publishing trade).

Many of you will have seen this photograph:

London after the blitz

It was a positive image of the survival of London and it was beamed all around the world.  The cathedral became a symbol of London’s defiance and determination to carry on, but what many people don’t know is that this image is a crop of the original, which shows, fallen buildings and a severely broken Capital City.

I’m sure I speak, not only for myself here, but also many others who spend their lives overcoming adversities presented by their disabilities.  I like to think of myself as the St Paul’s Cathedral in that photograph standing firm in the firestorm defiant and determined to carry on despite the challenges that my disabilities presents me with.

As I said, many people do not know about the ‘original’ version of the photo. It is one which shows the destruction, fallen buildings and devastation London sustained during the firestorm created by German invasion which looks a little something like this . . .

London after the blitz

Tough huh?  If you give me just a couple of minutes of your time, I shall reveal some of the stuff that I tend to ‘crop out’ of the image which I project to the public and the reason behind the name ‘elevatedby’ which I have chosen to give to my website dedicated to my creations.

Most of my immediate family have at some stage worked in the Forces. Grandpa was in the Parachute Regiment in Word War Two landing in Normandy on D-day. Mum was in the WRAF where she became a Dental Nurse and Dad was an aircraft engineer for the RAF and worked many aircraft, and spent most of his years after I came about on the SAR Sea King Helicopters at RAF Finningley in Doncaster. As for me? Due to my disabilities, I kinda missed the boat to go working in the Military, however I wasn’t going to let my disabilities get away with that lightly!

I have been invited as a guest blogger on and I am here to share with you  something deep within my makeup that not only gives me the drive and motivation to reach for the stars, but something that has provided me with a shield and protection against the adversities enabling me to walk through firestorms, yet miraculously walking out out of the other end untouched by its destructive force (AKA Self doubt and demoralization) That something is my desire to be creative!

I can’t ever recall ‘becoming‘ creative, that, I think is something that was built into my make-up the day I was conceived, but I can recall many times where I have been ‘elevated by’ my creative side.

Perhaps one the first instance, I can recall been ‘elevated by’ my creative side was when my friends would play soccer after school. Due to my balance and being uneasy on my legs, football was a game I’d choose not to join in with, but I’d still go out and join them, not with a football, instead I’d carry a note-pad and handful of pencils. Once my friends saw me, then It didn’t take them long to drop their football in favour of one of my pencils, asking me ask me to teach them how to draw helicopters or WWII bombers flying over Big Ben, with search lights coming from the Westminster bridge.

Another of many situations that I have found myself ‘elevated by’ my creations and creative desires was during the integration period into mainstream school from a special school for children with physical ‘disadvantages’ (as it was called in those days).  This was a very difficult period, it was my first taste of how downright cruel other children could be and it was the period of time when I learnt many lessons of life that could never have been learnt whilst being moth balled at a special school.

It was during this period of time when I learnt pretty quickly how to snub out and disarm what often felt like high explosives and incendiary bombs of verbal abuse and torment, and it was through my creations that would find an escape to what was going on around me drifting off with my imagination and drawing on whatever it was I had in front of me and then, I discovered a new and more powerful side to my creations!

One time during a French Lesson, I was spotted drawing a Ferrari F40 in my exercise book (which contained more sketches and drawings than it did French) by someone who dished out much grief. Word about my drawings seemed to spread around the school like wildfire and almost instantly after, it felt like all of a sudden I was the new favourite person to be around. Once again I was ‘elevated by’ my artwork, standing firm in the firestorm!

Lee | | Elevatedby on Facebook 

Thanks for sharing Lee!

If, like me, you enjoyed that and feel inspired check out the fabulous imagery on his website and sign up to his blog and Facebook page from the links above!

Lee will be back again soon to share the story behind just some of his fabulous artistic creations! Subscribe to my blog posts to be sure you don’t miss it!

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In my Element 2

So , there I was, minding my own business listening to Radio 2 (I often wonder what triggered the decision that I was old enough to make the switch from independent radio and Radio 1 to the “easy listening” station, but that’s one for another day), when Crystal Gayle regaled us again with the story of her brown eyes turning blue, then “stepped aside” to allow the introduction of Sir Ken Robinson.

An interesting chap, Sir Ken was introduced as an impassioned and supremely motivational speaker, then delivered his pitch in a fairly monotone voice that almost finished me off (yes, I’m easily bored these days). I say almost…he speaks of course about something I am extremely passionate about…people achieving their full potential!

A passionate educationalist Sir Ken is an excellent spokesman for the power of teaching as an art form and for the benefits of creativity and imagination in the learning process to generate and maintain enthusiasm and a desire for lifelong learning. He still believes in the notion of great teachers as those people who can inspire and fire someone up!

What I like about Sir Ken is his determination to speak up in favour of public educational reform and the paradigm shift that’s needed to make it possible for us to operate in our element – here’s a great case in point:

In my element

Sir Ken describes “the element” as

the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. It is here that people feel most themselves, inspired and able to achieve at their highest levels.

This is the stuff that’s far removed from the bored child in class, disillusioned and misused employee or person who feels frustrated but can’t explain why…it’s that point in life where we connect with our true self by understanding our true talents and lead a fruitful life by doing what we love. Most of all we begin to realise and achieve everything we are capable of in our journey of self-fulfilment.

So What?

I guess my last blog post really highlighted for me how I have started to make the shift from corporate wage slave to local enthusiast, coach, confidante, tutor and someone who feels they are once again making a difference. I feel I’m in my element right now.

Next time round my first guest blogger, the inspirational Lee of Elevatedby will be sharing his experience of being in his element and what motivates him to do what he does

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In My Element

So, two years ago on 30th June 2011, I packed up my personal belongings from a shared desk in a rather dull looking Sheffield office and left the building. The contents of my box included my 25 years service certificate, which told me how my dedication to duty had been appreciated (and other such nonsense as appears in stock letters created to convey false feeling)…I would no longer be a civil servant!

My erstwhile desk share was an interesting one – for my last few months I floated almost aimlessly without permanent home or duties. I wasn’t idle, but was thrown the titbits of work that made my last few months “meaningful” but non-committal…..after all I didn’t appear in the future picture! I now shared my desk….. with a retired Guide Dog who had apparently become so accustomed to human company he could not be left home alone following the appointment of his youthful replacement. He was also quite old and gave off an unusual and not entirely pleasant aroma, particularly if his lunchtime walk had been accompanied by rain (yuk!).

It felt rather insulting then that said dog received rather more visitors enquiring after his health and welfare throughout the course of the day than I did during my final weeks, such was the fall from grace I experienced following my decision to accept early release from a department I had served enthusiastically for many years, and more cynically for the last two! Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not complaining about the dog…I’m not sure I would have wanted to eat the apple cores and various other leftovers etc. that were delivered to him regularly throughout the day (thankfully I will also never know if they would have caused me the same level of flatulence – not pleasant at all).

What was it like working for DWP?

Channel 4 TV recently ran a series called “Skint” that delved mercilessly into the lives of people on a Scunthorpe estate I used to visit in my first couple of years as a Civil Servant and I recoiled at the notion I used to walk those streets with an official issue visiting bag, listening to the shouts “Social!!” ringing out a warning I was on the estate! They were the days when I felt I could help, make a difference to the lives of those who needed the support of the “welfare state” as it used to be called in the days it gave help to those who needed it in our society.

When I took a “corporate role” in Learning and Development I revelled in the notion that a variety of self-development courses would in some ways enrich and enhance the lives of lower grade staff, encourage them to find a voice that would enable them to better serve the goals that drove them. Indeed, there was some evidence this was the case as I bumped into former students who reported great gains!

In later years however I felt my role was increasingly one of “ego-massager” – I was being called upon to massage the over-inflated egos of some colleagues who had never even conceived of the lot of those in the Scunthorpe type estates. Decision-makers who were driven by the business plan whilst remaining clueless about the wants and needs of those who required welfare support, now rebadged Social Security and awarded a variety of unpleasant social stigma badges. Some of these people seemed more concerned with self-advancement than anything else, working to secure the latest entry on a professional CV that required at least one public service entry to provide a more rounded appearance to their experience. Tick in the box and they were off again. Maybe these thoughts are driven more by me than them, but I certainly didn’t feel I was making a difference any more and that has always been an important driver for me.

Do I miss what I did?

Absolutely not! I don’t miss any of that! Well, maybe just a little…..the company of the vast majority of people I worked with was great, thanks to a shared sense of pride in what we did, regardless of how this was judged. I left behind some good friends and of course, I learned many life lessons from the people I trained, many of whom are still there, facing the latest changes arising from the next big political shake up of the welfare state.


Set free from 25 years penal servitude I have spent the last 2 years carving a new life and purpose for myself – a more creative life, living the dream etc. and working with new people and emerging friends, the most inspiring of people and friends. My second anniversary of freedom from the Civil Service came with surprising speed, almost unnoticed amongst the more interesting and exciting things that fill my life these days.

The big differences?

  • I decide what I do every day! I decide based on what I have agreed with my customers and my delivery deadlines, with no interference from anyone with a personal agenda or overinflated ego
  • I only deal with people I want to work with! They include some fantastic and inspirational people with no personal agenda.
  • I love what I do! Every day makes me smile – not for me the trepidation of sitting outside the office in the car, passing another 5 minutes before I go in!

What’s the big deal?

I am inspired rather than intimidated by the people I know, work with and teach these days. These creative people overcome the most incredible adversity on an almost daily basis to run their own creative businesses or follow their creative pursuits, in spite of physical, emotional and mental health issues.

I’m inspired by all these people and feel honoured and privileged to have met and made such remarkable new friends and business contacts. These are people who inspire me every day to be the best person I can be because they

  • Carry the most extraordinary self doubt and yet keep going, striving to achieve in the face of the most extreme adversity and disability
  • Share their thoughts and innermost feelings with absolute honesty and trust, despite life’s experiences telling them of the dangers involved in doing so
  • Operate with absolute dignity and integrity, despite experiencing the most unkind aspects of human behaviour in response to their differences
  • Teach me that life is there for the taking and that I should seize every opportunity, after all, I’ve probably got it easy at the side of some


…..the thread that binds us all together is our own artistic pursuit, and me, because though we have a shared interest in things creative and artistic I know each of these people in isolation from each other right now. I consider myself honoured to know them and to have the chance to work with them and am inspired by each of their stories, though I fear none of them knows or believes what an inspiration they really are.

In my element

Not only have I thoroughly enjoyed two years establishing my business, creating new works and teaching others how to do the same (tutoring/coaching is by far the most rewarding aspect of my work each week), but I really feel I’m in my element right now. I feel I’m finally doing what I was made for, if that makes sense?!

I’m not sure what the future might hold, but I am intrigued by the therapeutic benefits and power of art/creativity to repair, nurture and motivate us to be more than we thought we could be. I’m also in awe of the people around me who overcome so much more than I do daily to achieve their creative goals. With this in mind I thought it would be interesting to find out and share a little more about some of the inspirational and creative people I have come to know and love and have invited some of them to join me as guest bloggers on my site… this space!