Insider Chic

Crumlin Road Gaol hosts its first ever fashion show, bringing together local artists and designers for a one-day exhibition in aid of Action Cancer

Hunger strikes, escape attempts, riots, executions. Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, has seen them all.

But it won’t have seen anything like this.

On November 12, the jail will be the venue for Symphonic, an art and fashion show in aid of the charity, Action Cancer. The event is in keeping of the organisation’s drive to change the nature of charity retailing in Northern Ireland by introducing high fashion concepts, boutiques, and vintage ranges.

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It is the brainchild of Action Cancer’s Katherine Young, who approached organiser and director, Cindy McKendry, to help manage it.

The two key elements are art and fashion. Designers and stylists – established and new alike – from across Northern Ireland have been recruited to produce outfits for the show. Most of the work will be completely original.

Many of the designers, who include Shauna Fay, Grainne Maher, Melanie Bond, Honeysuckle and Pepperdillo, Mohawk, Marie-Claire Millenary, and Gordon Donaldson will be showing selections from their Autumn/Winter collections. 

There is also an emphasis on pre-loved and sustainable fashion, however. Lewis Cameron and Jamie Russell have chosen items from the rails of Action Cancer shops, and shaped and adapted them for the show, with the idea being to demonstrate the quality and potential of the clothing available.

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It is very much a Northern Irish operation. The clothes will be shown by models from the CMPR agency, with make-up by Leanne Godfrey, Julia Cameron, Rebecca Bryson, and Rosie Pritchard, and hair by Stafford’s, of Belfast.

Lighting and sound are in the hands of One Vision, reception drinks and macarons come from Eva Paris, and Coco Mojo and Passion Preserved will be filling the goody bags. Victor Branco, of Atelier, will also be creating an installation.

Some of the art work however, most of which will be site-specific and created purely for the event, will come from further afield. Eliana Bambino, Giordano Bufo, Joseph Carlin, Shauneen Colhoun, Gianmaria De Luca, Vincent Fahy, Don Murray, Andrea Musico, and Niamh Roberts are all members of META, a new contemporary art collective that links Northern Ireland and Rome, and are all showing at Symphonic.

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Prova#1 by Giordano Bufo and The Perfect Kiss by Niamh Roberts

Most of the Northern Irish artists are based in Derry. The connection with Italy comes from an exchange visit between the Void Art School in Derry and the ISFCI, a top photography school in Rome.

Designer Joe Carlin and Shauneen Colhoun have curated the multi-disciplinary art exhibition. Joe will also be co-hosting the show, along with Sarah Travers.

'We were blown away by the precision and the discipline of the pieces we saw in Rome' says Carlin, 'and, in turn, they responded to the freedom with which we approached our work. A great dynamic between the two sets of students developed, and we all felt a desire to continue that relationship and that learning.

'Symphonic is such an exciting opportunity to show our emerging ideas.'

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Commute by Vincent Fahy

The jail has been handed over to Action Cancer for the event, not surprisingly the first high fashion show at Crumlin Road. Some cells are to be fitted out with examples of the charity’s vintage designer pieces and furniture, while the others will become galleries for the work by META. and by stylist and fashion artist, Sara O’Neill. Meanwhile, the gangways will become catwalks.

Time is an issue, however, as all involved in the jailhouse frock have only 24 hours to install, produce, and then dismantle the show, leaving the prison as they found it.

Security will be provided by the fashion police.

Tickets, priced £25, and further information are available from Action Cancer stores or