Meet the Team – Jo Pyrah
Managing Director and ‘Nominated Individual‘ Jo (short for Jonathan) Pyrah is one of the founding team who started Green Light in 2009. This team was made up of family members, long-longstanding colleagues, friends and local investors, some of whom had relatives with autism. The company was called ‘Green Light’ because Jo ‘couldn’t think of a more positive sign’. Jo’s best friend from primary school, now head of internationally recognised fashion brand, came up with the logo, which cost Jo a pint of Betty Stoggs, Cornish ale.
Q: Where are you from and where do you live now?
A: I was born in Leeds but moved to Newquay at 10 years old, when my mum, a learning disability nurse at Meanwood Park Hospital, was offered a job at St. Lawrence’s Hospital in Bodmin while we were on holiday in Newquay. Mum & Dad met at Meanwood Park as Dad was teaching art to some of the children there. I now live with my family in my wife’s hometown of Penzance and I still feel so grateful to live and work where we used to holiday as a family.
Q: How did you hear about Green Light ?
A: I’m one of the founding team members who created the company back in 2009.
Q: Why did you decide to work for Green Light ?
A: When we set up we wanted to be very clear on our purpose in the world. It was a turning point for the founders really, so we wanted to be absolutely certain it was something we supported wholeheartedly for the long term. Life is too short afterall! We agreed on the company mission “empowering people with autism to lead a lifestyle they’re proud of” which has acted as a guide of sorts for us, and has drawn other people who feel this is a worthwhile way to spend their lives too!
Q: What is your previous experience of autism or learning disabilities?
A: I had a lot of ‘informal’ childhood experience joining activities with parents in caring roles. Professionally, I’ve supported adults with autism and learning disabilities since leaving Falmouth art college in the early 90’s. I have learned so much from each and every person but always been interested in ‘why’ people do what they do, and what would I do if I found myself ‘in their shoes’? This led to an interest in Person Centred Approaches like Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) and Applied Behaviour Analysis, as I found these offered logical, non-emotive ways of starting to answer those questions, and so understand people better. This is why we have been steadily building a PBS team of Behaviour Analysts, a profession that didn’t exist much more than 10 years ago. This team now helps us understand people really well, so our support is the best it can be, until we know better again. As a support worker and manager, I would have found it so valuable to have this kind of knowledge on hand to draw upon, when trying to understand the people I was supporting, so I’m grateful we can now provide this to people in these roles today.
Q: Do you have any special skills/hobbies or interests?
A: I still love art, looking at it, reading about it, and trying to draw and paint when I can. My daughter is a budding artist, so I get lots of opportunities to play and create with her. I’m also still fascinated by people and human behaviour and what humans can do, so try to keep reading and learning about that too.
Q: When not working what are you most likely to be doing?
A: We are most often found at the beach, but at home I am usually found baking, cooking or experimenting with different recipes, trying out some of the amazing seafood we have fresh off the boats here in Newlyn.
Q: What do you have on your bucket list?
A: I’d love to visit the Cook islands and snorkel off a boat with my family, perhaps via Madrid and Barcelona on the way, as I’d love to see the art of Diego Velázquez and Antonio Lopez Garcia ‘in the flesh’. However, I love my work, enjoy books, nature and time with family, so quite content in Cornwall for now.
Q: Who is your hero or heroine & why?
A: It’s hard to pinpoint one, I have so many people whose work and values I admire, many of whom I’m lucky enough to either live or work with and learn from! More famously, I find great examples in the work of scientists like Carl Sagan and Anthony Biglan, in business people like Steve Jobs, Andy Grove, and in artists like Euon Uglow and Frida Kahlo.
I particularly love the art of Lucian Freud the grandson of Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (who I don’t have much time for!) and have huge respect for the work of the behavioural scientist B.F. Skinner. Both Skinner and Freud were masters of pure observation. In my view, this objective, clarity of observation is what makes their work really outstanding. They took the time to observe things, intensely so, before coming to conclusions in their own ways.
Skinner has been vilified by some, who were threatened by what he had to say, because he challenged notions like ‘free will’ and superstitions which people don’t give up on too easily. Those who have taken the time to read his work know he was a gentle humanist at heart and a champion of what people can achieve, under the right conditions, and how those conditions can be nurtured for the greater good. I’d recommend his book Beyond Freedom & Dignity to anyone interested in learning about his work.
Q: What three words sum up your personality?
A: I’d say considerate, caring & creative.