On Saturday the 14th December people made their way out of the cold to come to the West Yorkshire Playhouse for the Clash of the Arts Fashion Show; a collaboration between PAFRAS and Leeds youth enterprise CreAtive AspIRer. Since 2003 PAFRAS (Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) has been working in Leeds as the main provider of direct support for asylum seekers. They are a charity that offers a valuable service to people who are often the most invisible within society; running drop in sessions, mental health services and distributing food parcels. Yet as PAFRAS director Christine Majid made clear in her speech, the work of the charity has become increasingly pressed as funding cuts take their toll while changes to government policy since 2005 have made destitution an increasingly common fate for asylum seekers. In October 2013 due to lack of funding PAFRAS was forced to close one of their weekly drop in sessions. However despite all the pressures on the charity from the current economic climate, the Clash of the Arts fashion show was an evening of celebration; celebration of talent, of CreAtive AspIRer’s young people and of the work of PAFRAS itself.
CreAtive AspIRer’s achievement of their aim to inspire youth talent and responsibility within the community was evident through their ability to put on such an amazing show. Hosted by Alisha Musungo, Miss Face of the Globe and Zimbabwe UK, the evening was an incredible display of creativity, dance and musical talent. The models strode confidently down the catwalk showing off clothes created by four young Leeds based designers. Bright colours and patterns were a theme of all the collections. The work of Siobhan Thomas featured jewel coloured dresses for the women and colourful sportswear for the men, including an eye-catching feather headdress style hood. A collection called ‘Breaking Walls’ inspired by PAFRAS itself showcased huge headbands, brown leather capes and bold zigzagging patterns in vibrant blues and greens. Meanwhile designs by Norma, director of Olando Tailors, brought a taste of sophisticated eveningwear with her collection of cream silk dresses. As the models changed their outfits, the audience was entertained by the improvising of the band and the energetic fluidity of dance group Y.G.T. (Young Gifted and Talented) whose passion shone through individual and group dances.
This event was a wonderful chance for people to come together for a night of entertainment. Yet as CreAtive AspIRer’s director Talent Charura reminded everyone, it was also to raise awareness and donations for PAFRAS. A final speech by Christine Majid ended the night, denouncing racism across the city and encouraging continued pressure on the government for positive action for asylum seekers. As the audience stood holding hands through the band’s final number, Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’, the evening ended on a message of unity, compassion and determination to fight social injustices in the local community.