I’m Rebecca, a senior wardrobe technician at the University of Salford where I teach students how to put costumes together. I have worked at the Globe in London, Oldham Coliseum, as well as abroad in Vietnam and all over the United States, where I put on shows seen by leading casting agents.
I had seen a news report in the Bolton News saying Emmaus was going to set up a textile recycling centre. Because I had just moved to the area, I gave Tony (the Director of Emmaus Bolton), an email, and said I was going to be free, and if I could help, I would like to volunteer. I’ve been here since March 2021.
I knew about Emmaus because I was brought up near an Emmaus community in North Hertfordshire and South Cambridge. The Cambridge community has a café, a furniture department and a working farm. It is a lovely treat to go there.
It started off with a few boxes of fabric. I began by getting into the fibres, sorting it into dresses, upholstery, cotton, silk ready to be put into the Scrap Store. When I came into the recycling centre to start deconstructing donations, I started with a man’s shirt. I took the sleeves off, collars and cuffs and buttons. I stripped the fabric into ‘fat quarters’ and made the sleeves into fabric to go on sale.
Being in community theatre and being involved in the community, volunteering at Emmaus Bolton was an opportunity to come somewhere I know and like everyone, and I can share my skills and knowledge. It is so rewarding in so many more ways than I thought it would be.
I love the big boxes of buttons. My grandma always had a button box in a biscuit tin. I’m still so amazed at the clothes and the textiles that come in.
I had an idea of how to set the Scrap Store out, with group involvement and people’s help. The outfits and costumes that come in are forever changing. It’s a community project and what’s on sale changes with that. I would really like to start making clothing out of the fabric and donations; repurposing something ‘throwaway’ into something that can be used in a different way, like bags. We’re starting with making bags and plan to grow this into creating clothing.
As a homelessness charity, I think Emmaus Bolton is a great opportunity for anyone who is in a situation that they can’t get out of and feel that there is no other way to live. It is important for people to know that Emmaus is out there. Someone like myself, who feels the cold, can’t go into city centre or town and see someone and not feel for people who are homeless. By volunteering at Emmaus Bolton, I feel I’m doing something to help them in my own little way.
A lot of costume is repurposing upholstery. A pair of curtains can be used on stage, because you can dye and embroider fabric. These days you can do it from recycled textiles. There doesn’t need to be any excess, really. Excess is because of fast fashion. A generation ago, things lasted so much longer, and you knew someone in the area who you could take things to, to mend. It’s an art, sewing; it’s a skill. You need to know how to sew on a button and hem a jacket.
I think change needs to happen because we are a nation of make, do and mending, going back to wartime, and we need to do that now to save the planet.
To anyone thinking about it, I’d say, definitely volunteer. There are lots of things you can do here at Emmaus Bolton. You don’t have to have specialist knowledge come and have a try and see. You can rip up, deconstruct, learn how to make rag rugs. Try things and see what you get into. We have some good ideas!
Volunteering at the recycling centre is just time out to be practical and be creative with other people that are like-minded; it’s also about coming and putting the world to rights. It’s been wonderful meeting all the welcoming and friendly people at Emmaus Bolton while I’ve been volunteering.