Clair Taylor. I am a massage therapist, of, which I have been for nearly nine years now and I, I now specialise in working with people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and people with dementia. And I specialised in providing support for people at the end of their life, within within the last two years.
I started working as a volunteer when I was sixteen with people with disabilities. I work for freelance for Spare Tyre when they ask me to do bits and pieces so, umm, currently they’ve got me, they’ve asked if I could run their training workshops to go into homes or residential settings or hospitals to work with the paid staff to get them to understand how they can creatively engage with people with dementia.
When they were based at the Downshall Centre in Seven Kings when they were running their inc.Theatre projects, I was one of the, umm, members. So Ellie Mason, I was her care support worker and I used to go there and see to her personal needs while she was on a break but I’d known her for two years prior to knowing that she came to Spare Tyre and I didn’t realise that Ellie could get out of her wheelchair, she’s got cerebral palsy, and I didn’t know that she could move and umm she got out of her chair and was asked by Arti just to do a little bit on the floor and I, it was just incredible. I just, I’d never seen somebody move like that before, especially, especially someone that I thought I knew quite well. Uhh, cos I saw her at least two or three times a week lead, leading up to that, and uhh, she just never tried anything like that at home, ever. So when she did it I was petrified a little bit at the same time because I was scared she was gonna fall, cos she was really pushing her body to the limit, but she was getting such a great response from everybody. And the room just went silent, like, the guys were great at listening and watching anyway, they were very good. That was what instilled in them over the years of working with them. Umm, but just the, the response was yeah. I mean … tears are filling up my eyes now so that’s exactly what happened. I basically cried cos I didn’t realise that she could do that. And from that moment… that, I just, I just knew that she was gonna grow really from then. So, yeah, that was a poignant moment for me, working with Spare Tyre.
It’s all about the taking risks and the pushing and the “I didn’t know I could do this”. The amount of times I heard that from, from many of the people that could communicate with us very well uhh was a lot. Not not just us seeing it, like, the participants actually recognising it too. Which I think is quite important, quite special.
So we always sit in a circle and we start off always asking how everybody is so they create, we create a safe space so that whatever it is then that they say afterwards they know that it is not going to go anywhere. It’s just going to stay in the room, umm and then we slowly encourage them to, uhh, tell us things by dropping in, uhh, dropping in a little bit of help. So like we might bring in a picture or play a piece of music and see how they respond to it and inevitably their story will come out. Like, an individual story about that particular person and then that is what we use to then grow their character that that gets developed that is then put into a show and then … a show was tended to be moulded around the characters that each of our members created from the workshops that we did. So we basically took everybody’s strengths and tried to use them to put together a performance.
It’s very powerful that the the experience that I have had from what I have seen, from from the guys that that perform with Spare Tyre is that they’ve gone from being very quiet, not talking a lot not really knowing what it is that they want to do to umm performing on stage and basically I’m not able to shut them up really (laughs). They’ve gone…, they’ve grown into such confident people. They just shine when they’re on stage as well, they love, love, absolutely love performing so the whole year it would just build up to the performances that they would have and then they’d make a video as well which they absolutely loved cos they saw themselves back on TV. It just brightens them up and the amount of responses we got from the family as well about how different they were resp.. how different they were at home in their behaviour and some of the ways they communicate and they talk, and what they what they talk about umm, yeah it’s just, I just think it’s yeah it’s very important, very important to them.
We always allowed time and space and whatever it is that they did was right. It didn’t matter if you thought it was wrong, it didn’t matter if they ans… if they didn’t answer the question that you asked them, umm. It didn’t matter how they responded, like if they spoke at you or if they performed in front of you. Everything that they did was fine and then we worked with that.
We are all about the process, so the fact that this is being archived umm bought out and you’re showing everybody the process of how Spare Tyre has gone from working with women to now working in the way that they do with all these vulnerable groups of people I think is very important.
They’re a beautiful company to work for, they work in beautiful ways, they produce beautiful performances for amazing people. There is not anybody that has worked for Spare Tyre that has said “oh it’s just a job”. It’s not just a job. It’s, it’s a passion.
They’ve definitely changed the way that I work with people as well, umm, and I think that’s special, that’s, they are special.
We first met Claire when she attended a Spare Tyre session with Ellie Mason, who was then taking part in our drama skills workshops. At that point Claire was Ellie’s carer, she then went on to work with us on some of our projects.
Claire spoke to us about her journey with Spare Tyre, and the surprising moments she has witnessed over the years.