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A Social Enterprise providing community based support for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism and mental health in the South West

Remembering Ian Matthews

I am incredibly sad to report that Ian Matthews, someone You First has supported for close to 10 years, died on the 8th January this year, he was 72.

I have known Ian for many years, way before the time that You First was formed. I worked for what was Somerset County Council as a Service Manager, managing support for people with learning disabilities and autism for many years, and during that time I had the pleasure of meeting Ian on many occasions. I remember Ian taking lead roles in many activities including advocacy and most especially helping with a drumming session each Friday afternoon at Beckery Resource Centre in Glastonbury. For a while I had the pleasure of having my office based at Beckery and each Friday I would see Ian arrive and help unload numerous drums from the back of a van and take them into the centre. It wasn’t long before I was being entertained with the wonderful sound of rhythmic drumming. There’s something incredibly special about that sound and working along to this drumbeat was the perfect way to end the working week. Ian was beaming by the end of each drumming session and he and I would often chat at those times.

I was reintroduced to Ian when You First was supporting both Ian and his mother, Joyce. Initially our support was quite intensive, and we were required to sleep in. I supported Ian many times and remember Ian and Joyce at the breakfast table reading the morning papers, Ian taking genuine interest in the sporting section, most especially horse racing. Ian often talked about the form of the horses he was reading about, as well as predicting scores for future football matches. I think he sussed that I wasn’t the most sporting minded of people, but I think he forgave me!

Where we did connect was music, and Ian was a mine of musical knowledge. I remember supporting Ian one evening and we were watching a quiz on popular music and he beat me hands down! “That was embarrassing for you, Andy” he said with a smile on his face and that very special twinkle in his eye! So funny. He truly had an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop, just as he did sport facts, and his ability to recall these facts was an absolute art, a true gift. At Ian’s funeral on the 29th January, Roger, one of Ian’s brothers, talked about how as a family they realised they had a brother who didn’t have special needs, rather he had special gifts, and this is just how everyone at You First interacted with him. His repository of sport and musical knowledge was an incredible gift. An amazing thing about this was that Ian was never arrogant about this gift, there was no ego about it at all. At times he presented these facts to entertain, but often it was to be helpful and contribute something. 

I am also proud of the fact that Ian met his girlfriend, Sian, and a You First event, and they had been together for a very long time. I had the honour of sharing a table with Ian and Sian at the You First Christmas dinner back in December, and I remember both of them being so happy, chatty, engaging, friendly and warm. It was beautiful to see how much they loved and cared about each other, underlined by the occasional kiss between courses!

I am very much thinking about Ian’s family, and Sian, at this time, and extend our love to them all. Ian was unique, an absolute one off, a joy to know and all of us at You First will miss him very much.


Andy Robinson

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