Disabled artist Tom Yendell received the University of Brighton's Alumnus Award 2017 during the winter graduation ceremonies at the Brighton Centre on Thursday (9 February) in recognition of his prolific career as a Mouth and Foot Painting Artist and his numerous charitable accomplishments.
Born with no arms due to the drug Thalidomide prescribed to his mother during pregnancy, the renowned artist and charity worker said he wouldn’t choose to have arms now even if he could.
Sam Davies, the university’s Director of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, in her oration said: “For Tom, there are no such things as obstacles – just him doing the things we all do, but in a different way.”
As a teenager, Tom recognised he no longer had any use for artificial arms as he was accomplishing everything he wanted to do in his own way. He attended Treloar College in Alton, the largest school and college for people with disabilities in the country, and from there took a foundation course at Hastings College of Art & Technology and later studied for an expressive arts degree at the then Brighton Polytechnic where he met his wife Lucy.
After graduating in 1985, Tom took a job with one of the Prince of Wales’ charities Business in the Community, an early enterprise start up support organisation. This encouraged him to start his own career as a self-employed artist and led him to join the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) in 1986, working up from a student artist to Board Member over the past 30 years.
Now 54, he uses his lips, tongue, teeth, head and feet to master different brush strokes and hopes his artwork proves that nothing is too big a hurdle in life.
He divides his time between art and charity work. He chaired their Treloar alumni association for 25 years and founded Flat Spaces Foundation, a charity that provides holiday accommodation for the severely disabled and less abled.
He is also involved with The Education and Book Appeal which raises funds to help children in Ghana attend school and providing them with school shoes, uniform, bag and fee.
Tom advised students: Find something that you love doing, work hard and remember – enjoy life. He offered graduates three pieces of advice: "Follow your dream, treat people as you would expect to be treated and fill your time.
“We are only here for a short time so try and fill that time really well – get out of bed in the mornings and enjoy what you do.”
Nominations can be made any time throughout the year. The next award will be summer 2018. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the institution achieving university status and as such we want to mark the occasion by honouring one alumni who graduated in the last 25 years and one alumni who studied while the university was a polytechnic. We will accept nominations until 8th June.
Tom received the alumnus award in recognition of his prolific career as a Mouth and Foot Painting Artist and his numerous charitable accomplishments.
Tom was born with no arms due to the drug Thalidomide prescribed to his mother during pregnancy. However, this has not stopped Tom from achieving his objectives and he said he wouldn’t choose to have arms now even if he could – to him there are no such things as obstacles, he just does things in a different way.
He divides his time between art and charity work. He chaired their Treloar alumni association for 25 years and founded Flat Spaces Foundation, a charity that provides holiday accommodation for people with disabilities. He is also dedicated to his work with The Education and Book Appeal which raises funds to help children in Ghana attend school and providing them with school shoes, uniform, bag and fee.
Adam PearsonBusiness Management BA(Hons) 2007
Adam is an award-winning actor, presenter and campaigner, who received the alumnus award in recognition of his campaigning achievements to eliminate prejudice against people with disability and disfigurement.
Adam has neurofibromatosis which causes non-cancerous tumours to grow along nerve endings. It made him a target for bullying and discrimination but Adam has used his talents to combat prejudice and campaign for people like him.
Adam has won a RADAR Award and a Diana Award for his work with the Changing Faces charity as well as working on award-winning series including Channel 4’s The Undateables and Beauty and the Beast: The Ugly Face of Prejudice, the critically acclaimed BBC Three documentaries, Adam Pearson: Freak Show and The Ugly Face of Disability Hate Crime. In 2013, Adam appeared opposite Scarlett Johansson in the BAFTA-nominated science-fiction horror film, Under the Skin. Adam is an accomplished public speaker and has delivered a TEDx Talk as well as multiple speeches at conferences and schools.
Photo: (c) Mark Johnson/Getty 2015.
Joint winner 2015
Dr Gary Brickley Sports Science BSc(Hons) 1994, Sport and Leisure Studies PhD 2000, Cardiology MSc 2003
(Joint winner with Norman Cook)
Gary has coached in five Paralympic games helping Team GB’s Paracyclists in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio 2016. Gary’s work with paracyclists has contributed significantly to Team GB’s medal haul.
In 2012 Gary’s achievements were recognised with a prestigious Mussabini medal when he was inducted into the coaching hall of fame, alongside the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson. His research has been presented around the world.
Gary received the alumnus award in recognition of his outstanding Paralympic coaching achievements and field expertise.
Norman CookBritish Studies BA(Hons) 1985
(Joint winner with Dr Gary Brickley)
Norman is perhaps more famously known as international DJ and music producer Fatboy Slim. In a stellar career spanning three decades, Norman has accrued 10 MTV Video Music Awards, three Brit Awards, a Grammy and an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
Norman has been a regular participant in University of Brighton activities, lending his fame to the university’s alumni engagement initiatives.
Norman was presented with the alumnus award in recognition of his major contribution to the music industry, his ongoing support of the University of Brighton and as an ambassador for the city of Brighton & Hove.
Faye McClellandPhysiotherapy BSc(Hons) 2013
Faye graduated with a degree in physiotherapy in 2013 and still managed to retain her title as world paratriathlon champion. Faye, also the reigning European champion, won her fourth paratriathlon world title in as many years as she led home a British one-two-three in London's Hyde Park last September 2013. She was awarded the Tata Steel British Triathlon Female Paratriathlete of the Year and was crowned Disabled Sports Personality of the Year at the 11th annual Sussex Sports Awards.
Faye was selected as the winner of the alumnus award in recognition of her outstanding sporting achievements and her ongoing support of the university. She trains with the Bodyworks XTC team based at the university’s campus in Eastbourne.
Chris RiddellGraphic Design BA(Hons) 1984
Chris is a renowned illustrator, writer of children’s books and political cartoonist for The Observer. In 2015, he was also named Children’s Laureate 2015–2017.
Chris has won multiple awards for his illustration and writing and was one of the first alumni to join the university’s Alumni Advice Network. He has given his time and talents repeatedly to support our students’ experience.
In 2011, Chris collaborated with the university’s widening participation office on the creation of an engaging character to appeal to local primary school children. Chris designed the new character – Professor C Gull – who has become a figurehead for the university’s programme to inspire children from non-traditional backgrounds to consider higher education.
Julie HowellLibrary and Information Studies BA(Hons) 1992
Disability rights campaigner and public speaking coach, Julie, was named our inaugural winner of the University of Brighton Alumnus Award.
The award recognised her public campaigning for the university, the support she has given students, her championing of diversity and equality issues, her achievements in setting up advocacy websites for people with disabilities, such as Jooly’s Joint website which is accessed by 60,000 people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and her work as a mentor with the university’s award-winning Momentum scheme. Julie was a founding member of the university’s Alumni Advice Network.