What goes on at...Brighton University Saturday Club

The National Art & Design Saturday Club offers young people aged 14–16 the chance to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university for free. We caught up with Brighton Uni's Joanna Tolley to find out more...

What goes on at...Brighton University Saturday Club

When did you first hear of Saturday Club and why did Brighton University decide to run it?

The Fashion Club at the University of Brighton started 8 years ago and was quite a small project that worked with members of a local youth group as part of the institution's commitment to widening participation in Higher Education. It has developed significantly over the years and now works with 14 to 16 year old who attend local partner secondary schools who may not come from traditional university backgrounds – being the first generation in the family to access HE or living in an area where few people choose university as an option.

The leader of the club, Juliana Sissions, became aware of an education event running at the V&A that was affiliated to the Sorrel Foundation and 2 years ago, supported by the Head of Fashion at the University, the Fashion Club became a member of the Saturday Club programme. The club has gone from strength to strength and this year had 18 participants.

What are the benefits for you as a university?

It contributes to a diverse programme of activities and events that are part of the University's widening participation scheme and it honours the University's commitment to supporting the local community. Saturday Club also provides development opportunities to undergraduate students who support students on the project and enables us to undertake partnership work with local schools. Being part of the Sorrel Foundation National Saturday Club raises the profile of the project itself and contributes to outreach and recruitment activities. Finally, being on a Saturday means that the university building and equipment are being utilised.

What kind of activities have you run?

Participants take part in a series of workshops including: Machine Sewing & Garment Construction; Sustainability & Recycling; Drape & Pattern Cutting; Research & Design Development; and Fashion Design & Illustration. There is also a Speedo Masterclass delivered by Katie Greenyer and a display of recycled denim garments at 'Green Week'. We've also taken students on a tour of the Courtauld Gallery and Alexander McQueen's 'Savage Beauty' at the V&A. As a group we have also put on a fashion show.

What was the most unexpected outcome of running this, were there any surprises? 

We were pleasantly surprised that we achieved 100% retention and that all the students were able to get involved and fully participate in the activities. They all engaged in the activities exceptionally well and surpassed our expectations. The Fashion Show they delivered was of a high standard and went without a hitch. A lot of participants said that they enjoyed being at the university working with our current students – some are now considering studying fashion, art or textiles at a university level. They really enjoyed the trips up to London and seeing their work displayed in such a prestigious setting really inspired them and raised their confidence. It has been such a good project and the participants have gained a huge amount from being involved.

You've offered Arts Award in your Saturday Club. How did that work? 

The Arts Award is a natural fit to our Saturday Fashion Club. I have previous experience of delivering the Award in arts engagement programmes and could see that the only thing that needed to be incorporated to meet the criteria was the skill sharing unit which was easy to embed. The participants were given the option to do the Arts Award as it a was non-compulsory element of the Fashion Club – all of 18 members signed up to do it. After each session participants were encouraged to complete one of the templates available on the Arts Award resources site. Lots of photos were also taken to evidence the learning. By the end of the Fashion Club which ran from December to June they had taken part in each of the units, writing up and reflecting on their experience along the way. Most of the participants have now completed their portfolios ready to submit, the others are going to come in to the university in their Summer holiday to have their work checked ready for the moderation on Saturday 12th September. Two participants have completed extra work and have requested to be submitted for their Silver Awards.

What did you feel was the value for young people of achieving an Arts Award as well as taking part in the Saturday Club?

Incorporating the Arts Award into the Fashion Club has been entirely positive and enabled structure that hadn't been formalised before. It has also meant that the participants complete the project with a portfolio of work to reflect their learning. They also said that they are pleased to have an additional accredited qualification that they can include on their applications to college.

Are you looking for young people to get involved in your Saturday Club next year?

We will be recruiting for our next Fashion Club in September and the project will run from December to June, we are particularly interested to hear from students who come from a widening participation background who attend our local partner schools. The Fashion Club is ideal for students in Years 9 & 10 but we would also consider applications from students in Year 11.

If any of our Brighton readers are interested, how do they contact you? 

If you're aged 14-16, contact us by email: [email protected] or by phone: 01273 641043

What do you feel the young people have achieved and what are they and you proudest of? 

They have developed skills and learnt new techniques, which has being aided by working with industry professionals who they may not usually have access to. They have also learnt from current undergraduates and were involved in the planing and running of a Fashion Show. They have gained exposure to exhibitions and museums and have been able to participate in the Sorrel Saturday Club exhibition. You can read some of our favourite quotes below:

'I joined the Saturday Fashion Club to broaden my knowledge and because it was highly recommended by a friend. I really enjoyed our trip to London and thought the Alexander McQueen exhibition was amazing. I also liked learning about different materials and how to make things out of them.' (Tia Norman)

'I started Fashion Club to help with my textiles GCSE. I really enjoyed working in a group designing new clothes decorating them. I feel like I know more about what it might be like to study textiles at university.' (Justina Miksaite)

'I decided to attend the Saturday Club as I wanted to try out a new creative skill – my favourite part was creating t-shirts by upcycling material. I've gained more skills in textiles and it's made me want to study the subject at A-Level'. (Katy Smith)

'I have a passion for design and textiles and I would love a career in fashion. I really enjoyed the Masterclass and creating the swimwear and learning a new way of printing fabric.'(Shakira Willingale-Haynes)

'I want to work in fashion and hope to design costumes for shows and musicals. I have enjoyed getting to work with new people and I have improved on my current skills and found new ways of working'(Lucy Brand)

'I enjoy being creative and this club has made me improve my imagination to think of different ideas of products with a selection of materials. By doing the Saturday Club it has made me think about fashion as a job when I'm older'.(Tabitha Dickson)

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