Guest blog: Fabric of Life – Who we are and what we do by Beth Fiducia-Brookes

Barnardo’s Fabric of Life project funded by the Heritage Lottery uses art, fashion and heritage to explore identity, including sexuality and gender. Since Easter 2021 young people with additional needs have looked at changing attitudes to fashion and identity expression through the ages, through this strength based and participant led project.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions the group has mainly met via Zoom in weekly creative sessions where the young people have drawn and designed outfits, looked at different fashions and history, and discussed related issues. The group has explored colours and symbols, written poems, decorated t-shirts, patch painted, designed outfits and made badges. Members have interviewed family members about their life as a teenager (fashion choices, what’s changed and how they did their homework without the internet!) and made their own song with Tim Gilvin. In the very first Zoom club the group created their own flag and when together over the summer the young people painted this flag on onto silk.

Group flag

Song Extract:

‘Whether your straight or gay

Let’s all be kind each day

Open up even if you’re a bit fae

Be yourself and celebrate, yay!

—-

It’s a part of me

My identity

Don’t accept it?

Fine by me

It’s every colour of the rainbow

So easy to see

It can be quite lonely

If you don’t accept me’

The group has also connected with museums across the county either in person or via Zoom to explore their collections. These museums include: Trowbridge, Chippenham, Salisbury and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Through this the group learnt about Barron & Larcher, Land Girls & Lumber Jills, Michael Tippett, and Howard Hodgkin. A highlight was meeting Zandra Rhodes at the opening of Salisbury Museum’s new fashion gallery. Zoom guests have also included author Sophie Cleverly, local artist Sue Mc Nally-Mills, and Wiltshire Healthy Minds.

The young people decided on two questions to ask adults by sending out postcards which would then form part of their end of project exhibition. This included from family members, staff at a pet shop, Mermaids, members of Pride, and local Girl Guide Leaders.

Reflections that returned also included:

 ‘All the activities look wonderful’

Amazing. Absolutely loved it, he’s been buzzing ever since!’

‘She’s had a wonderful time’

‘This is so exciting’

‘Had a brilliant time yesterday- has been beaming ever since!

‘Outstanding’

The project closes at the end of September with a private exhibition created by the young people. The young people have bought a special outfit to wear for the exhibition from local Barnardo’s charity shops.

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