A load of rubbish turned into catwalk gold yesterday as local children in Tower Hamlets took part in a recycled fashion show. A cowgirl, batman and Lady Gaga were just some of the characters to appear on the stage at a sunny Victoria Park.
The event, organised by the Community Park Rangers, invited local children to transform recycled materials such as cardboard and discarded cloth into eye-catching outfits. A panel of judges picked three stand-out costumes to receive prizes donated by Tesco and Pistachio.
“Some of the costumes were absolutely awesome,” said Matthew Twohig, 25, the Ranger in charge of the event. He pointed out that refurbishment work on the park’s two playgrounds meant that children may have been struggling to find activities during the school half-term:
“All the playgrounds are shut […] there would be nothing otherwise for the kids to do.”
The park’s Community Rangers run year-round programmes that aim to engage with the local community, and include monthly junior wildlife clubs, art education, and work with disability groups. Mr Twohig said:
“we want to encourage different people who don’t usually use Victoria Park to come in and use the park more frequently.”
Nalan Kurtulan was one such mother encouraged to use the park. “My son really likes making the things,” she said, after her son Emre impressed with sprawling bat wings. Emre, evidently disappointed in having missed out on a prize, declined to comment: “I’m running away now.”
Izzy Tissier, 11, whose Lady Gaga costume did earn her a prize, talked of the importance of recycling:
“At our house we recycle a lot. We have two green boxes, and then usually we’ve got extra boxes piling up outside.”
She had spent a lot of time making her challenging outfit:
“I’ve been here since 11 and we’ve been working since then.”
Her mother, Baz Tissier, 52, praised the work of the Rangers:
“They do a very good job because usually we don’t have anywhere to come in East London, and this one is a big area and they make a lot of effort to put all of this together. It makes us think- what can we design with materials that other people don’t want? It made a very nice fashion show.”
Terry Barratt and Rachel Telling, recycling Educational Officers for contractors Veolia on behalf of Tower Hamlets council, were pleased that the message got through to children and parents alike. Mr Barratt said:
“One of the problems we get is contamination, and if we can help stop some of that on the way it helps us a lot.”
For many, the event meant families could spend time together. Evie Gately, the eventual winner of the fashion show, shared her accolade with her two sisters and friend, who helped her create a black and white cowgirl costume.
“I feel happy, but it’s not all about winning.”
For Louise Gately, proud mother, the security offered by the park Rangers was important:
“They come to all the events, they really enjoy it […] it’s something they can feel safe to do on their own in the park.”
The girls were delighted with the recycled fashion parade, and plan to return in 2012; “we gotta defend our title.” Evie admitted that the model “probably will be me again.”
The Community Park Rangers will return with a ‘Fun Day’ on 31st July in Victoria Park’s Lido Field. Whilst valuing the regular families who attend, Mr Twohig was keen to see new faces to unite the local community even more: “the aim is to always attract more people.”
Listen to an interview with one of the participants below:
Words by Steve Howe/audio by Alex Goldberg