Customer Stories: A Year Like No Other by Steven Watts

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Steven Watts never set out to become a hit on social media or a published photographer. However, a chain of events triggered by the start of lockdown saw him take on these roles.

Already a veteran fundraiser, Steve became a source of inspiration throughout the country through his passion for his Lakeland home and his dedication to raising funds for good causes, including the Tony Hudgell Foundation. Solopress was proud to play a small part when it came to launching Steve’s book, A Year Like No Other.

 

Life by the Lakes

A keen fell runner, Steve had decided to move to Grasmere in the Lake District from nearby Troutbeck, where some of the UK’s most dramatic landscapes would continue to be right on his doorstep. And then, two days after the move, the first nationwide lockdown was enforced.

With great relief, and with a full appreciation of his magnificent surroundings, Steve set about his new life in Grasmere. But after a couple of days enjoying early morning runs amid the stunning scenery of his new home, Steve began to feel a sense of that he ought to share his experiences with others.

“I just thought how lucky we were, and my thoughts went out to all those people living in high-rise flats or care homes – the ill, the infirm, all the single parents. So I thought about bringing the outside in through the lens by taking pictures and uploading them to social media.”

Photo: Rydal Water – Windermere & Grasmere with Loughrigg taking centre stage by Steve Watts

 

Putting the outdoors online

Steve settled into a routine of daily runs, all the while photographing the Lake District and posting his pictures to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It wasn’t long before the comments started flooding in, including this one:

“Steve your pictures are so special to me & are my daily tonic having lost my husband 2 years ago I suffered a stroke & am now wheelchair-bound, we had many happy times in the lakes, please keep posting!”

With comments like these, how could he stop now? In fact, he hasn’t stopped yet! At the time of writing, Steve has posted pictures for 568 consecutive days.

 

A call from the BBC

With Steve’s photography gaining momentum on social media, it soon caught the attention of the BBC Breakfast team. They thought his posts were truly inspirational and asked if Steve could do a live outside broadcast from the shore of Grasmere.

The interview went well and at the end, Steve mentioned that he’d be keen to do something more with his photos. He put it out there that if anyone were to get in touch to help him publish them as a book, then all profits would go to charity. The result was an influx of emails offering help.

 

Messages of hope

After trawling through the many messages, one from author Sarah Armstrong really stood out. Sarah had recently published a book called Go Tony Go about Tony Hudgell, the young boy who had his legs amputated after being badly abused at 41 days old.

Tony’s story was one that Steve was already aware of. He’d seen TV coverage of when Tony undertook a 100 step challenge that paid tribute to Sir Tom Moore’s 100-lap walk around his garden. Following on from his 100 step challenge, Tony made the serious step up to walk 10km within a month. His intention was to raise £500 for Evelina Children’s Hospital, where he had received lifesaving treatment as a baby. He ended up raising over £1.33 million.

Although Sarah’s considerable writing skills were surplus to requirements for this image-led project, her connection to Tony inspired Steve to reach out. He offered to assist if Tony ever wanted to attempt to summit a Lakeland mountain (more on that later!), and made the decision to share any profits from the book between The Tony Hudgell Foundation and Evelina Children’s Hospital.

 

A turn up for the books

After the BBC Breakfast live broadcast from the shores of Grasmere, Matt Lowe from Performance.io got in touch and offered to fund the publication of the book, allowing the idea to become a reality. The result is A Year Like No Other – a beautiful book that forms a pictorial record of Steve’s daily runs around Grasmere and the Lake District.

Each turn of the page takes you further along a visual journey through all four seasons, offering a true reflection of Grasmere & beyond, come wind, rain or shine. Words can’t do justice to these epic landscapes, but you can see Steve’s images for yourself when you pre-order A Year Like No Other here – plus £12.50 from the sale goes straight to the charities.

 

A Lakeland launch – and rave reviews

When it came to the book launch for A Year Like No Other, the Wordsworth Trust Grasmere provided the venue, and Roller Banners from Solopress provided the backdrop.

“Working with Solopress has been an absolute pleasure from start to finish,” Steve commented, “from making that first contact to the point of delivery has been a 1st class professional service.”

The book has been positively received by critics and the public alike, and the reaction on social media has been astounding, with comments like these pouring in:

“The beauty of your book brought tears to my eyes”

“Your photos are absolutely amazing”

“Your pictures are my daily tonic.”

 

Meeting the Hudgells

Steve recently had the pleasure of meeting young Tony himself, as well as the rest of the amazing Hudgell family. Steve was overwhelmed by the headway being made by the newly-established Tony Hudgell Foundation:

“It’s incredible that other children will be able to benefit, having themselves undergone traumatic experiences & medical conditions similar to Tony! Giving hope where at times there was none, that’s special.”

 

 

Get the picture

If you’d like to keep yourself informed of how the Tony Hudgell Foundation you can visit https://www.tonyhudgellfoundation.org/, and you can donate anytime you wish at the Foundation’s Just Giving page. You can also learn about the amazing work done by the Evelina Children’s Hospital here.

And of course, Steve’s book is A Year Like No Other is available to pre-order here and will be available from 6th November, with £12.50 from each sale going to The Tony Hudgell Foundation and Evelina Children’s Hospital.