Bethany Williams hands her spotlight to Magpie Mums and Minis

 Collection: “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF)

 

We were over the moon to be asked by the prestigious and prize-winning menswear designer Bethany Williams to collaborate on her latest Autumn Winter collection.

Bethany Williams is not a fashion designer, she is a trailblazer paving the way for a more compassionate, more inclusive future. She uses her immense talent to selflessly leverage her brand and partnerships in the service to our community’s most vulnerable and marginalised members. When we were introduced to the idea of collaborating with Bethany by our UCL PhD student and researcher Diana Margot Rosenthal in early 2019, we must admit we did not know what to expect.

Being a coal-face, crisis-to-crisis,  grass roots organisation created to make sure that a spell in temporary accommodation does not cause permanent damage to children who experience it. We have supported over 400 mothers and 500 children in the past two years. Women and children who have become invisible to an unaware or uncaring society. At first glance, our world of living on £34 a week, and of infested and unfit accommodation seemed a million miles away from menswear.

In Britain a child becomes homeless in every eight minutes. That means currently 135,000 children in Britain are homeless. In some London Boroughs this figure rises to 1 in 12 children (Shelter England. 2019).

She brought collaborators and sponsors with her. Through multiple visits, Bethany brought Melissa Kitty Jarram, a South East London based illustrator and artist, to hear the otherwise untold truths of mums and their small children forced to live in temporary and unfit accommodation, unable to work, or study, or move, because they have been deemed to have “no recourse to public funds”. The artwork collaboration for this season has been created from a visit to our ‘Rhyme and Song’ session where Melissa illustrated the bond between mother and child.

*NRPF is a condition imposed due to a person’s immigration status, and prohibits seeking public funds such as welfare benefits and housing provided via the local authority, which is subject to discretion and a case-by-case basis of “intentional homelessness.” (Children’s Commissioner Report, 2019)

It is extraordinary that someone so young, so humble, and so unassuming as Bethany has single-handedly created a space that allows for the most unlikely bedfellows – high fashion and grass roots community projects – to come together and collaborate to create change. With her clarity of purpose, her clean, fresh, uncomplicated approach with, her simple and steadfast values, mean that her agenda is clear and those with power have been compelled to buy into.

The Magpie Project’s homeless are our children and not somebody else’s problem. they are our children, they are our future (adults). Everything we do, every decision we make, can create a future in which every one of them, and us, can thrive – together. This is not fashion, this is a blueprint for a better future – happening now.

Through spending real time with us, Bethany ensured that – from materials to models, communications to collaborators – every decision she makes is run through her own ethical framework and interlinking with the nurturing bond between mother and child.

This collection celebrates Mother hood, childhood, sisterhood, and the family we choose, highlighting the importance of this powerful bond. This show is dedicated to giving a community that is marginalised and silenced on a daily basis, a platform and voice to share their story.

Design inspiration for this journey surrounds elements of nurturing, comfort and shelter. These blocks were imperative areas of focus during the research and development process. From working closely with the children of Magpie, garment construction and craft techniques from children’s clothing has shaped this collection. The Women’s Institute community work closely with Magpie, and create a personal blanket for every baby born into the Magpie family. This inspiring act has lead to the use of recycled bedding and techniques such as quilting and patch working as common threads throughout this collection.

These garments have been created alongside loyal and continuous social projects, suppliers, crafts-people and manufacturers from the production of previous collections. The knitwear for this collection has been hand knitted by Alice Evans and  Bethany’s mother Karen Kewley using Wool and the Gang yarns. This season, a new Wool and the Gang x Magpie Project sock pattern has been designed and developed, which will be available for free on the Wool and the Gang website from tomorrow in two sizes so that anyone has access to download and knit socks to be donated to the Magpie mothers and children. Socks are one of the most un-donated clothing items and are in the most demand in the homeless community.

This show is proudly in partnership with Adidas Originals once again for the seasonal show at LFWM, as part of their on going support for Bethany who this year was named the best emerging menswear talents at The Fashion Awards. Both Adidas Originals and Bethany share similar values with a passion for design, sustainability and looking to the icons of the past to create the future.

For this seasons collaboration  celebrates the anniversary of the iconic adidas Superstar, which will be on foot at her show at LFWM. A select few of the shoes worn have been made in collaboration with the talented Helen Kirkum, up cycled using Superstars donated through the new Adidas Infinite play Initiative. 

All of the detail about the infinite play initiative can be found here:

https://www.adidas.co.uk/blog/396320

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We won! London Homelessness Award and £30,000

Option A - First prize winner

 

The Magpie Project, a community response to the problem of homeless families in Newham has been announced as the first prize winner of the London Homelessness Awards 2019.  The team, based in Newham, work with mums during their time without secure housing.

Jane Williams works at the Magpie Project.  She said: “We were honoured to be shortlisted for this prize especially alongside five other incredible and innovative products. But to win is just extraordinary. It is a massive boost for the Magpie Project.  The prize gives us confidence that our person-based, trauma informed, multi-disciplinary, co-produced help is recognised as a good model.”

“Being judged by giants in the sector such as Shelter and Crisis is a big honour. But most of all, the prize, raises the profile of the mums and minis in temporary accommodation whose needs have not previously been met and voices not heard.”

“Although the families with under-fives seen at the project are rarely rough sleeping, they can be sofa-surfing, in refuges, or in cramped, grubby, inadequate temporary accommodation.  Their children are uniquely vulnerable. Squalid accommodation and destitution make potty training, adequate sleep, play, good diet or exercise impossible to achieve. This can often lead to delayed development and trauma.”

“So, three times a week we open our doors to offer a secure place to stay and play; somewhere for mums to find solace, respite and food, clothes, nappies, a listening ear. Then, when mums are ready, we bring professionals from health, immigration, housing, early years to support and advise them in addressing their issues and improve their lives.”

Dianne has visited the project with her young children. She said

“The Magpie Project gave me hope when I had none. I went there when I could not see a way out of my situation – but they worked with me on solving my problems and now I feel happier and more hopeful. The Magpie Project gave me wings”

Simon Dow of the London Housing Foundation chaired the judging panel for this year’s awards.  He said: “The judges were very positive about all of our finalists but in the end felt that The Magpie Project had the edge, meeting an often unmet need for a vulnerable client group.  We hope that this awards, and the £30,000, helps them go from strength to strength.”

Jane Williams said of the £30,000 “This is a very significant amount of money for us to have won. We will be meeting with mums, staff, volunteers and trustees to decide on exactly the best ways to use this money to improve the every day lives of our mums and children in the present – and work to change the situation for mums in the future.”

Other prize winners, winning £20000 and £10000 were the North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service and The Passage’s Anti-Slavery Project

 

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 Louise Klarnett, Dance Artist in Residence

 Since January 2019 Louise Klarnett has been dance artist in residence one day per week for The Magpie Project in partnership with Dance Art Foundation, funded by Awards For All.

Here she explains her practice.

 “What do dancers do that other health workers don’t? They see pure movement as language and they reply in kind. They are happy to conduct conversations in movement so that it speaks for itself, without the need for any words of translation.”

Penny Greenland

“A significant benefit of this residency is the flexibility. There is no fixed timetable within my morning and I am able to move freely to work in various ways.

Sometimes a specific group session takes place between 1-2pm, this has been both with mums, their children and volunteers/staff, as well as specific workshops just for the mums.

My approach is broad and when working one-to-one with the babies and children includes, but is not limited to:

  • using improvisation,
  • intensive interaction and
  • movement conversation techniques.

I look for the connection and usually begin with an invitation, a prop, a movement or touch.

A movement, a sound, a way of playing or being with, can then gently be amplified and expanded upon, moving into an appropriate physical, playful, engaged experience with the individual.

This might be just working with – for example –  fingers, eyes or full bodies. Through these interactive and creative experiences, the work supports and develops communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and more significantly, physical development. It can work towards strengthening muscles, encouraging balance, coordination and spatial awareness among other things. With babies, this might be extending tummy time through creative ideas.

A dance can start, or be, anywhere, wherever it needs to be and for however long. This means the work can benefit the babies and young children when it is the best time for them and in response to them. This could be on a mum’s lap while she’s in conversation with a professional or member of staff, encouraging visual tracking and facial expression; or dancing a baby into peaceful sleep while a mum has a moment to get a cup of tea, or make an important phone call. It can be big and bold, directing boisterous energy by sliding a child around on fabric, or exploring pathways of colourful tape around the space. The one to one work is broad and in the moment.

Time to gently observe or see the children operating in the environment as well as speaking to staff and volunteers can be helpful but basically, ‘meeting them’ where they are, works.

Group sessions include specific movement experiences to support attachment and relationship, both between the mum and their own child/ren as well as building a shared, joyful experience among the whole group.

The families have choice around staying for these sessions, and once they have made that choice, they are warmly encouraged to immerse themselves, with all physical needs supported. Movement is a universal language and though often English language is limited for the mums, gesturing and demonstrating aids access and therefore experience.”

Magpie Project Founder Jane Williams  says of Louise’s work:

“The circumstances in which our mums and minis are living can make play, movement, freedom, and joy difficult to come by.

Mums are under pressure, there is no clean floor or space to play on at home, movement can sometimes seem chaotic or risky when a mum feels she is only just controlling her environment anyway. So our minis can end up spending alot of time in buggies, in sitters, or otherwise constrained – to keep them safe and out of harm’s way.

Louise encourages them  – gently, kindly and always respecting boundaries – to start to take notice of the world around them, and to roll around, to jump, to run, to twirl, to stop.

Knowing what some of these families have been through, seeing them relax and have fun with Louise often takes our breath away. It is nothing short of miraculous.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We are recruiting! Join the magic

 

 

The Magpie Project

 

We are over the moon to say the we are recruiting for a paid post.

This is your chance to join a tiny, innovative and award-winning community charity that is making a real difference to Newham families and under fives.

We are looking for someone sensational to help in our back office.

 

Admin Assistant

Home based. 2 day a week. six month contract on review. Computer provided.

See the Job description here: admiin-assistant-jd-1

Please note, unfortunately as a small team we have no capacity to train someone on the essentials of this post, so do not apply unless you are already able to fulfil the job brief and you would be confident in doing so with minimal direction.

Application deadline noon December 1st.

Email us your CV and a single page letter to let us know how you feel you fit the role.

Jane.Williams@themagpieproject.org

Salary on application.

Start date ASAP.

 

Administrative assistant

 

Two full day a week equivalent (choose your own hours, work from home, computer provided.)

 

Answering to:

Jane Williams Founder The Magpie Project.

 

Duration:

6 month contract to be reviewed/renewed dependent on funding.

 

Job Description

Hours 14 hours a week

 

  • Work closely with the Manager/founder to undertake administrative tasks essential to the project.
  • Organise basic banking and treasury roles.
  • Organise registers, attendance, volunteer attendance records.
  • File all correspondence regarding funding and partnership agreements.
  • Organise referrals in to and out of the project.
  • Organise applications for and distribution of grants on behalf of service users.
  • Data-entry, managing service user database, running reports.
  • Updating and managing accounts on Xero accounting software.
  • With guidance undertake monthly bank balance reconciliations.
  • Help timetable activities.
  • Help diarising meetings and training.
  • Willing to work within strict GDPR guidelines.
  • Ensure policies and procedures are adhered to within the project.
  • Liaise with potential volunteers and donors regarding clothes donations.

Person description

  • Excellent written and spoken English
  • Confidence in basic bookkeeping and financial management in a community or charity setting.
  • Organised,
  • Unflappable,
  • Able to work alone,
  • Accurate and fast,
  • Boundaried,
  • Non-judgemental,
  • Friendly,
  • Approachable,
  • Used to managing and organising competing deadlines
  • Able to work within existing safeguarding, health and safety, and equality policies.

You skills and qualifications will include:

  • Previous experience in administration in a charity, local authority or community setting.
  • Extremely proficient working with
  1. Microsoft Office including – Word, Excel, Doodle, Outlook, and remote servers,
  2. First class book-keeping skills, using accounting software including Xero.
  • Knowledge preparing information for annual accounts.

 

  • Abililty to adapt and take on tasks in a small team and a fast moving environment.
  • Community contacts and knowledge a bonus.

Commitment

  • Willing to undergo training once a term and supervision and support on an ongoing basis.
  • Willing to communicate openly with all volunteers and staff.
  • Commitment to doing an exemplary job in a task-focused and self-motivating way.

Rewards

  • Working closely with the project founder of this award winning innovative charity at an exciting time in its development.
  • Work within a small team, friendly, open and fun, which is making a massive difference to marginalised families.
  • Being part of true change that will be visible to you from the first few weeks.

 

 

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I smile, you smile

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Singing and smiling

What a term it has been.

Every Friday Rosie from London Rhymes and a succession of musicians – playing real instruments from trombones, to flutes to cellos – have met with our mums and minis to create music.

This Friday – in the midst of the grey drizzle –  fifteen mums and their  babies are sitting on brightly coloured blankets and cushions in The Lodge community centre, Forest Gate.

These mums are living in almost unimaginably difficult circumstances – single rooms with no private access to a toilet or a kitchen, in hostels, refuges, or damp and mouldy single rooms in private lets. Many live on an income of £34 per family member a week.

These incredible women have already overcome heartbreaking personal stories to get this far. Stories that include abuse by family members,  trafficking, kidnap, domestic slavery, domestic violence, forced labour.

But today – in this room – every one of them is smiling. Babies are cradled and rocked, older children sit on the floor and hold bells or chimes to ring – mums play drums or percussion instruments. Everyone is singing – mums from Albania, Lithuania, the Caribbean, Nigeria, Ghana, Eritrea – all with one voice.

With ultimate ease and solidarity mums welcome others’ children on to their knees to give each other a chance to drink tea or have a rest. Volunteers from the community – our mums on maternity leave – are here with their own babies to help out, befriend and share.

“When you sleep, when you dream, when you wake, mama’s here” everyone sings the words to the songs they have composed together.

For a moment  – as music fills the room mingling with the voices of mums, the murmer of babies, the deep resonance of the cello – everything is right with the world and the joy stings your eyes and catches in your throat.

This is not just music. Something transformative is happening in this room today. We are witnessing community, creativity, respite, and love. This is a chance for an hour and a half to step back from the fight and be the free, engaged mums we know we can be for our children. We are watching women begin to heal.

To be part of the magic please visit our crowdfunding page to support Creative Futures and London Rhymes to record and share our songs, and to continue working with our mums.

Donate here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The week the UN came to visit

 

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So what a week it has been.

On Monday we took three of our mums to Community Links historic and inspiring building on the Barking Road – a building in which the suffragette movement was hothoused.

We were there to give evidence to Philip Alston the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. It was not lost on those in the room that – all this time after Sylvia Pankhurst’s brave stand –  we are still having to talk about how women are suffering disproportionately from public policy decisions in general and austerity in particular.

Phillip Alston listened quietly to eight local organisation including London Renters Union, LAWRS, and us (see picture above) about how public services are letting down those who go to them for help.

What our mums said…

We told Alston how our mums are denied housing, support, social networks, and the basics needed to survive such as good, hygiene and nappies.

We let him know that women are not helpless, or feckless – they know how to be brilliant mothers and spend all their time and energy doing their best – but a lack of the support to which they are entitled is stopping them doing so. This is keeping them destitute and in despair.

Our incredible mums stood up strong and told their truth to those in the room.

How they felt they had not choice but to stay with an abusive partner – being raped regularly – as they would be homeless and destitute otherwise.

How they had been denied the support to which they were entitled for eight months leaving them literally penniless in an uninhabitable house and unable to keep the heat or the lights on.

How when they had finally plucked up courage to seek help they were left to wait 20 hours in the council office with no food or drink – until they were so weak and dizzy they had to drink their child’s milk.

What happened then….

As you can see from the reporting in the Guardian and Independent their stories made an enormous impact.

On Friday, Alston released his preliminary findings. Here are his damning conclusions on what he found, not in  only in East London, but around the country.

They makes sobering reading, but  – despite what else is going on politically this week – we think it should be front page news.

We are proud of our mums for their brave and heart-wrenching testimonies – and we are pleased that someone – for once – listened.

How can you help?

If you would like to do something to help why one take one of these steps:

  1. Talk to you councillor or MP about housing provisions, No recourse to public funds, and how they are tackling poverty.
  2. Donate to a local food bank, or
  3. See how you can help our project walk with those who fall through the broken state safety net.

 

 

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Shop for our mums

“What can I get for your mums and minis?”

So, many of you kind and wonderful people ask us “what can I buy for your mums and minis, what do they need?”.

We love you for that. What you are telling us is that you want to help but in a way that suits our mums most. You are people after our own hearts… we adore that attitude.

We have put together wish-lists for what mums need regularly – so please visit and buy what you can – it will be delivered straight to us and go straight to our mums and minis.

If you don’t like buying from this online store we get it – have a look and buy elsewhere.

Baby bag of bliss

We donate a bag of essentials to mums who are going in to hospital to have a baby. It is such an honour to give clothes and essentials to a mum going through this massive journey. Help us by buying items for the bags.

Shop for our mums maternity bags

 

Essentials in an emergency

Sometimes mums have to move in a terrible rush and arrive at a refuge or hostel only in the clothes they stand in. We like to give them a bag of essential toiletries etc to be going on with while they find their feet.

Shop for a mum who has had to move with nothing

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