Shaun, what were you doing before you came across Clean Language?
I was a rat catcher and a rugby player. I lived in London and travelled a lot.
Then what happened?
One Sunday morning in 1999 I was playing golf with four friends. We were on the thirteenth hole at Mill Hill golf club. It was a lovely day. After golf we would be joining our girlfriends for a meal and I was very happy, or so I thought. Suddenly, standing there at the thirteenth hole, a little chink appeared in my happiness. I thought, “There must be more than life to this.” Looking back, I think I was having a mid-life crisis.
So what happened next?
I gave up rat catching, travelled to India, and studied Buddhism for a couple of years. I started running a retreat centre and did a retreat myself, the middle month of which was silent. I came back to the UK for a knee operation. My plan was to stay for three months, take a short counselling course and then return to India. But while I was here I met Caitlin, and then David Grove and I never did go back.
What did you do?
Lots of things: I did a Masters in Integrative Psychotherapy at Birmingham University. David and I became good friends and I married Caitlin. We all moved to Hull and David and I built the Whirly Gig.
What were you doing in Hull?
Caitlin had a project with a whole school in Hull and we needed lots of associates and we needed to be near to the project, hence us moving there.
And how did you build the Whirly Gig?
David had already created his Clean Space process – he’d done a lot of work experimenting with the effects of space and what difference being in different spaces made. But most of the spaces were at ground level and he began wondering if there was a way people could be at different heights. We bought several wheelchairs and experimented with those and then David expanded his thinking even more and came up with the idea of a gyroscope that would allow people to be at any angle. We bought some human gyroscopes and a racing seat from a car. A fabricator joined them together. David wanted a 3-ringed gyroscope but you could only buy them with two rings, so we were constantly tinkering.
Then what happened once you’d built the Whirly Gig?
We moved back to West Kirby and I started running an annual “Clean Space” retreat with Chris Grimsley, who has been a great supporter. We take the Whirly Gig there every year, and it has also been to France, when I ran a workshop with Jennifer de Gandt.
When we were first in West Kirby we lived in a row of Victorian terraces, and a neighbour was complaining about the Whirly Gig taking up a car park space. David went out to see what all the fuss was about and when I went out a bit later to investigate, he had the postman upside down in it! They were interesting days.
And what are you doing these days?
I run “The Practice” – a beautiful retreat centre that is also our family home. There I see one-to-one clients for coaching and supervision. I supervise counsellors and coaches and therapists from other disciplines. I run events, and host Clean Learning trainings and events and of course the wonderful Northern Taste of Clean. I work for Advocacy in the Wirral. Plus I am busy with family life. I love Caitlin and her values and I’m proud to support her as her husband. I trust and admire what she’s trying to do in world. The work that David Grove created is profound and effective. Clean Space in particular suits my style. I am dyslexic and have a natural affinity with doing things spatially. It fits me better than more formal analytical therapy.
And is there anything else about that fit?
It’s natural. Clean Space, coaching, running a house – this is an easy way of being and it doesn’t feel like work. I like to get the house just right when people come here, then people can have an incredible time.
And you have just made a DVD?
Yes, we filmed it during the Clean Space retreat. I don’t write – and I wanted to show people doing the exercises. The DVD takes you through the whole Clean Space process, with the exercises being done in real time with real people. There are also people talking about experiences of the Whirly Gig.
And what is Advocacy in the Wirral?
It’s a local mental health charity that supports people with mental health issues to be at their best. It is all about service user involvement and asset-based recovery: using people’s strengths to help them get better, for example to recover from drug and alcohol abuse. They have similar beliefs and values to those encapsulated in Systemic Modelling™ and now I am bringing that methodology to them.
And what are your hopes for future?
I would like to see Clean Learning develop into an international company and to see Caitlin working where she can be making a big impact on people globally. At same time it’s important to do things locally and to balance that with raising a family.