OUR STORY 2008 - 2023

Sammie Hardy

Listen to Samies story with Podcast Kings here

Favourite Freedom Road moment: I think the best part for me is the feeling I got when I came off stage and you can see how happy everyone is. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

Greatest lesson learned: I now know what it feels like to be part of a family.

What freedoms have you gained?: The freedom to be myself, I’ve learned how to be a respectful young adult.

Sammie Hardy hasn’t got any good memories of her upbringing. The 27-year-old says sometimes she sits and wracks her brain to see if she can find a moment of happiness from her childhood, but nothing comes. 

She was one of nine children. “My parents had their living room and we had ours. We used to sleep in it, eat in it, watch TV in it - everything. The rest of the house was a mess. I can’t even tell you how disgusting the bedrooms were. We weren’t allowed in my parent’s living room.”

Her sister Tanya, who is around ten years older than Sammie, acted like a mum to her, giving her advice and showing her love. But there wasn’t enough in Sammie’s life to stop her from going off the rails. At school, she was an easy target for bullies. People would throw pens, pencils and rubbers at her, and because she is an assertive character she would stand up for herself. As a result, she was often the one that ended up in isolation.

In a way, this was a good thing for Sammie as it eventually opened the door to being a part of Freedom Road Creative Arts. For Sammie, the invitation to join FRCA was like being thrown a lifeline that she is still hanging onto. Her life was not miraculously transformed by FRCA, but she began to experience happiness.

She says: “I suppose I had a sense of feeling like I was a part of something and that people wanted me to be there. I suppose it was like being in a family and I couldn’t wait to go every week.” Freedom Road offered Sammie the chance to turn off the chaos that otherwise surrounded her.

She can’t remember how old she was when she joined FRCA, but she was a teenager. She knows she was treading a dangerous path. She was being moved from school to school and had found a group of friends. “I was drinking and using drugs, mainly drinking”, she says. “We’d stay out all night in town and get into trouble.” Sammie ended up being placed under an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) by the courts. It meant she was banned from parts of Hull city centre.

For Sammie getting ASBO’d was a wake-up call and with the help of her older sister Tanya and Freedom Road she began to change. She explains: “I just realised I didn’t have to be like that and I had enough good people around me to help me change my life.” Tanya and her friend, Katie, got Sammie a job at Burger King and Sammie’s Freedom Road family united around her in an unexpected way. Sammie was entered into a busking competition with Viking Radio in Hull. She came in the top ten and was asked to busk outside the station, somewhere Sammie was banned from under her ASBO. She says: “I remember thinking that that was it for me, but everyone at Freedom Road was determined that I should get the chance. I can’t believe what they did”.

Ian Bolton managed to convince the powers-that-be that performing in a place Sammie had once terrorised was part of her journey to being a better person. It seems that he was right. She explains: “I was trying to become a different person and I look back now and I think it was really important that I did busk at the station because it was a chance to show I really meant that I wanted to be someone different. It was an amazing experience and it really helped me.”
It also led to a newspaper story and Sammie being invited on to the TV show Surprise Surprise where she was given a guitar that had been donated by Danny O’Donoghue from The Script. Sammie says that she clammed up during the filming and that she didn’t make the final cut, but she doesn’t care because the fact was her journey was recognised as a remarkable achievement. The guitar is now in regular use at FRCA. 

Sammie’s Freedom Road family still means the world to her. She says: “I truly believe I would be in prison or I’d be 6ft under if I hadn’t had the chances and support they gave me.” Instead, Sammie found love with Ryan who was her boss at Burger King. She jokes that she hated him at first because she doesn’t like being told what to do. She says they eventually clicked and they have lasted. They have two children, Freddie and Faye. Faye is already a regular at Freedom Road.

For Sammie life remains bittersweet. In December 2019 she lost part of her sight in her left eye, by March 2020 she was severely sight impaired. After spending several weeks in hospital Sammie was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, which affects her sight, her hearing and causes swelling to the brain. The condition is now under control with medication, but her sight loss is irreversible. It has made it difficult for her to find work and that is difficult as she’d love to work. She lives for her children. She says: “It’s hard but I can’t change what has happened as I did before in my life, when I was out of control. I cannot let my children down. I have to be strong for them and accept what has happened to me.”

She says knowing her sister Tanya and her many friends at Freedom Road are always there to turn to makes all the difference. “It’s really hard, but every day I get up and I think of what I learned over the years and how I want my children to have happy memories like I have from Freedom Road, and I will do everything I can to give them that.”

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