Toby Morrison, ex-assistant manager at our Crouch End shop, has a new job working in disability rights. He came for Conductive Education sessions at CPotential (or the Hornsey Centre as it was called then) when he was a little boy. He’s now 26.
He graduated from Coventry University in 2016 with a degree in Applied Community and Social Studies, and started working in the shop in August 2016. Outside work, Toby plays trumpet with an avant-garde jazz band, sings with a community choir and enjoys life with his fiancée, Sophie, and wider social circle.
How did you find working in the shop?
I really enjoyed my time there. I learnt some very useful skills in customer service and basic management, which I can take with me wherever I go.
Two events stand out – when I served comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (they were keeping a low profile!) who’d popped in to buy a secondhand DVD of their film ‘Hot Fuzz’ and when I sold a £120 leather riding jacket, one of the most expensive items in the shop.
But, most of all, I think the job helped me gain a better sense of my professional identity. I learnt to use my condition as a strength to raise awareness of hemiplegia (the form of cerebral palsy I experience). I was able to talk to customers about my experience as a disabled person, explain what Conductive Education is and act as an informal ambassador for CPotential.
What is your new job?
I’m going to be working as an Independent Mental Health Advocate in the community for the charity Rethink Mental Illness. I’ll be helping clients with welfare benefits and employment issues and working with other community healthcare professionals to help people with their mental wellbeing.
I was thrilled to work for CPotential as I wanted to give something back for the help they gave me when I was younger. But, now, I’m keen to take on a new challenge and really use my degree to help other people.
How has CPotential helped you?
I think it helped me develop a more positive self-identity as a person with cerebral palsy. I’d say I experience hemiplegia; it’s part of me – but I’m not defined by it. I don’t have disabilities, I just have a different set of abilities; I might not do things the way society expects but I do it my way.
For example, this year I moved out from my parents and bought my own flat and have tackled some DIY projects. I took up an old carpet from the bathroom, put furniture together and hung up a key hook I made when I was 11. I also found a way to seal five draughty windows with filler (amazing what a bit of filler and a J-cloth can do). It may not be the standard way but there are no draughts anymore!
As I’ve got older, I’ve also become better acquainted with the hidden aspects of hemiplegia – the emotional and processing issues that come alongside the physical challenges are something I have become more conscious of. I’ve come to accept this is how things are, even though my lack of fine motor skills with my right hand still frustrates me amongst other things. I’ve learnt to give myself a break.
I think working for CPotential has given me a firm foundation for working in the disability sector. It’s helped me develop some really strong transferable skills. Most importantly, it gave me a safe environment where I could develop strategies for working as an independent adult who happens to have cerebral palsy.
I can’t thank everyone at CPotential enough, particularly Kath, Adam, Lucy and Jo, for all their support.