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

 

Running Mum 40….

We could not be prouder of Monica. She came to us at the start of the year with an idea – an incredible idea. To run 40 10km races in a year. Forty, in a year! Not one, not twenty – forty!!!!!

We thought she was wonderful – a little crazy but a lot wonderful.

Now, time has flown, and undeterred even by a global pandemic, she only has a few races left to go.

Even more amazingly she only has £770 to raise to reach her very ambitious target of £4,040.40 (Yes we suggested the target).

Please do support her if you can.

We don’t think anybody has ever worked harder for their fundraising.

This is her latest blog post.

“Firstly, happy 3rd birthday to @magpieprojectuk .

So it was June 5th 2017 that they started off as a few concerned women, asking homeless mums what they needed from The Magpie project to help.

They have grown from strength to strength and have continued to serve the vulnerable who are most affected by the virus. 


This week, the girls and I returned to school after almost 11 weeks.

I’ve had the most wonderful time with Tilia and Kita and feel like I’ve got to know them all over again.

Their relationship and love for each other is beautiful and it’s been amazing to watch this blossom.

Yes, there have been tricky days where I was not at my best as a mother, teacher or role model however I would reflect on this and talk myself through why it was difficult and how to to avoid a situation like that again. 


Today was a solo run around Wanstead and it was a chilly and windy one. The run was a little bit over the hour but could have been under the hour if I hadn’t walked for a minute to blow my nose…so annoying. 


The Justgiving page was written together with Jane (founder of The Magpie Project) and she set the target of £4040.40.

At the time I was thinking, I’m never going to make this and didn’t want to let them down but I was so wrong. I underestimated how my friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues and neighbours would be so giving and generous. You guys are amazing!! I have to raise £770 to reach my target and I’m going to get there I know!!

Please continue to donate at 
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/runningmum40

Monica, Running Mum 40.

Thank you to The Corner House Project

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.

Thank you to the Corner House Project

First we want to say a massive thank you The Corner House Project.

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.

The Corner House Project based in Wanstead and the brainchild of John Wagstaff at PettySon and Prestwich .

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.

EID effort

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”

Another:

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.