Higher fashion shows industrial strength

5th February 2010 at 00:00
Sixteen secondaries in North Lanarkshire pooled their students' art and design talent to put on a glam-fest that has changed lives

It's 8pm on a Friday night as the Glam Metal fashion show in the Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Heritage gets under way.

It is run by 16 of North Lanarkshire's secondaries, and the students are studying Higher and Advanced Higher art and design, so expectations are high.

Any illusions that the clothes and models might be anything less than 100 per cent professional fade as the first model steps on to the catwalk. Vibrant colours, daring designs, poker faces - the girls look as if they have been doing this for years.

It is the last of four fashion shows organised by staff and pupils in North Lanarkshire to showcase their clothing range Glam Metal, and the culmination of a year's hard work by all involved.

The result does not disappoint. The atmosphere is electrifying as we view the 200 garments and accessories they have designed, including a limited edition mini-skirt.

The name Glam Metal was chosen to tie in with Lanarkshire's industrial past. Christine Pollock, executive director of learning and leisure services, explains how it all started.

"We have very high-performing art departments - it is a strength in North Lanarkshire," she says. "I thought, `Why can we not just pull them all together for a project. We have showcased musical talent before.' I wanted to showcase artistic talent. The heads of department brought it all together, but it was strongly led by the young people. They decided on all the designs."

Students from Heriot-Watt's Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels advised and assisted the students, running masterclasses on campus and keeping in touch. Coatbridge College students were in charge of hair and make-up, and two dance groups performed in the shows.

"The perspectives and opportunities provided by bringing together schools, nurseries, community learning and development, libraries, museums and heritage centres (Summerlee Museum) under one roof are of huge benefit in helping to make learning real, to take it out into the community and to make it both enjoyable and empowering," says Ms Pollock. "The Glam Metal fashion production has encapsulated all of this."

Learning and leisure convener Jim Logue thinks much of the success is down to the merging of two departments in 2007.

"One of the things we are now seeing is joint working between learning and leisure," he says. "We are putting art co-ordinators alongside teachers, and it is a good thing. Joint working allows the potential to be maximised."

Linda Jamieson, principal teacher of art and design at St Margaret's High in Airdrie, was part of the steering group which directed the project. "We told the girls that we needed 100 per cent commitment. If they were in it, they were in it for keeps or not at all. The group who committed all knuckled down. We told them it will be good for their CV, for statements for applying for university and for work interviews."

Ms Jamieson was also part of the selection process for the grand finale. "We had modelling auditions, and the knockbacks were done in such a way as not to upset anyone," she says. "Those who didn't do well in the auditions were offered jobs helping backstage as dressers."

The show included performances by two dance groups - second-year girls from Coatbridge High and a new group of young boys called The Parkout Group. Somersaults and backflips were met with an intake of breath from the audience.

"The Parkout Group was created to provide an alternative option for boys to enhance the range of physical activity on offer," says Ms Pollock. "The project has been a huge success, increasing the participation levels of boys in a form of dance. This was their first public performance. We have been trying to move away from traditional PE. Dance works well. It captures the imagination."

Hayley Devoy, 16, from St Margaret's Academy, was a model. "I have decided to do Higher art next year after being involved in this," she says. "I did Intermediate 2 in fourth year but never carried it on. The evening was amazing and next time I would like to do both modelling and designing."

Her schoolmate Megan Harkins, 17, was a designer and model. "Modelling was great fun and it all ran smoothly, but it was nerve-racking," she says. I only put one dress into the show. It was the one I put the most work into. I would like to study textiles either at Glasgow or Galashiels. I have been to Galashiels twice and it was great."

While the audience goes home, amazed by the talent which has been lying hidden among them, the models and fashion designers are the ones who will never be the same again.

"The confidence of the students will go through the roof," says Ms Jamieson. "Particularly those you wouldn't have expected to see up there. They are as proud as punch that they have achieved something of this scale and magnitude. It will change their lives."

Jackie Cosh, scoted@tes.co.uk.

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