DONATIONS PAUSED:Due to our processes of clothes sorting and storing being overwhelmed, we are pausing donations of all clothes and equipment apart from buggies at present. Please check back in a few weeks to see what we are accepting.
Every year we organise a summer party to celebrate all we’ve achieved in the last year and most importantly all our lovely mums and minis. This is a final hurrah before we then close for August. At The Magpie Project, as part of our trauma-informed ethos, we ensure that the spaces we create are safe, so that mums and minis are free to relax, bond, and have fun together.
The summer party is a time and place for us all to come together, play, eat, and celebrate the year. In the months leading up to it, staff and volunteers are working hard to create interesting, engaging and fun activities for our mums and minis – this looks like henna, glitter tattoos, lucky dip, flag decorating, as well as a ‘our year at the magpie project’ gallery wall!
For the summer party, we go all out – taking over Forest Lane Park to house our stalls and entertainment stage. Stalls this year comprised of the amazing Kay Rowe Nursey and Children’s Centre, Games, Crafts, and Merch. Our Entertainment hadBubbles, London Rhymes singing, and Discover Story. This year we made school-style lunches for minis, and had local family owned restaurant Aromas create delicious Halal Meat and Vegan plates for mums and guests.
Despite the rain, our mums were not deterred, and came dressed to the nines to play and enjoy delicious food with Magpie Mums and staff. The summer party is also open to all Forest Gate locals, we appreciate your support as it helps us continue the important work we do.
We can’t thank our summer party superstar volunteers and partners enough for always showing up and making the day come rain or shine so special. Special shout-outs to our Food manager, Cat, for making 200 epic school-style lunches for our minis, Aromas for catering the most tasty food (our Mums look forward to eating your meals every year), Kay Rowe for running a stall and all their important work, London Rhymes and Discover for ensuring Mums and Minis have a blast and entertained for hours, and amazing Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Trustee Radihika Byron for visiting.
Lastly, we are so thankful for all those we partnered with this year: Newham Nurture, FCA, Black Swan Finance, Enabled Living, Papier, Little Village, Children’s Salon, Hasboro, 52lives, Knitforpeace, Bethany Williams London, Young V&A, Flying Seagull Circus, Forest Gate WI, Tindersticks, Newham Bookshop, Clapton CFC, Astoria Fire and Security, Praxis, Shelter, Westfield Stratford London, Discover Story Centre, Forest Gate WI, Bookstart, Lush, Number 8 Forest Gate, City Harvest, Health Visitors, Newham Public Health Team, Morris and Co. Architects, Laura Jackson, Irons Foodbank, UCL, Louise Klarnet, Forest Gate Community Garden, London Rhymes, Bancroft Rugby Club, Craft Council, UEL, RAMFEL, Project 17, Maternity Action, Bonny Downs, Newham Food Alliance, Newham Children Centre’s particularly Kay Rowe Nursey, Perinatal Mental Health Team, Acorn Midwives Team at Newham, Alternatives Trust, Museum of Homelessness, Hestia, Ashiana Network, LBWP, Care4Calais, The Unity Project, Tower Hamlets Law Centre, Bethany Prince at Early Notifications / CNDS, Streetwise Opera, Just Life, Stephen Timms MP, Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz, The Newham Community, Gainsborough Quilters, and our play and formfilling volunteers, drivers, community members who make up hampers for our families every christmas.
You are the village it takes to raise our children, and e couldn’t make the impact we do, without all of you!
Each week, our play sessions have a theme guiding our activities and learning. Our themes range from animals and mud play, to seasonal celebrations like Eid or Christmas. This week we celebrated the beginning of summer with our Pool Party theme. We can always count on our amazing Play Lead to come up with the most elaborate ideas and ingenuous ways to explore the themes; creating activities that foster learning, connection, and fun for our mums and minis.
This week activities included smoothie making and splashing around in paddling pools. Inside our centre mums and minis got to try all different fun combinations of fruit and even some spinach to create delicious, healthy, and cooling smoothies. Whilst outside, an assortment of paddling pools were set out on a blue tarp, creating an epic pool and splash zone. The carpark disappeared behind some tropical island themed shower curtains hanging between two trees. Chairs were positioned as sun-loungers, and voila – we were no longer in sunshine and showers UK, but on an idyllic island filled with children’s joy! Our minis had so much fun splashing around, and dipping different objects into the water – what would sink and what would swim?! A special thanks to our lovely donators, allowing us to provide swimsuits for any children who wanted to take a dip.
Later in the afternoon, our wonderful partners at Tinder Sticks did a workshop teaching our mums and minis all about birds and nest building. They also taught natural bracelet making, and plant artwork – checkout some of our minis creations below:
No matter what mums and minis have experienced in the past, or what they are facing everyday under the UK’s hostile environment, we at the Magpie Project firmly believe #allourchildren deserve to experience safety, love, and joy. Play, including pool parties, is the ultimate act of resistance!
Every half term instead of our normal play and casework sessions we run a Clothes Club – where Magpie mums ‘shop’ for clothes, shoes, toiletries and equipment. We work really hard to ensure our Clothes Club is a calm and enjoyable experience for our Magpie Mums. Read below to see how we achieve this and what our Magpie Mums think!
We work with amazing partners like Little Village, Children’s Salon, Hasboro, 52lives, Knitforpeace and Enabled Living to guarantee we have top quality new and barely-worn children and adult clothes, shoes, toiletries and equipment delivered to us ready for our mums and minis to shop from. Additionally, our lovely volunteers sort through any donations from the public for quality control. Our regular volunteers plus special volunteers from FCA, Black Swan Finance and Papier work diligently to make inviting displays of the clothes by age.
Mums are welcomed and allocated groups to shop in and given tokens for themselves and each child under-5. They then enter the hall and shopping begins! This process ensures mums have a positive and dignified shopping experience.
From newborn baby-grows to occasion and partywear there is always something to choose from. At our latest June Clothes Club we handed out more than 700 items of clothing to 133 Mums and 175 Minis!
Here’s some testimony from our Magpie Mums:
“At other clothes banks there is fighting and everyone is sad. Here the tokens and timed slots made it a lovely experience” – Mum Q
“Thank you for all you did, my mini is very happy with his clothes. You made me feel rich today!” – Mum A
Play is an important part of life, development, and freedom! #Allourchildren deserve to be loved, supported, and experience the joy and creativity of play. Through play, motor and social skills are developed, as well as a sense of joy and community.
This week our amazing Play Lead had organised a ‘Messy Kitchen Play’ session – trays filled with mud, sand and water, with pots, pans, utensils, and toy animals to dirty up and then clean. Not only does this session help with hand-eye coordination, hand dexterity, and focused play, the mud, sand, and water provide great sensory play and experience – engaging for all children!
Messy Play can bring up feelings of stress and worry, especially for our Mums in confined and insecure living conditions. However, listening and addressing those fears, providing protective overalls, and easily accessible toilets and water provide some comfort – ultimately allowing mums and minis to engage in Messy Kitchen Play together <3
As always super grateful for our wonderful volunteers who show up week in week out to engage and connect with our mums and minis, and our incredible partners like the Flying Seagull Circus who always bring the best energy and get the best laughs !
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.
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.
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 Projectcommunity 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
Even before lockdown we were fast outgrowing Forest Lane Lodge.
We do not have sole use of the building, which means that we were setting up and breaking down the equivalent of a full nursery provision each time we opened.
That, alongside not having enough storage for our donations or a private area for our minis to play safely means that things were stretched.
Our irreplaceable professional partners who descend on our building to meet mums where they feel safe and supported often found themselves squatting on the floor, working on a chair in the playroom, taking case notes on the roundabout – making do.
Then lockdown happened…..
Our staff numbers doubled, the number of mums and minis we are supporting at any given time also doubled and a half (Grew by 150%?)
All these factors are adding up to the inevitable and unsettling conclusion that – to quote the classic film – we are going to need a bigger boat.
The good news
There is a great building very close by which is vacant. It is a five minute walk from the Lodge so even if a professional, a volunteer or a vulnerable mum comes to the old building it won’t be far to get to the new one. Other massive positives are:
There will be SO much more space,
We will have sole use of the building. We will have a garden all to ourselves to grow flowers, veg and children,
Our minis will have a private, safe space (indoor and out) to play,
We will have capacity inside to invite all of our beloved professional partners such as LBWP, Health Visitors, Family Support workers, Shelter advisers, Beauticians, Reiki practitioners, dance artists, artists, theatre practitioners to come, spread out and do their thing.
We are also hoping that the space will allow for a:
Advice space, but most important of all
Chatting, play and chaos and creating minis’ memories and mums’ belonging.
We could also imagine the wider community using the space for:
Evening classes, etc.
The not so good news
It’s a building that has been squatted in. It is in a terrible state and it is not 100% clear what state it will be in if we get possession.
To make the building what we dream it could be for our families we would need:
Corporate or community groups to volunteer to clear the building
Corporate or community groups to volunteer to clean and paint
Specialist builders/developers to help with repairs
Gardeners/landscape artists to help create a beautiful outdoor space
Interior designers to help us imagine an amazing and magical place where mums and minis are centered
Furniture/office suppliers to help us kit the place out
Kitchen suppliers to help us create a beautiful collective cooking space, or
The money to pay for any of the above that we cannot beg or borrow in-kind.
So here’s where we need your help
We know we ask a lot of you, our beautiful, bountiful community. And here we are asking again, after a year where we have all given more than we ever thought possible. But – you know – it’s just so important to show up for our most vulnerable children and mothers. The brilliant thing is that with a little time and generosity we can, together, make something really beautiful and meaningful happen.
What can you pledge?
Thank you so much, as always, for being there for our families. We will be in touch, hopefully with good news and a call to action as soon as we can.
One incredible and unexpected impact of the horrible few months we have lived through is the wonderful local community groups we have met, and worked with. In a series of blogs we are hoping to thank you all one by one.
We are supporting 145 families in Newham, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, and Barking and Dagenham during the lockdown.
These families are women with children under five. 80% of them have no state assistance at all (meaning that they survive on £37.50 a week). This week you got together 145 EID cards with a local primary school. These cards made the day of the mums and children.
We have been getting car-fulls of donations every week from this fantastic organisation – including nappies, tins, pot noodles, rice, and toiletries.
These donations have come in through the generosity of the Wanstead community, and the tireless work of Suzi Harnett who runs the Wanstead Community Hub.
James Paterson and Juliette Harvey who run the brilliantly simple and elegant “Tin in a Bin” food bank/local causes initiative. Residents have put a bin in their front garden and others are dropping in tins, and other items for local food banks and us included. The amount of items we have received from this is absolutely staggering and proves that when lots of people get involved the difference they make is astounding.
We have also benefited from gorgeous fruit from the Cornerhouse Project. Fruit is the number one thing that our parents ask for to keep their children well, full of vitamins and healthy.
That is what the wonderful Wanstead community have done week in, week out for our families.
But this weekend was astounding! We decided really late in the day that we wanted to give our families an EID treat. We realised a lot of families were feeling sad and miserable at the thought of celebrating EID at home alone, and without much fanfare. So we decided we wanted to give them a treat.
A message to the Corner House Project and they swung in to action.
145 hand made personalised cards? No problem!
145 trinkets, bangles, shiny presents? OK!
So thank you Samantha Lea and Dan her husband. You managed to garner a whole primary school to the cause to create beautiful personal cards – and Lola del Estal and Christelle Loew, Juliette Harvey you begged, borrowed and stole bangles from their children and relatives neighbours to make this happen.
Our mums have been so so grateful for your efforts – here are some of their messages.
“Thank you to everyone at the Magpie Project. We expect Christmas presents but EID, what a sweet gesture”
“My kids are over the moon, we really love the balloons, the sweets and the bangles. We feel so well looked after and loved”
We could not be more grateful – on behalf of our wonderful mums and minis, and on behalf of the whole project. You did something wonderful, thank you.
PS. When lockdown is over we can’t wait to welcome you all to a party – to meet the families you have supported, and to feel the love and gratitude we all have for you.