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Photo of a student in a costume workshop
Rosamund McCormack at work on her costume
Image courtesy of Eva Cameron Coutts

Third year projects for students on the Performance Costume - BA (Hons) programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) always have an outward-looking focus. For example, last year saw a collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland to create performance pieces influenced by the ARTIST ROOMS: Roy Lichtenstein exhibition. 

This year, in a kaleidoscope of colour, the third years have been set a brief which quite literally crosses continents. 

Costumes inspired by India’s rich cultural heritage

The charity, Scottish Love in Action (SLA), supports over 500 vulnerable children through funding a home and school in the town of Tuni, South-East India. The charity’s main fundraiser is an annual fireworks event which marries the Indian Festival of Diwali and Guy Fawkes Night in a spectacular show. During this year’s show, costumes inspired by the rich culture of Indian heritage, created by our very own students (in under seven weeks, from research to light up!) paraded as part of the pre-show entertainment.

Carnival, mythology, animals, colour and light conjure the concepts which are weaved within the stunning pieces the students have created. Student, Rosamund McCormack, expressed how inspiring the project has been, “Loads of opportunity for colour. Celebration of light. Light is what makes colour. Comes full circle!”

Donated saris - secretly allocated

The costumes were made from saris which were donated by Asian communities in Edinburgh and charity workers who had worn them whilst in India.

The saris were wrapped up in brown paper and the students were to choose a package - a secret allocation of material adding yet another dimension to the brief!

Lottie Forrester, who was (in a remarkably calm manner!) sewing her last pieces together when we talked to her, discussed the experience of working to a live brief.

“It was very fast paced, but it’s so fun working for a live brief. Last year we collaborated with the MA Film and TV - MA students on their final project.

It was great to apply that knowledge to a different type of brief. Working to your own requirements but also knowing the brief had specifics, like the lights and scale and colour and movement.”

From the traditional to the whimsical to the completely eccentric

The range of costumes the students have come up with is remarkable, from the traditional to the whimsical to the completely eccentric. This was in small part due to the variety of materials they had, but moreover the range of working styles throughout the class.

“I think that’s what’s really important, every time we get a brief whatever we make is so different, yet they all still blend together. It’s really amazing that we’ve all managed to keep our own styles whilst at the same time keep this standard of work that's really incredible.” Lottie added.

Jan Newton, a member of SLA and an integral part of this collaboration, spoke about carrying out the project;

"Right from the beginning, when Megan Baker and her staff welcomed us, trustingly embracing our proposal, it has been a great collaborative experience. Such immersive enthusiasm from the students as they creatively produced wonderful, colourful and illuminated costumes.

SLA was founded when an Edinburgh Youth Group traveled to Tuni to help NGO, Christopher Premdas, build a school for destitute children. Christopher used to say, "it is better to light a candle than blame the darkness". So true, as hundreds of lights lit up the costumes and delighted our audiences.

I can't help but wonder if somewhere in the audience there wasn't a young person who would like to join the department and create some magic as the third year costume students did for SLA."

 Megan Baker, Programme Director of Performance Costume at ECA, said:

“It has been wonderful to help, support and work with Scottish Love in Action and to see the students getting so inspired by Diwali and its many legends. The costumes looked truly spectacular lighting up the arena to an audience of over 6,000 people, it was very magical”.

Even better, the performances - which are a major fundraiser for the charity - were a sell-out. If that’s not costume with a conscience we don’t know what is!

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Photo of sketches and swatches for a costume
Detail from a sketchbook
Image courtesy of Eva Cameron Coutts