We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance – Japanese proverb
It is a lovely word, isn't it? Almost onomatopoeic, evoking the rustling of silk dresses, or the crinkle of cotton shirts. Sadly, the idea of swishing as an event was too new for many people, and I was fed up of constantly having to explain it. I think the lack of familiarity had a part in the lack of numbers turning up, too. If people don't know what an event entails, they're unlikely to come along.
So what is it, and why was I doing it? Well, daughter Jem is very active in dance and stage school groups, one of which is heading to London at the beginning of July to put on Godspell as part of the International Youth Arts Festival (tickets still available at the Rose Theatre, Kingston). All very prestigious, but also very expensive. Travel to London isn't cheap, nor is accommodation for a whole week while there, and so all the participants were asked to do some extra fund-raising.
Jem and I came up with the idea of hosting a swishing evening. The premise is this: most women have in their wardrobe at least one item of clothing that is good quality, but which they no longer wear. Maybe it was bought for a one-off special occasion, maybe it no longer fits. Swishers bring along their items, hang them on a clothes rail, and at the allotted time they swish through all the other items brought along and hopefully find something new to them to which they can give a good home.
I made up some leaflets on Word, and sent these electronically to the group. I printed some flyers out and put up posters at work, at a training course I was on, at the theatre where the event was being held, at Jem's school, and at another of her stage school shows. I even created an event on Facebook. On the leaflet I had included my own phone number as well as the website address for swishing. And I knew when I didn't receive any phone calls at all that the numbers attending would be low.
We were holding it in Belvoir Theatre, during their run of Les Mis, on a night when the show wasn't on. This had a number of advantages: there was plenty of car parking, there were changing facilities, mirrors and clothes rails available, and any unwanted garments at the end of the evening could be donated to the theatre's wardrobe department. My set-up team and I arrived early in order to find screens to put around the depressing grey barricades set, and to place mirrors and rails in the right spots, and find a socket for the ipod.
Jem had volunteered to do make-up for the attendees, to turn it into a sort of "Fashion Fix" a la Gok event, and her boyfriend had prepared a playlist of suitable background music. He also sold the tickets at the door, and ballot tickets for a bottle of wine and some other goodies. So it was lovely to be acting as a team, each playing our part.
The few people who did come along were extremely generous and supportive, and we managed to sell some ballot tickets to other hangers-on who were in the theatre that evening. One attendee was a research student from Queens University, and she's studying the subject of clothes swapping in Ireland. She had a questionnaire for the attendees to complete, and interviewed me in a bit more depth. She'd been to a couple of such events in and around Belfast, and said that they were becoming particularly popular with students, as a cheap and environmentally friendly way of getting some new wardrobe items. But admitted that unless you knew what the concept was, the appeal was lost.
As it turned out, my table of accessories was very popular, and nearly everyone went away happy with a new necklace, bag or scarf. We raised £76.50 on the night, which although short of my target of £100 wasn't a bad sum at all. Best of all, during a conversation amongst the participants on the evening itself, we came up with ANOTHER fundraising idea. Why not use the talents of the young people and put on a show! I'm a bit worried that we might be entering some hellish concentric fundraising spiral here, where we put on a show, to raise funds to put on a show…but 100 seats at a tenner a pop would certainly boost the coffers. Jem and Matty are already rehearsing the 'cancer' dance from the TV show So You Think You Can Dance and I can't wait to see it. I might even wear my newly swished green necklace to it!