STEPHEN Lightbown will be making an emotional return to his home town of Darwen on Thursday to talk about the moment that changed his life.

In January 1996 Stephen was involved in a sledging accident in Bold Venture Park when he crashed into a tree. The accident left him without the use of his legs and after spending six months in the spinal unit at Southport Hospital he was confined to a wheelchair.

Now 39, Stephen will be in Darwen for a special evening at the town's Library Theatre where he will be reading poems from his debut book of poetry - Only Air.

"It's going to be quite an emotional occasion I think," said Stephen, who works as director of communications for a hospital in Bristol.

"I have been back a few times but never in a poetry capacity!

"For me it’s about coming back and recognising the role that Darwen has played in my rehab. Although I moved away from Darwen when I was 21, it’s never really left me.

"Also the day after the show my mum will be leaving the area to be nearer to me and my brothers who have all moved south so it will be particularly poignant."

Stephen's interest in writing poetry was really sparked by the 20th anniversary of his accident.

"I knew I wanted to write about those experience but had been struggling to do it," he said. "I went on a poetry course and the tutor asked us to write a letter poem so I wrote a poem to my legs about my frustrations, and included a response from them legs saying how we were still connected.

"Then once I started writing I just couldn’t stop, 20 years of experiences and thoughts just started coming out."

Stephen admits the process proved very cathartic but hopes that people will find something relevant to them in his work.

"It's not a book of protest poetry, it's more about wanting to show in normal ways what it is like to live with a disability and how it is possible to lead a normal life," he said.

Stephen has received funding from the Arts Council to stage a series of poetry readings around the country, including the Darwen date, and will be joined by fellow poets with disabilities Owen Lowry and Jackie Hagan.

As well as sharing his experiences, Stephen is also hoping to use the show as a way of thanking the people of Darwen who rallied round when he had his accident.

"At the time I was sort of consumed with my rehabilitation and then getting on with my life," he said. "My mum kept all the cuttings from the Telegraph about all the fundraising efforts that people in Darwen held for me and it was only when I read through them all when I was working on my book that it struck me how much the community did for me."

More than £4,000 was raised by various events which helped Stephen get a wheelchair.

"It was often the little things too," he said. "I remember my primary school St Peter's got me a Discman which was the best thing I could have asked for seeing that I was stuck in bed.

"I still have all those songs I played during my rehab on a playlist of Spotify."

Thursday's show will also include a new poem not included in the book.

"It's called Sledge Boy Thanks which is very much is a thank you to Darwen and what people did for me," he said.

Another poem is based around a special visitor Blackburn Rovers fan Stephen had when he was in hospital.

"I was hooked up to a heart monitor and Alan Shearer came into my room," he said. "The alarm when off and the nurses through I was having a cardiac arrest. There's a lesson there about if you’re going to meet your hero don’t do it while you are on a heart monitor!"

Only Air, Darwen Library Theatre, Thursday, June 20. Details from 0844 847 1664 or