Visit our installation artwork at Coal Drops Yard: ALL OUR STORIES

8th July – 5 Sept

This collection of illustrated stories captures intergenerational narratives and amplifies the voices of children. From it, Bethany Williams, London-based sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, has created her first large scale public art work.

The works are a continuation of Williams’ ongoing project with two East London grassroots organisations: The Magpie Project, a charity that supports families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and ​London College of Fashion’s Making for Change, a fashion training and manufacturing programme operating from two fully equipped sites, established in 2014 at HMP Downview with a sister site based at Poplar Works.

Titled ‘All Our Stories’, the illustrations have been generated through an ongoing series of collaborative storytelling workshops with the children and mothers from the Magie Project and Making for Change communities. For the visuals, Williams teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram to transform these stories into a series of illustrations that in turn have been transposed into flags.

Sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, Bethany Williams, unveils Coal Drops Yard's striking new flag installation, marking the designer's first ever large-scale artwork. A continuation of Williams' acclaimed fashion collection that launched at London Fashion Week 2021. The installation is comprised of 90 colourful, illustrated flags, which stretch between the iconic roofs of Coal Drops Yard. The artwork is the first life of the flags, and they will then be re-purposed into a limited edition, unisex fashion collection sold in Kiosk N1C in Coal Drops Yard and Browns Fashion.

Each storytelling workshop culminated in a variety of creative outcomes, as each of the different communities interpreted the brief in their own way. The stories shared below recollect childhood memories in many forms; folklore tales shared from generation to generation, bedtime chronicles and fairytales whilst others contain childhood stories and nostalgic recollections of real life memories. Recognising community childhood stories and narratives – whether they have a strong written tradition or not is important in terms of assigning value and sharing power.

Bethany Williams is the second artist to take on this textile commission for Coal Drops Yard. A key and unusual feature of this project is that the decommissioning process is at the forefront of the considerations. This is only the first life of this fabric: once the installation comes down the material will be turned into two collections, one available to buy from Kiosk N1C in Coal Drops Yard and one in collaboration with one of Williams’ key retailers.

Proceeds from the sales will then be donated back to the Magpie Project and Making for Change.

The flags themselves are created from an organic Hemp Slub and which is 100% recyclable. The material choice references the age-old practice of flag-making, considers the future of Hemp’s role in the textile industry, and reflects Coal Drops Yard as a destination for fashion.

ALL OUR STORIES

Dino, a Magpie Project community story

A knight finds an egg and keeps the egg. The egg hatches and becomes a dinosaur. The knight has to save a princess who lives in a tower. The knight rides the dinosaur everywhere and it climbs a tree. He finds the princess but doesn’t know how to get up the tower. But, the dinosaur can burp ladders! And he can fly if he farts. To find the princess he has to burp and fart. Each fart and burp (and picking of his nose!) helps him to save the princess. The knight and the dinosaur managed to save the princess, who liked farting, burping and picking her nose too. So they all farted and burped and picked their noses together!

Chaos, a Magpie Project community story

A wealthy merchant moved into a new province and built a big palace with a beautiful door, heavily adorned with gems and stones. The King’s guards found the lavish door and told the King about it. At night, all the villagers went to see the door glistening in the dark. The King grew jealous and, afraid that the Queen might think the merchant’s door was better, he too put up a beautiful, bejeweled door. But no one came to see it. The King sent the guards to steal the merchant’s door. The guards stole the door with all its gems. And so the merchant made a new door better than the first one.

This happened a few more times. Then the King summoned the merchant. The King said “I am the King of this region and it is a disgrace to me that your door is more beautiful than mine”. The merchant said “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Where I come from we had riches but then lost them. We worked hard and rebuilt our homes. I decorate my door so that people who are too embarrassed to ask for help can just take the gems.” The King felt ashamed and decided to put out a bag of gems for people to take them whenever they needed.

The moral of this story is that when you give, you don’t have to tell the person that you have helped them.

The Sun and Wind story, Bethany William’s childhood story

Once the Wind and the Sun came to have a quarrel. Both of them claimed to be stronger. At last they agreed to have a trial of strength. “Here comes a traveller. Let us see who can strip him of his clock,” said the Sun. The Wind agreed and chose to have the first turn. He blew in the hardest possible way. As a result, the traveller wrapped his cloak even more tightly around him. Then it was the turn of the brightly shining Sun. At first he shone very gently. So, the traveller loosened his cloak from his neck. The Sun went on shining brighter and brighter. The traveller felt hot. Before long he took off his cloak and put it in his bag. The Wind had to accept his defeat.

The moral of this story is that gentleness and kind persuasion win, where force and bluster fail.

A flag with two tales – Monkey, a Magpie Project community story
There was a cap seller in the village. One day he had sold lots of caps and was tired, so he sat under a tree. The tree was full of lots of monkeys who saw the seller sleeping. One monkey came down to take a cap from the seller’s bag and climbed back up the tree. The seller woke up and was shocked to see the bag was empty. “Hey monkey, give me my cap back!” Then he thought of an idea to get them back. He took off his own cap and threw it up. The monkey copied. The seller threw it on the ground. The monkey copied. The seller picked all the caps and put them in his bag!

Tiger, a Magpie Project community story
There once was a girl who, as she sat on the hillside watching the village cows, was bored. To amuse herself she took a great breath and sang out, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cow!” The villagers came running to help the girl drive the tiger away. But when they arrived, they found no tiger. The girl laughed at the sight of their angry faces. “Don’t cry ‘Tiger’, girl,” said the villagers, “when there’s no tiger!” They went grumbling back to the village. Later, the girl sang out again, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cows!” To her naughty delight, she watched the villagers run to help her drive the Tiger away. When the villagers saw no tiger they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘Tiger’ when there is NO tiger!” But the girl just grinned and watched them go grumbling back to the village.

Later, she saw a REAL tiger prowling about the cows. Alarmed, she leapt to her feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Tiger! Tiger!” But the villagers thought she was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come. At sunset, everyone wondered why the girl hadn’t returned to the village with their cows. They went up the field to find the girl. They found her weeping. “There really was a Tiger here! The cows have scattered! I cried out, “Tiger!” Why didn’t you come?” An old woman tried to comfort the girl as they walked back to the village. “Nobody believes a liar… even when she is telling the truth.

All Our Stories: a collaboration

Saturday 12th of June at 12pm sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, Bethany Williams, launched her latest collection, All Our Stories.  

“She still wears stories passed down to her by her mother. Words that no longer fit the same way because life has stretched and changed its shape, but the moral of the story remains. Like the smile on her face. Her joy is new, even though the ending is not. She has not forgotten the promise she made, never to waste these old, tattered tales but to tell them to her children – again and again. To get to the end and watch them smile. They are their stories now. They are All Our Stories.” – Eno Mfon, Spoken Word Poet 

All Our Stories is inspired by Bethany’s continued work with East London grassroots organisation, The Magpie Project, a charity that supports women and children under five who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Magpie project works to make sure that a spell in insecure or temporary accommodation does not result in permanent damage to the life chances of the children who experience it.  

Artist Melissa Kitty Jarram –  inspired by the folklore passed from generation to generation and childhood stories that continue to inform us in our adult lives – ran a storytelling workshops with the Magpie families and illustrated the magical narratives they shared. She then used waste book covers in her illustrations to tell a new story. 

The collection focuses on five main storylines shared by the families of the Magpie Project, “AOS”, “Blessing”, “Dinosaurs” and “The Girl Who Cried Tiger”, as well as Bethany’s own, “The Sun and The Wind” childhood story. 

 “What we noticed through the story-telling workshops, was that the moral in each story always came back to kindness, care, and respect for one another and how these traits, whilst important in childhood, have just as much meaning in adult life.” Bethany Williams 

Working closely with Jane Williams, the founder of the Magpie Project, Bethany Williams will continue the theme of the collection in a commitment to running creative workshops with the Magpie Project community that will capture, share and amplify their myriad stories.  It is the collective’s belief that disseminating these stories empowers and encourages community togetherness and voice at many levels. 

The silhouettes of the collection are inspired by the V&A Museum of Childhood garment archive. This collection sees Bethany’s first detailed exploration into tailoring with a suit inspired by a historical children’s skeleton suit from the 1800’s. The skeleton suit was the first children’s garment designed for play. The new shapes stand alongside our existing forms representing our continued development. The collection also features two corsets created with Welsh designer Rosie Evans using offcuts from the collection production. In these corsets, Rosie has replaced traditional boning with a material made out of fruit packaging waste. 

 At a time when the V&A Museum of Childhood has fully decanted for refurbishment, All Our Stories has filled the empty space with new stories and community faces for our campaign imagery.  

As with all her work, the collection is created via Bethany’s social manufacturing partners who are built into the framework of social enterprise. Bethany continues to work with community driven, UK based social manufacturing partner, Making for Change Poplar Works. For the first time, Williams is using donations of Merino Wool deadstock from Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna, which has been printed with eco-friendly inks via Orto Print in Peckham.  

Through the collaboration with Mending For Good, knitwear has been a key area of development for this collection where Williams proudly introduces a new social manufacturing partnership called Manusa. Manusa is, a social cooperative that involves people from various backgrounds, specializing in hand-techniques including delicate crochet, embroidery and hand-knitting. Designed in collaboration with Alice Morell Evans, the knitwear uses Sesia Wool industry waste sample swatches, crocheted together with Seisia organic bio wool. Each year,  the sample swatches created each season become surplus at the end of each cycle of production. To utilise this waste, Bethany and Founder of Mending For Good, Barbara Guarducci, developed a sorting technique with Sesia for their team to separate the swatches. 

Barbara Guarducci said “Mending for Good was born to provide design-driven technical solutions for the excess stock and left-overs of the fashion industry. Everyday tons of so far “considered” waste are still produced, that is why we love to collaborate with visionary designers such as Bethany Williams that sees waste as the raw material from which a beautiful story can start.”  

The book cover waste, provided by Hachette, is used for Bethany’s iconic Book Bags, and integrated into the collection garments through their woven textile collaboration with San Patrignano, an education and rehabilitation programme that teaches traditional Italian craft and a sense of community.  

Six looks from All Our Stories make up Bethany Williams’ submission for the 2021 International Woolmark Prize finals.  

20% of the profits from this collection will be donated to The Magpie Project via The Bethany Williams Benevolent Fund, a fund set up by The Magpie Project and Bethany Williams in 2020. 

Read what British Vogue has to say about the latest Bethany Williams Collection here

 

Artist Matt Moser Clark launches HOME stool in support of The Magpie Project

We were absolutely over the moon when the incredible artist Matt Moser-Clark contacted us asking if we would like to be the beneficiary of his latest design: the HOME stool. A percentage of the sale price will help support our project.

His art is absolutely, achingly beautiful, and his view of the world is so feeling and unique. So we jumped at the generous offer.

Here’s what Matt says about HOME stool.

Home stool is a quiet object, it is unassuming and something easy. It works, it is a working object, it can be a table when it needs to be. It’s stable but movable, just like the feeling of home. It’s the extra seat at the table for the unexpected guest at dinner. It’s the single step-ladder or the mountain top for the inventing child. It’s there to take your weight and does not complain when you favour the armchair.
.
This stool is here to help you see that the space around it is home.

Matt Moser-Clark

Check out Matt’s Instagram here, and check in to his website to buy the stool.

All Our Children: Bethany Williams, Eno Mfon, Melissa Jarram, Somerset House

Today London-based designer Bethany Williams presented her SS21 collection celebrating the ethos of the Magpie Project which she has been volunteering for and collaborating with since 2019.

Bethany’s latest collection – aptly titled All Our Children – not only finds its inspiration in the stories and lives of the people she met and worked with with us, but also the importance of family spirit in a child’s life. Through the process of designing the collection, Bethany included the families that are part of the Project via drawing workshops and playtime, and then teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram on transforming children’s drawings into prints and patterns that became part of the final textiles. “This is a true co-production with the Magpie community and it’s really validating for these women who have previously been disbelieved and unheard, marginalised and ignored to be valued and listened to at the highest level,” explains Jane. As always, 20% of the proceeds from the collection will go back to the Magpie Project.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, And I say, we are that village and they are all our children.”

Eno Mfon ‘All Our Children’

Part of this outing is also a partnership with the Somerset House – Bethany and Melissa designed a flag that will be erected on top of the House in honour of All Our Children. In addition to the words, the vibrant design of a mother and child on the canvas references the Asafo flags of the Fante people in Ghana that traditionally symbolise warrior-like strength which is in this case assigned to the mothers of Magpie.

Instead of a catwalk show, Bethany worked on the visuals with her friend and photographer Ruth Ossai. Shot in accordance with the Covid-19 government guidelines in front of Magpie’s Newham offices, the lookbook photographs and film capture five families wearing the garments. The video is soundtracked with a poem specially written for this occasion by playwright and writer Eno Mfon. Powerful, moving and encouraging all of us to own up to our collective responsibility for the next generation, her words verbalise the mission of the collection and Bethany’s work at-large. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, And I say, we are that village and they are all our children.”

This collection is dedicated to the loving memory of Lisa Hoang and Elie Che.

Collection Credits

Creative Direction – Bethany Williams Director, Photographer & Filmmaker – Ruth Ossai

Photography assistants: Luke Ossai, Ryan Connolly

Film and Editing – Lorraine Khamali

Poet – Eno Mfon Stylist – Tallulah Harlech Illustrator– Melissa Kitty Jarram Casting – Chloe Rosolek Music Direction – Benji B MUA – Rebecca Davenport Knitwear – Alice Morell Evans Footwear – Adidas and Helen Kirkum

Corsets – Rosie Evans Bags – Stevan Saville Text – Dino Bonačić Communication – The Lobby London Production – Faye Scott-Maberley

Models – Stephanie, Khalani, King, Mariam, Mohammed, Mesk, Melaz, Kemi, Leo, William, AJ, Akuac

Supported by the Adonyeva Foundation

Special Thanks – The Magpie Project, Somerset House Trust, The British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush, Wool and the Gang, ISKO VITAL™+, Orto Print Studio, Molly Evans, Joseph Henry, Eric Williams, Karen Kewley, Natalie Hodgson.

Bethany Williams x The Magpie Project #AllOurChildren

Bethany Williams has not been idle during lockdown she formed a collective of designers and makers to keep hospitals supplied with scrubs during the height of the crisis. 

Find a photograph of yourself as a child, or a member of your chosen family, wearing a beloved outfit. Or get hold of a photo of the clothes you love dressing your own child in.

Attach it to an email and send it to: info@bethany-williams.com.

In the body of the email answer the following.

  1. Describe the details your of this outfit. What material is is made of? Who bought or made it for you? What date/year is the photo from?

4. Would you be happy for us to use this image publicly Yes/No

If No, we will keep your photograph private in our research collection only to assist with the design and development process.

A celebration

Bethany will be staging her show in September and would like to know, too, whether you have an specific food memories from childhood. A dish that your carer or parent used to make. 

If so share that with us too, so that we can see if we can cater to all our memories in the show celebration.

Be part of something incredible, dig out those photos today…..

 

 

 

 

What does our dancer in residence do?

I find myself struggling to describe the magic and the miracles that our dancer in residence Louise Klarnett creates every time she comes to work with our mothers and minis.

To fully know the effect she has it is important to know how mums arrive with us, so far from being ready to risk a dance or an engagement that anybody could be.

Mums and children are traumatised.

Traumatised by the experiences that led them in to homelessness: Domestic abuse, family breakdown, domestic slavery, trafficking, having been hurt, used, cut.

They are often living within the trauma of being homeless. Insecure, unable to sleep, depressed, anxious, untrusting, in pain (emotional and physical).

For those who don’t know what Louise does it might seem incongruous to invite a dancer work with this group of women and children.

Surely we should concentrate on sorting out the practical problems. The housing, the income, the immigration, the need for safety, food, comfort.

Well, we do that too.

But our view is that babies do not stop being babies when they become homeless.

They do not stop developing –  and needing the inputs and stimulation that is necessary for them to develop – because they have larger issues. In fact, they need these things more. They need play, joy, belonging, movement, engagement and creativity. 

They need to be children, to move, roll, jump, hop, feel the joy and release of twirling, twisting, and turning.

It turns out that this is not just play:

It is development,

It is mood regulation,

It is building core strength both emotional and physical.

So. 

Being in the room with Louise is magic for these reasons.

We witness babies who are suspicious, stressed, silent begin to brave engagement. To come out of themselves and to move.

This is how Louise describes it.

Some bound over into my ‘space’ confident, open, tactile.

One little girl with long thick eyelashes and wide, wide eyes, silently notices me across the room through the noise, and people and toys.

She looks then looks away, looks

again.

I align my midline and widen my perceptual field to include her in my improvisation from across the space, through the noise and people and toys.

This relationship builds slowly over the duration of the whole session.

She takes / catches my eye and is somehow a little nearer to me, navigating and testing the safety and the possibilities.  

We look, blink, look away. 

I smile, gesture a sort of ‘wave’, reach without expectation.

I sway in my midline and spiral in improvised motion with many other children from the sky to the ground and find stillness as well as energy, in and out of contact as appropriate.

She is still there, across the space, through the noise and people and toys.  

Nearing the end of the session this little one initiates a movement conversation.

A wave for a word. A game, repeating but changing. Her wave, small, without eyes, bigger with eyes, bigger with eyes and in response to my gesture and eyes. A slight smile across her eyes, knowing she and I are playing the same game.

Closer but still distant in the room. I hope I might spark this dance again. 

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

 Meet Louise Klarnett, our 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.”

I smile, you smile: London Rhymes at the Magpie Project

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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