I first met Claire Alleaume through the Sidewalk forum, where she posted under the username “High-C”. She’s always been supportive of the videos and blog posts we do here at The Terrible Company, even back in those early days of me posting bad video clips to a forum of industry heads. I don’t think it’s incorrect to say that Claire is one of the UK’s busiest, most creative skateboarders: acting as an elected director on the Skateboard England board, running artsy skateboarding magazine Two-Set, writing articles for Jenkem magazine and continuing to shred all terrain in Shrewsbury, and further afield. I asked her some questions about saxophones, the Olympics, researching the history of grip tape, and also got some free marketing advice.
Where did the name “High-C” even come from?
Not sure how the name really came about, but suspect it had something to do with my local indoor park at the time being called “Get High” (I don’t think anyone knew what it meant, since this was in France) and my name being Claire.
Where did you first learn to skate?
At Get High! That’s how I first came across skating. The park opened a few streets away from my house, so I checked it out one day and instantly loved it. It was actually built by some British guys, I think they’d also built Bones in Stockport? The park was tightly packed and quite transition heavy. People who visited found it fast and quite hard to skate, but I guess it’s all I knew!
What was your first board?
It was a Powell Mini-Logo, I think just a nude wood colour, or maybe red. I got it from the shop which was attached to the park. I remember busking at the weekend markets with my saxophone to buy new trucks!
What came first: Learning to skate or learning to play the Saxophone?
I started playing sax first. I started music when I was pretty young and played the (rarely heard!) alto recorder for a bit, then started on the sax when I was 8. I then discovered skating 2-3 years after that.
I guess a lot of skateboarders gravitate toward playing guitars or drums or other rock focussed instruments. What drew you to the Saxophone?
When I was little I’d play the soprano (‘standard’) recorder, like many kids – it’s an easy first instrument, albeit pretty screechy! Then I moved to the alto recorder, which unlike the soprano recorder is actually quite nice. The alto sax – which I started on and still play today – is in some ways a grown up version of the alto recorder as it uses the same fingering (yes, that’s what it’s called!). So I guess it felt like a natural evolution. But my Mum told me I asked to play the sax out of nowhere and probably had rarely heard it before. The only records my parents had with saxophone on was a Manu Dibango vinyl and a Supertramp CD, so she started playing those for me when I said I’d like to try the sax.
Who is your favourite Saxophonist?
Tough question. Certainly Joshua Redman comes to mind. Steve Coleman. Sonny Rollins. Charlie Parker. Also the brilliant saxophonists from the UK and London jazz scene, like Nubya Garcia.
Have you performed any Saxophone music live?
Yeah. I used to play a lot at jazz jams when I was kid. I remember my first, I think I was 10. Standing there in a very smoky bar, my eyes were watering all night and I was paid with a lemonade. I was nervous but loved it. Then I had a couple bands over the years and we’d occasionally play too. And I did a few performances with an orchestra – nerve racking in other ways, particularly playing classical, but the energy you get is amazing. Since I moved to the UK I’ve played a handful of times, early on with a large local band, then with my husband’s band which is more pop/indie.
You were in a photo at Hereford playing a Saxophone in the shallow end of the pool whilst Lola T carved over the steps: What was the story behind that?
Ah that was a rad day! I was out injured with a foot injury for over a year, but my friend Charlotte from Concrete Girls was organising a jam at Hereford so I thought I’d go along to support. I couldn’t skate but had my sax in the car and I guess we thought it’d be fun to combine it with Lola’s sick skating. Good times!
Excuse the tin foil conspiracy theory… But did you have anything to do with Girl Skate UK adopting a fictional saxophonist (Lisa Simpson) as its unofficial mascot? Was this all part of a plan to boost the popularity of Saxophones?
Haha! I dare say I had nothing to do with it. But I’m backing it! Lisa Simpson is ace.
You have dual citizenship between the UK and France: How do the two skate scenes differ?
I mean… It’s just skating, ultimately. Lots of things are different, but just like they’re different from one town to the next, and lots of things are the absolute same. It’s cool because I was always close to the UK scene even when I lived in France, in no small part thanks to the Sidewalk forum and the UK mags.
I understand you competed out in some competitions across Europe in the mid-2000s: What was the best event you attended?
Yeah we used to travel a fair bit, mostly with the girls. It was so much fun. The annual Basel comp was always insane in all the best ways. Munich comps too. And the French ones. Just great weekends with great people.
Did you have any sponsors during those days?
I skated for Gallaz, which then became Globe Girl, for years. And a few other brands helped me out too which was great.
Do you have any sponsors now?
Not really, I’m retired ha! Etnies did kindly send me a box recently, but I injured my ankle badly the day after receiving it so I haven’t been able to skate since – sorry guys. Will hopefully be skating those soon. Other than that the homies at AMFAS have helped me out with boards, which is awesome, check those out! But I’ve been asked a few times if I’d skate for companies and said no because I’m just part time and a bit old and injured haha. There are so many great young skaters actually doing the skating thing! If it’s a brand I really love or friends doing something ace, why not. But nothing serious, I don’t skate enough or well enough for that!
You’re local to the Shrewsbury area: what’s the skate scene like around there?
Yes! It’s small and mighty! It’s actually grown quite a lot in the last couple years with a lot of kids getting into it, notably thanks to local shop Morale! But it’s not big enough for there to be any factions if you know what I mean, so we’re all mates and skate together – from the 10 year old skate rat to the 45 year old OG. It’s really nice.
You’re currently on the board for Skateboard England – what’s the current focus for the organisation?
Skateboard England is essentially focused on supporting the skate scene! Helping ensure there are more and better skateparks and skateable spots, supporting existing skateparks and shops, developing coaching for skate schools, increasing participation and diversity in skating, etc.
How do you think skateboarding is seen in the UK, and how are Skateboard England tackling that perception?
That’s an interesting one. On one hand, as loads more kids get into skating and it continues to grow with things like the Olympics on the horizon, people start seeing skating differently and accepting it more. On the other hand, certain cities and councils continue to introduce skating bans in city centres and generally be confrontational rather than embracing it.
One of the things we do at Skateboard England is helping tons of local groups campaigning for skateparks or spots (like the recent one in Sheffield), either advising or bringing weight where needed – for good or for bad, having an official body get involved can sometimes help with the perception piece.
What’s Skateboard England’s involvement with Skateboard GB and the Olympics?
Skateboard GB is the Olympics arm so to speak but there are lots of synergies. SB GB essentially supports a small group of skaters as the Olympic team, with funding to get them to the global comps and support to help them skate more and better and stay healthy and happy!
Who’s your favourite skater on TeamGB?
Sky Brown is something else… Just so bloody good on a skateboard! She’s inspired lots of young girls which is rad. Then watching Jordan Thackeray and Alex Hallford skate a bowl is just magical. If that doesn’t hype you up to go skating I don’t know what will!
You currently run the magazine Two Set: how did that start up?
I used to run a zine called Peppermint when I was 18-19. I’d wanted to get a zine started again for 10 years really and finally got round to it with Two Set.
Where does the name Two Set come from?
It’s just my kind of stair set haha! And two is my favourite number.
What separates Two Set from other skate mags out there?
There are so many amazing zines out there – in a way I wanted to do something slightly different, although frankly I never tire of zines of any sort! So Two Set is focused on writing, with art and photography, all by skateboarders. Poetry, essays, sculpture, photography, etc… although there’s a lot of skate-related stuff in it, it’s not a skate zine per se. It’s a privilege putting it together and sharing everyone’s work with the world. Issue 3 is actually due out very soon, you can follow @twosetmag on insta for updates.
On top of your own publications, you also recently wrote an article for Jenkem about Grip Tape! How did that come about?
I sometimes write articles for skate media and this one was a slightly ridiculous lockdown-infused idea which the guys at Jenkem were also into! I’d like to write more for skate media to be honest but currently I have very little time due to my day job, so I just do what I can!
What was it like researching the history and sub-industry around skateboard grip tape? What’s the weirdest fact about grip tape you learned?
It actually took a lot of research. From desktop research to chatting to people in the industry, off-the-record calls and back and forth emails with brands to get facts straight. Delving into skate griptape-related patents was an interesting one – there’s some wacky stuff that never saw the light of day but it’s all patent-protected!
I understand you are an experienced business strategist and marketer… Do you have any advice for any hypothetical skateboarding blogs out there that might want some help gaining more traffic on their website and followers on Instagram?
Great interviews is where I’d start…
Anyone you want to thank?
Thank you for the chat!