Fashion Show at the Old Bailey
The famous Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly identified as the Old Bailey, is known for the sentencing of criminal cases. But on 15th June, the stately venue was the splendid back-drop for a fundraiser fashion show to help give former offenders a second chance in life.
The award-winning charity Blue Sky partnered with another charity, the Sheriff’s and Recorder’s Fund, to host the fashion show which included clothes designed and produced by serving women prisoners. The event was also attended by The Lord Mayor, Alderman Mountevans of the City of London, and the Lady Mayoress.
The fashion show included summer dresses for the Ascot season, casual wear, a range of bustiers designed by serving prisoners (used as part of the City and Guilds level 2 coursework) and evening dresses. The black corset top with hooped underskirt and silk ruffles, which took 40 hours to make, stole the show to much applause from the 200-strong audience in the finale.
“Between them, The Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund and Blue Sky provide essential grants, training, jobs and support, so the money raised during the course of this special evening will help get many people’s lives back on track” said on the night by Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Recorder of London and the Old Bailey’s most senior permanent judge
Some of the clothes were designed and produced by women prisoners at Stitch in Time, Blue Sky’s project at HMP / YOI Bronzefield – including the outfit worn by the Lady Mayoress of the City of London who joined the catwalk.
Like all of Blue Sky’s projects, Stitch in Time demonstrates the importance of work in helping the rehabilitation of offenders. Karen Pau, Senior Leader of Art & Design at New College Swindon delivered over 8 sessions with the ladies in the Stitch in Time workshop. Karen said that working with Stitch in Time was “one of the most rewarding teaching experiences in my 24-year career” and that the ladies exceeded her expectations with the quality of their work by gaining an extra 13 qualifications between them. Their work was also supported by designer Sue Bonham whose designs were also featured on the night.
This was the final fundraiser show featuring work from Stitch in Time as the workshop closed at the end of May this year due to changes within the women’s prison estate. From 2012, Stitch in Time employed 166 serving women and of the 71 eligible to work, 18 moved into paid employment and 5 into voluntary work.
“It was an honour to work in the Stitch in Time workshop and I was in awe of the quality of work and dedication the ladies demonstrated. I’m very proud of the work they have achieved and their commitment to the project. The workshop is a shining example to Blue Sky’s mission to train prisoners, with the hope of them gaining employment upon release,” said Allison Harbour, Training Manager at Blue Sky.
Allison’s words are echoed by those of the women who have worked in Stitch in Time. One said: “It has been amazing to work in Stitch and Time, The experience helped me gain employment upon release. Something I’ve never had leaving jail previously.”
Others said: “Working for Stitch in Time has given me a confidence boost. It’s made me realise I can adapt in a work environment” and “To have been part of Stitch in Time and Blue Sky has been a light for me in the darkest time in my life. Thank you.”
Building on our track record Blue Sky is creating more jobs for ex-offenders every year by developing links with new potential employers and industry sectors across London, Thames Valley and the South East. In addition we are developing training in prisons to identify and recruit potential employees with the skills to start work on release.
Since 2005, Blue Sky has employed and supported over 1,400 ex-offenders and serving prisoners.
“As a trusted intermediary for both our commercial clients and ex-offenders looking for work, Blue Sky has an ambition to grow our work and help demonstrate how people with criminal pasts can contribute to society. The criminal justice system faces unprecedented challenges and changes and we are working hard to respond to those and increase our impact,” said Kate Markey, MD at Blue Sky.
Blue Sky’s work has proven by the Ministry of Justice’s Data Lab to reduce re-offending by up to 23%, one of the most effective rehabilitation interventions on record. Blue Sky runs training workshops to recruit potential employees for Blue Sky’s jobs on the outside, work that is closely aligned to the recently announced prison reforms. Blue Sky employs between 150 – 200 ex-offenders into real jobs in the community every year.