Kitty Castledine, aged 16 from Thames Ditton in Elbridge, is only one of three young people nominated for the Spinal Injury Association’s (SIA) Young Person of the Year Award at its Rebuilding Lives Award 2019.
At the age of seven-years-old, Kitty developed a rare virus called Transverse Myelitis. Kitty’s immune system attacked her spinal cord leaving her paralysed and unable to move her arms or legs. She has since recovered movement in her arms but her legs remain paralysed.
Birchall Blackburn Law is sponsoring the SIA’s Young Person of the Year Award, so we caught up with passionate performing arts student, Kitty for a Q and A session ahead of the awards this month (July 2019)…
We’ve been told that your passion is for drama and performing arts, how did you get the bug and why is it so important to you?
In some way I think I’ve always had the need to perform – or “show off” as my parents would have said! But it think it really kick started when I was lucky enough to be a part of the closing ceremony of the Paralympics in 2012, watching not only wheelchair users but also able bodied people perform so passionately. I find that drama is so important, not just to me but for everyone, as it’s something that allows you to (re)connect with an emotional part of yourself, as well as expressing creative energy that can also provide excellent entertainment.
Are you still studying performing arts and where do you hope to take your education / training next?
Yes, I studied drama for GCSE (achieving the highest grade, a 9!) and I’m currently studying it for A-level. I hope to continue my studies at drama school or university – depending on the best course.
Why is it important for the public and for other wheelchair users to see people in wheelchairs on stage and screen?
It’s important because people need to be exposed to the World’s diversity which some may not be aware of – it’s 2019! It’s a way of normalising wheelchair users in the arts and not viewing them differently as actors/creatives due to their disabilities. It’s also a fantastic way to inspire young people, particularly those who may be wheelchair users, as it shows them that their disability can’t hold you back from your passion, or rather it can create your passion!
If you could play any part or role, what would it be? And why?
I love naturalistic acting so playing an intense role in a film would be amazing. I’m also fond of comedies and melodrama so maybe I’d have to switch between the two… I don’t know! There are so many amazing characters and actors out there, I couldn’t choose!
What are your ambitions for the future?
I’d love to see where my passion for drama takes me. Ultimately every actor’s dream is to win an Oscar! Although, if I’m taking stepping stones then I’d say to study screen acting more and perform in a television show/series, film or even TV presenting.
Is there anyone that you would consider a role model?
Big names would be Olivia Colman, Jenifer Lawrence, Frances McDormand and so many more. Although I’d say sometimes it’s hard having a role model as you end up wanting to be too much like them, so I try and be my own role model and be a better version of me – cheesy I know!
Is there a rule or motto that you live by?
Progress, not perfection.
What advice would you give to someone recently diagnosed with a spinal cord injury?
Listen to the professionals around you and do your physio!!! Other than that, enjoy your life because your injury doesn’t define you.
I’d like to thank all the people at Stoke Mandeville (National Spinal Injuries Centre) who have helped me tackle the challenges that come with being in a wheelchair and having a spinal cord injury. Without them I wouldn’t be as independent as I am today.
If you could change anything about the world around you, what would it be?
People’s perceptions of disability, accepting diversity and killing society’s idea of the ‘normal person’.
What would you say your greatest achievement has been so far?
Being independent. As a wheelchair user it’s hard to gain a level of independence that you want. As a teen, I obviously want to be the most independent and spontaneous. Getting my driver’s licence and having a car has really allowed me to be out on my own more and be the independent person I want to be.
What does the work of organisations like the SIA mean to you?
It means I know that I’m not alone and there are so many other people who are dealing with the same, or similar, issues I deal with. It creates this sense of community that brings not only wheelchair users but also family and friends together – understanding and expanding the awareness of spinal cord injuries.
What does it feel like, being nominated for a Young Person of the Year Award at the SIA’s Rebuilding Lives Awards?
It’s such an amazing thing. I’m thankful that there are awards like this. It’s incredible to know you are a part of something that’s creating the opportunity to inspire and encourage other young people with spinal cord injuries. Thank you!
Are you a keen traveller? What has been your favourite holiday destination and why? Where are you heading next?
I love holidays but I do like the comfort of my own home. When I’m older I definitely want to travel more! My favourite destination so far would be when we visited L.A. last summer. It was so hot and the sunsets were incredible, it’s also really wheelchair friendly! Next, is a mystery but I’m looking forward to it regardless.
Do you have a favourite play?
I’ve loved so many plays but particularly The Jungle, which was performed in the Playhouse Theatre, and A Monster Calls, in the Old Vic. They are two very hard hitting and powerful plays I’ve seen.
What’s your favourite film(s)?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Moonlight (the cinematography was great), The Shawshank Redemption and recently, Rocket Man.
Can you recommend a TV boxset?
To name a few! Friends, Gavin and Stacey, Fleabag, Luther, Breaking Bad, all of the Louie Theroux documentaries, Orange is the New Black, Prison Break and David Attenborough’s ‘Our Planet’.
Who do you listen to when it comes to music?
I like all genres but I enjoy the lesser known artists that don’t appear on the radio such as Loyle Carner, Tom Misch and Jorja Smith. Although, I do love Adele, Lauryn Hill and Sam Smith.
Carbonara with no mushrooms and loads of parmesan!
The Spinal Injury Association (SIA) Young Person of the Year Award at the Rebuilding Lives Award 2019 will be announced on July 11. The high profile awards will be attended by HRH The Princess Royal and are held at the home of Williams Racing in Oxfordshire.
The Young Person of the Year Award is presented to a spinal cord injured person aged 25 or under, who has provided an outstanding level of contribution to the UK’s spinal cord injury (SCI) community and their SCI peers.
The SIA is the leading national user-led charity for spinal cord injured (SCI) people. Being user led, the charity understands the everyday needs of living with SCI. They help meet those needs by providing key services to share information and experiences, and to campaign for change ensuring each person can lead a full and active life. To find out more about the amazing work of the SIA go to spinal.co.uk or call 0845 678 6633.