Wounded Newark bomb disposal expert works with actor Ray Winstone on overcoming their adversities
A bomb disposal expert who suffered life-changing injuries on tour has joined a leading British actor to highlight the benefits of sharing experiences in helping to overcome adversity and challenges in their lives.
Ken Bellringer, from Newark, shattered his pelvis, lost both legs and badly injured his arms while trying to save a comrade who had stepped on an IED during his service in Afghanistan. Award-winning actor Ray Winstone lost his mother when he was 28 which had a profound effect on him, and he has wrestled with insecurities and his public image.
Ken and Ray were brought up by a generation which didn’t talk about problems and have both faced challenges which led to them questioning their own lives and their identities and found that talking about their problems has helped tackle their issues.
Both men are part of a new arts' project The Resilience Sessions which sees veterans who’ve been injured, and public figures come together to share their stories of the tragedies and obstacles they’ve faced and discuss how they’ve moved forward to lead happy and fulfilled lives.
They are working with creative social enterprise the Drive Project, headed up by theatre producer Alice Driver who was the first person in the UK to use arts to support rehabilitation of veterans. Using this approach has changed the lives of veterans and given them a new focus.
But the path to success has not been easy and they have suffered setbacks and self-doubt, a journey which they want to share.
Ken’s family has been a great source of strength for him during his dark times, but he struggled with sharing his feelings with his father, an army veteran who was unable to talk about his own experiences.
His two children, who were six and ten at the time, had to walk through the entire ward, past other injured people, to see Ken for the first time after his injuries, and looked terrified.
“I hugged them and said I may not have legs, but we’ll be all right,” he said.
“I forced myself to have uncomfortable talks with my kids and I wanted to talk to my dad about my time in Afghanistan, but he wanted to move away from it.
"I found that difficult, I wanted to talk to him as he was an old soldier himself."
Ken has battled feelings of isolation and inadequacy, of not being a ‘real man’ since his injuries.
He said: “I began to feel useless and that I was not a real man any more. I would lie on my bed when Chris, my wife said, ‘you’ve got to do something,’ I forced myself to, because I knew what the consequences were.
“I once sat at the table and started crying then my 15-year-old son gave me a big hug. You are not indestructible, you are human and its reassuring for your children to see that. The only thing I had to use was my voice and to tell my story.
“We are lucky as we have family, but for those who don’t, there are people they can trust and talk to and maybe become friends. There are lots of people out there who can help.”
Actor Ray Winstone revealed that he was floored when his mother died when he was just 28 but talking about personal feelings was a taboo.
“Cancer is such a cruel disease, she woke up and we had a day of talking and then she died. It took me a year to start to deal with it,” he said.
“I was quite angry and very short-fused with people. I was driving back from Bristol and I caught the glare of the sun in the mirror and had to pull over, and that’s when I broke down.
“You couldn’t just sit down and talk to your dad about intimate stuff, but now we are more open about having a chat about the effects of wars and serving your country.
"I still get grumpy; it’s an old man thing and things get on top of me. But now I know I need to get out of the darkened room and go and do something.”
Alice Driver said: “The Resilience Sessions podcast aims to create meaningful and inspiring conversations between two unlikely individuals, to talk about their experiences, careers, challenges and how they have handled resilience in their own lives, to act as an inspiration and support to those listening.
"We are using technology to connect veterans with others who have faced similar difficulties in life, to encourage their resilience against feelings of anxiety and poor self-esteem.
"The veterans are moving forward and re-framing their injury by having a positive impact and changing their lives. Technology is improving, merging and accelerating to enable conversations with mass audiences on an intimate level and The Resilience Sessions are testament to placing the human aspect at the core of this.”
In the first series, guests Carol Vorderman, Jonny Benjamin, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Michael Caines, Vick Hope and Ray Winstone and veterans Simon Harmer, Stewart Harris, Nerys Pearce, Mark Ormrod, Shaun Stocker and Ken Bellringer share their inner most thoughts and feelings about resilience and adversity, and how it has shaped them.
They have found that sharing their experience is the best way to help others tackle increasing pressures on mental health in the modern era.
The idea for a podcast was born out of a conversation between Alice and military veteran Simon Harmer of Hampshire, who came close to death after losing both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2009.
The podcast is currently at the top of the New and Noteworthy section in both Personal Journals and Society and Culture sections.
To view the podcasts, go to https://blesma.org/making-generation-r/the-resilience-sessions/