COURTNEY Ashton’s newest dress is covered with headlines taken from this very newspaper.
Gun crime, postcode gangs and anti-social behaviour dominate the 14-year-old’s outfit. Only occasionally, in bold, can one find a positive line.
“It’s a form of protest,” says designer Lisa Gallacher. “Young people are fed up with hearing how bad their neighbourhood is and this is an attempt to redress the balance.”
That neighbourhood, you may have guessed, is Parson Cross.
And that dress forms part of a very fashion-conscious attempt to show the much-maligned estate is open for business and an attractive potential base for artists, entrepreneurs and young professionals
Lisa, an internationally-renowned visual artist based in Glasgow, has spent the last year working with 10 different residents to produce 10 different outfits which show a side of the north Sheffield suburb you don’t always hear about.
Here there is a safari poncho referencing the area’s green space and rural patches; a Teddy Boy frock-coat, resplendent with PX badge, showing the estate’s 1950s origins; and a blouse with a pattern inspired by key landmarks.
Now - before the residents get to wear them - they are to be displayed in the city centre as part of a project to attract more people to the area.
“This will show off a bit of bespoke Parson Cross tailoring to the city centre,” says Rachael Dodd, project manager with Yorkshire Artspace Society, the group behind the Made To Measure project. “It is a way of promoting the area, of showing its potential.”
That promotion, then, comes about ahead of nine art studios opening in the estate’s new Soar Works enterprise complex in Knutton Road.
Yorkshire Artspace, which manages the studios from its current city centre base in Brown Street, wanted to simultaneously show artists the benefits of working in Parson Cross while also showing Parson Cross the benefits of artists and professionals working there.
As such, Lisa was commissioned to work with residents - ranging in age from 14 to 84 and from across the area - to produce those outfits.
“The clothes aims to express the unique character and identity of the people,” says the 38-year-old who has spent two days a month working in the estate since last spring. “I’ve never been here before which I think gave me a fresh pair of eyes on the place. “It was some time before I learned about its bad reputation and when I did I was completely surprised. That’s not the impression I’d got at all. It seemed very friendly to me. I hope this does some good.”
The Made To Measure exhibition runs in a temporary gallery in The Moor from Monday to April 11.