- Maurice Hamilton's blog
A racer's inspirationMaurice Hamilton August 18, 2014
If you were following British club racing 37 years ago, the name Roger Pedrick would mean something. He was part of an invigorating Formula Ford scene that included Nigel Mansell, Kenny Acheson, Chico Serra and other assorted cheerful hooligans intent, if necessary, on wheel-banging their way to the front.
Twenty-one-year-old Pedrick was no different from the rest. Working on a construction site to fund his racing, Roger qualified his Hawke on the front row for a heat of the prestigious 1977 Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and became the highest placed English driver in the final. His justifiable ambitions would be wrecked a few weeks later on 25 November when he returned to his local track for a test session. The Hawke DL19 slammed backwards into the bank at Paddock Hill Bend and left Pedrick with devastating injuries to the spine and neck.
It took several years to undergo treatment and accept that the biggest challenge was now simply surviving, both mentally and physically. For a young man who loved the exhilaration of speed and car control, the effect of being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life is impossible for the rest of us to imagine.
Looking for an outlet for pent-up energy and an alert mind, Roger took up painting; easier said than done when you have virtually no movement beneath the shoulders. Never having painted before meant there were no preconceptions as he approached a canvas with the brush clamped between his teeth. The frustrating limitations were obvious but Pedrick persisted over a number of years. When he invented a drawing board that could be rotated by stabbing his right hand and arm at a control, the spinning canvas brought a new dimension in every sense.
Slowly, the artwork began to take form, the subject matter selected by whatever came into his head on the day. "Without this focus, the ability to finally create something, I really don't think I would have survived," Pedrick says in a cheerful matter-of-fact manner that sums up the colossal drive within him and the remarkable absence of self-pity. "Being paralysed is incredibly stressful and mentally straining. My art is a massive release. Usually I paint for a couple of hours nearly every day."
Having created hundreds of pieces over the years, Pedrick decided to do something with these products of his admirable tenacity. An exhibition of more than 200 paintings, officially opened by Jonathan Palmer last Friday, is on display in the Trinity Theatre in Royal Tunbridge Wells. The effect as you walk into the room is stunning; a vivid wall of colour and shapes smacking you between the eyes. Each painting is completely different; a sign that Pedrick's vigorous imagination and energy will always remain free to run riot in such an impressive and contagious manner.
Typical of his generosity of spirit, Pedrick has mounted the exhibition as a means of showing what's possible. "I'd like to think this will inspire anyone depressed by the thought of having to overcome the seemingly impossible," says Roger. "The pictures are for sale if anyone wants to buy one. But that's definitely not the point of showing them. The dream is to take this around the country - go abroad, even - if we could find the support to do it and places that would be interested in exhibiting. I just want to inspire anyone in a dark place. I've been there; I know what it's like."
If you can get to Tunbridge Wells, I urge you to take a look and be uplifted by the manner of creation as much as the art itself. Roger Pedrick may no longer be racing but the racer most certainly continues to exist within him.
Click here for information on the exhibition, which runs until the end of August.
Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.