Stroke survivor wins top art award at gala

A Banbridge stroke survivor has won an art accolade at the Life After Stroke Awards.

Fifty-nine year old Rodney Hamilton received the award for Creative Arts at the recent Northern Ireland Life After Stroke Awards.

The gala event took place at the Hilton Templepatrick as part of Make May Purple - the annual campaign to raise awareness of stroke. The award ceremony was hosted by BBC presenter and Stroke Association patron Noel Thompson.

The Life After Stroke Awards celebrates the achievements of stroke survivors, carers, health professionals and volunteers throughout Northern Ireland.

Rodney, had a stroke in December 2004, aged just 47 years old. As a result Rodney developed aphasia – a devastating communication disability – which affected his speech.

His right hand was also affected making it difficult to do daily tasks.

However, Rodney taught himself to draw and paint using his non dominant hand, using art to aid his recovery post stroke.

Rodney attends STAR (Speech Theatre, Art & Role Play) – an innovative group run by the Stroke Association in Belfast. The group supports stroke survivors to use art, drama and creativity to boost their communication skills and support their recovery.

Speaking after the awards Rodney said: “I am so happy and surprised that I have won this award. I enjoy painting so much not only for me but for the pleasure my work brings to other people.”

Tom Richardson, Northern Ireland Director, Stroke Association said: “Rodney is an inspirational man who refuses to let stroke stop his creativity. Through sheer hard work and determination, Rodney has overcome physical challenges to discover an incredible artistic talent.

“Creativity has given Rodney a new lease of life and rather than let his stroke diminish his life, Rodney has found a new talent he didn’t realise he had.

“His paintings are beautiful and of a very high standard and his positive attitude is a great asset to the local stroke community”.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council NI, presented Rodney with his award.

She said: “Creative arts have the power to bring life and light in very difficult situations and I’m incredibly honoured to be here to present this award to Rodney.

“Many stroke survivors benefit from the becoming involved in creative processes, whether that’s through art, drama or poetry, but it is rare to discover such as an amazing talent like Rodney.

“Congratulations to Rodney and I hope he continues to produce such amazing paintings in the future.”

More than 100 nominations were received for the Life After Stroke Awards. 8 awards were presented at the event and included awards for carers, stroke health professionals and courageous stroke survivors.