Portrait of Clara Paillard, Branch Secretary of PCS Union for National Museums Liverpool (2008-2021)



ID: Clara sits on a chair with a white cloth draped on it in front of a grey brick wall. She is wearing a grey blazer, a blue PCS Union shirt, blue jeans and black boots and is holding a cigarette. She has a determined look on her face. This painting is of Clara Paillard, an activist and trade union representative. She describes herself as ‘a French Scouser’ as she grew up near Lyon, France and moved to Liverpool in 2001. It was painted in 2020 by her partner at the time, local artist and sculptor Philip Garrett. She sat for it when they were isolating together during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Clara is passionate about climate justice, antiracism, art, culture, justice, and equality. She was previously Branch Secretary of PCS Union(Public and Commercial Services) for National Museums Liverpool and the president of the PCS Culture Group representing 4,000 museum workers across the UK. Throughout her time as an activist, Clara has been involved in grassroots climate justice campaigns across Liverpool, the UK and internationally - from protecting Liverpool’s parks to opposing the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, even speaking alongside Jeremy Corbyn & Naomi Klein at the COP21 climate talks in Paris in 2015 or at Glastonbury Left Field. Back in 2008, she also organised alternative events to the city’s programme for Capital of Culture in 2008, helping to showcase Liverpool’s working-class art and history. As a Trade Union rep, Clara has represented dozens of disabled workers who are unfortunately still discriminated at work. Advocating for workplaces to implement ‘reasonable adjustments’ for their employees, Clara has supported people with life-long physical disabilities and mental health conditions, workers who have become disabled as a result of accidents or degenerative conditions. This difficult work has massively impacted her mental health as she helped very distressed people facing homelessness, ill-health, grief, stress at work or even dismissal. Struggling personally with depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Clara became active in disability activism, joining the group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) who were campaigning to defend disabled people’s rights against the budget cuts to welfare support. Thousands of Disabled People were forced to re-apply for their benefits, return to work when unable to and many lost access to this support. Describing her most memorable moments as an activist in an interview for Women in Action project, held by the Liverpool Voices Archive, Museum of Liverpool she recalls organising the guerilla exhibition Art for Rights with DPAC at Tate Modern, London, in 2016. Clara co-curated the exhibition, where every piece of work was made by disabled artists as a protest against Tate’s failure to feature more disabled artists in their gallery as well as their association with BP oil company (who were also sponsoring the Paralympics at the time). Clara recalls that at the time, she felt as though she might not be able to make it to the action surrounding the exhibition due to her poor mental health. With the support & solidarity of DPAC, Clara was able to install the exhibition and take part in the protest. She adds, “It was a fantastic day, we had thousands of visitors, it made me so happy. I’d like to do one again, definitely.” With thanks to Clara Paillard, and ‘Women in Action: Stories of Resilience, Resistance and Hope’, a project produced by Collective Encounters and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, European Social Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, PH Holt Foundation and LCVS, 2020-2022