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You are here: News » Archived News » Speed of Sight: The fastest moving charity in the UK

Speed of Sight: The fastest moving charity in the UK

SOS Team

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Business Connect first published a feature on Speed of Sight 8 years ago. The Charity was set up by Mike Newman BEM and John Galloway 12 years ago. Mike has been blind from birth, but happens to hold multiple speed records on land, water and in the air, and this incredible story of fortitude and determination was the backdrop for the Charity. We caught up with John and Mike to find out how things had progressed.

What was the inspiration behind the charity?
Mike: “I was motivated initially to offer an opportunity to people who used to drive cars and also enjoyed driving, but were struck down in the course of their lives by disability. I was meeting people who had previously taken the act of driving for granted. One of the things they always talked about was the freedom to simply get in a car and drive. As someone who has never taken a driving test, however, having had the opportunity to drive not just a car but a high performance car, I recognised that desire. It wasn’t just a case of missing the ability to travel from one place to another, but the joy of actually driving, controlling and feeling the speed of a vehicle. I realised ‘how can I offer this opportunity to people?’, and this concept became our Speed of Sight charity.”

John: “Being involved with Mike and his world records made me realise that myself and everyone involved were coming out of the process better people. Helping someone achieve something that they normally couldn’t was an incredibly powerful thing to consider. Seeing the amazing positive impact on Mike’s life achieving the impossible was humbling, and seeing that process in action, knowing that Mike was intending making that possible for other people, made me want to be part of that story – count me in!”

Mike – tell us about your world speed records?
Mike: “I started to consider the idea back in the late 1990’s. I always liked bikes and cars, and got a bit fed up saying to myself ‘What if I had this car or this bike?’, and from there I thought it wasn’t enough to be in the passenger seat of a high performance car or as a pillion rider on a fast bike – what would I need to do to be in control of these machines? How do I get my foot on the accelerator? The point here is once you start thinking of ‘how’ rather than ‘if’, things start to happen. The charity itself is what I call a ‘how’ organisation. How can we improve what we provide? How can we make the experience better for our participants? We are constantly learning.

“The new cars we took delivery of this season are the culmination of everything we’ve learnt, and the process will always be the same – listening to people and hearing what they would like to experience. The Charity wasn’t born out of my passion for speed records, the records were merely the catalyst, talking point, for people who were denied the opportunity to drive due to their disabilities. The Charity was born out of hearing the aspirations of people wanting to enrich their lives with doing something they dearly missed in many cases.”

John Galloway, Mike Newman BEM, Stanton
John Galloway, Mike Newman BEM, Stanton

What were the biggest challenges you faced setting up and running the Charity?
Mike: “The biggest challenge was actually to get the Charity started. It was about bringing commitment, passion, hard work and risk into a process that we had no guarantees would be successful.”

John: “To me the biggest challenge was that we were doing something that no-one else had ever done. There was no blueprint. Even to this day to the best of my knowledge we’re the only charity in the world that do what we do in the way that we do it. The number of our driver experiences that we deliver grows every single year. The hardest part was getting started. Existing racing circuits didn’t have any precedents for what we were proposing, so at the time of starting those doors were closed to us.

“Another obvious issue was a vehicle. Mike was the ‘driving’ force in creating a vehicle that had seats for a driver and navigator, and he worked out how to make the vehicle functional and able to offer a safe driving experience for not just the driver and navigator, but the venue and people working in and on the experience.”

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Where did the first driving experience happen?
Mike: “The first time we put on a driving experience was at Manchester City’s overfill carpark. The venue had lots of problems, the surface wasn’t suitable, however, the event was a success. It was an opportunity, regardless of the venue’s limitations, to see the idea come to life. When you witness the immediate impact, we realised we had something tangible. It was no longer something that we’d like to do, it was something that we do.”

John: “At this first event I met Arthur who was in his eighties and blind. He came along with his guide dog, and he had lost his sight many years before due to a blow to the head. Up to then he was an HGV driver – a professional driver. He was one of the very first people to enjoy our driving experience, and I remember when he finished he got out of the car in floods of tears, tears of joy and happiness. He was crying, Mike was crying, we were all crying. It was at that point I realised that this is something special.”

Where would you say the Charity is now in terms of growth and development since it started 12 years ago?
Mike: “The services we offer remain constant. We provide driving experiences for people who live day to day with significant disabilities. We have grown as a Charity by learning through those experiences – how to make the day better, how to improve the cars themselves, how to make them even more user-friendly. Also how to improve training and support for our volunteers and navigators. Our navigators are mostly professional driving instructors. Our first car in 2012 was very different to the cars we have now. Also, the circuits are different. We only use dedicated racing circuits rather than car parks. We have 7 vehicles now and they reflect a massive learning experience applied over the last 12 years in their construction and design.

“As a unique Charity we are always thrown challenges that we don’t see coming, in particular Covid which had a big impact, but we have bounced back from that phenomenally well. In terms of growth we have made massive leaps and bounds in becoming an organisation that’s recognised for its integrity, for its professionalism, and importantly recognised now across the third sector as an important partner to work alongside.”

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How important is collaboration to Speed of Sight?
Mike: “Collaboration with other organisations is constantly growing. When we first started we just dealt with individuals looking for driving experiences, however, now we deal with a lot of organisations who bring their stakeholders and user groups to experience our events. We offer opportunities for other Charities to work directly with us. We’re unique – we are the only ones specifically offering driving experiences. Also, we cater for many diverse disabilities, from the obvious visual impairments, to physical limitations and also those who are neurologically differently-abled. We open our arms to all disabilities and life-limiting conditions, and have the flexibility and experience over the years to help people with all challenges in their lives. Whatever you live with, we make sure you’re not a passenger!”

Tell us about the opportunities for sponsorship, how would businesses benefit from being involved with Speed of Sight?
John: “ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – is currently becoming a very important cultural requirement for any sustainable and ethical business or organisation. As part of these values, CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility – plays an important role in how a business interacts within its immediate community – both locally outside that business, as well as internally within its own community of staff and stakeholders.

“When a business engages with a third sector organisation like a Charity or CIC, there can be many results of that association that can have an immediate and far reaching impact for benefitting that business. Doing good and making social value happen is something that our Charity can do really well with the support of sponsorship, not just financially but in terms of social engagement within any specific business. Every event that we do results in the creation of social impact. We’ve mentioned this earlier in terms of direct impact on those experiencing the driving. However, for businesses, and they don’t need to be in the Automotive sector to benefit from sponsoring us, there are immediate returns at our actual events, be it branded vehicles, staff engagement on the day – a day out of the office for staff volunteering at one of our events can be a wonderful and affirming opportunity.

“Also, as a small Charity we get a huge amount of press and TV coverage, mainly as a result of having a very visual, plus loud and noisy experience to photograph or film. Social media activity also helps massively on raising our profile. So, to be associated as a partner or sponsor with Speed of Sight means you get your name and brand on our cars, and our celebration area – this all gets videoed and distributed across press, TV, and more importantly nowadays on Social Media.”

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Find out more: speedofsight.org

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