Nearly 6 months on from when our country was first put into ‘lockdown’, I reflect on working at Kibble throughout this unprecedented time; I’m left with a smile, a sense of nostalgia and an overwhelming feeling of togetherness!
Despite being an extremely difficult time for us all, I was (and am) incredibly proud to be part of a wonderful team, who focused on positivity and were driven to find solutions in exceptional situations all while laughing, dancing and creating on a daily basis!
Kibble is a residential school that looks after children and young people from aged 5-25 years. Our children and young people have often experienced severe trauma and adversity in their lives and met many barriers which have not allowed them to follow conventional education routes. As educators at Kibble, our job is to listen, share our skills and empower students to be the best version of themselves, enabling them to be ready for what their future holds and provide them with the skills to face all opportunities presented to them.
COVID-19 certainly arrived quickly, and as a team we responded swiftly right back. After the initial shock, we found ourselves immersed in conversations about the future of learning, could we utilise this lockdown period to change our approach to learning and teaching? What perspective could we take to engage and impact our students in a meaningful way that would ultimately help them in their future? We became inspired and driven, in amongst all the hand washing and deserted daily commutes we realised this was our new reality, an opportunity to create a unique platform for our learners and more importantly, their future.
In an article for Teaching Scotland magazine, Dr Pauline Stephen, Director of Education at GTC Scotland states “The lack of face-to-face, daily connection is no doubt creating a sense of loss for both learners and teachers. For some of our learners, particularly those with additional support needs, this enforced change of routine with the removal of established connections will be incredibly difficult to understand and manage.” (2020)
Kibble’s Creative Arts Department holds a stellar reputation for building relationships and project partnerships with organisations like Scottish Ballet, RSNO, Police Scotland, Re:Mode and West College Scotland. When news of lockdown came, we were determined to find a way of engaging our students with the Arts in the same way they are used to, all whilst keeping our focus as educators, ensuring attainment, engagement and most importantly, enjoyment.
As a team, we collectively gathered and discussed various options. We knew that to ensure engagement and excitement over a new project a level of learner agency would be required. We reflected on information gathered in previous student steer groups and made phone calls to students whom we knew would be forthcoming with ideas. The idea of a Fashion Show came to light; it became our mission to bring this to fruition amid a pandemic and all the challenges that this would bring.
The approach we took to the Fashion Show was three-fold. Firstly, a focus on the practicalities, making items, developing skills, continuing to build nurturing relationships and importantly inclusion and collaboration. Secondly, the technology; how could we create a virtual fashion show? What technology was available? Thirdly, the entertainment factor; the fashion show would be created to collectively lift mood in a difficult time, we wanted laughter, we wanted humour, we wanted “WOW’s!” we wanted an extraordinary and memorable experience, that would touch everyone across Kibble.
In order to maximise engagement, we planned the fashion show around four themes. These themes were specifically chosen to engage inclusively and diversely with students and their house staff members. The anticipation was that residential staff and students would come together, learn new skills, create costumes and gain enjoyment in a difficult time, no matter what their creative ability.
THEME 1– Junk 2 Funk – Turning old junk into costumes and clothing.
THEME 2– Lockdown Loungewear – Everything comfy and colourful.
THEME 3– Kibble Comic-Con – for the superheroes and sci-fi lovers!
THEME 4– Reconstructed – take an item of clothing and change it into another item of clothing, eg- a pair of jeans into a skirt.
We were very kindly donated iPads by charity Children’s Aid Scotland which allowed us to create instructional videos and then share these with each house. In turn, students then created their own video which would be shared with other houses. Videos included how to make a face covering, how to tie-dye, how to create fabric roses. Additionally, we were fortunate to team up with Re:Mode who not only very generously donated unwanted clothes to be upcycled, but provided access to online sewing tutorials for our students.
Each of our residential houses was provided with a ‘Fashion Goodie Box’, which contained a sewing machine, a mannequin, a box of useful materials and tools. Together as a team we visited each house delivering these goodie boxes, of course we dressed up in wigs and ridiculous clothing to set the mood!
A strict timetable was created ensuring safe practice with regard to COVID-19 and we all got to work on creating our catwalk masterpieces.
A wild and varied selection of costumes were created. Tie-dye was the order of the day for one house who enjoyed dyeing old bed linen in their garden, they then stitched this into superhero capes and face coverings for the ‘Kibble Comic-Con’ section! Another student created a kilt with matching sporran, all made from newspaper it was a welcome addition to the ‘Junk to Funk’ section, alongside a top made from flattened drinks cans that were painstakingly stitched together by hand and not to forget ‘Mrs Whoops’ who donned a prom style dress made entirely of ASDA bags. The ‘Reconstructed’ section allowed students’ new sewing skills to be flaunted, a pair of jeans became a bag, a cosy blanket was turned into a hoodie, affectionately named the ‘Throwzie’ and the wonder of bleaching denim was discovered! A firm favourite was a replica of ‘Stranger Things’ character, The Demogorgon, its creator received the very coveted, Best Costume award.
Collectively, with students and staff we decided that The Kibble Virtual Fashion Show would comprise of a pre-recorded show (the catwalk), with live elements (judges’ comments) and funny ‘sketches’ featuring prominent Kibble characters; our format was born!
Our tech team utilised various skills, equipment and endured many technical rehearsals to ensure that the final show would go smoothly. Linking live commentary with pre-recorded footage and streaming this live across Kibble’s campus was certainly an unprecedented challenge, but one we matched up to. Proof of concept was confirmed; our idea was viable.
We created a unique catwalk within our Gannochy Centre for Expressive Arts, a COVID-19 friendly rota for when it could be used and produced an exciting projection mapping display as a backdrop, then filming each house sporting their creations one by one began.
Watching the filming of the catwalk was exhilarating, the energy and excitement was palpable, the sense of achievement and pride shown by students acted as a welcome reminder or why we all do what we do at Kibble! It was thought-provoking seeing students who would normally be shy and nervous on stage exude confidence, knowing their audience was a further step away, on the other side of a camera lens.
TikTok dancing and the Netflix docuseries ‘Tiger King’ became lockdown staples for our students throughout this time, there was always a synchronised dance to match the tracks on the radio and conversations discussing whether or not Carole Baskin fed her husband to her tigers. To give nod to these we created short sketches; as a whole organisation, both staff and students created a TikTok video, dancing to ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weekend additionally, our Head and Deputy Head Teacher donned leopard print clothing and created an amusing segway to the Fashion Show finale.
Aside from the actual creation of costumes it was interesting to watch the evident therapeutic benefits for students as well as staff. Working towards a goal, creating and making in a safe environment, all as part of a team was a clear focus for some, many who required a level of escapism in a time which was unexpected, in world that seemed so unsteady and unsecure.
I wonder if perhaps this was what led our team to become so driven in our mindset, nevertheless it was evident it gave all involved a positive focus throughout a very difficult time.
The live streaming of Kibble’s Virtual Fashion Show was on the 26th June 2020, the sun split the sky in Paisley and it was the day before the last day of term. With great trepidation we sat back and allowed the live show to begin.
Across Kibble’s campus the sun shone on the silence. Every student and every staff member would be watching the live show, in their own environment, in their own bubble. For myself, the following 75 minutes was a mixture of pride, emotion and relief. Pride in our team, myself and the students for creating this show. Strong emotion driven by the knowledge that this would be a secure happy memory for many in a very turbulent time and relief that everything had gone exactly to plan.
Sarah Falconer Arts Development Officer at Kibble Group