Our Dancing Town

Festivals, Film work

While our final year costumes were being displayed at the LBT in Huddersfield, there were some rehearsals going on for a parade through the town centre celebrating the people who live and work in Yorkshire, and the many cultures they being with them. The leading West End performer/choreographer Steve Elias was rehearsing with the groups of dancers and, while on a break, stumbled across the display of costumes and decided they had to be included – what an honour!

The final parade was filmed later on and broadcast on the BBC on Tuesday 24th January 2017 as part of a series called ‘Our Dancing Town‘(see the final dance through this link on YouTube!) You can just see my costumes about half way through as they start walking down the main straight of the tour – it was a shame not to see more of them but the dancers were just so incredible!!

We had to do a small interview with Steve for the show – felt very glamorous doing the hand shake, the smile, the “hello…I’m Amy”. Although this was not actually used in the episode, it was good experience and fascinating to see what goes on behind the scenes when filming!

My original performer Julia Blair took part to celebrate the heritage of Huddersfield, and a good friend of mine picked up the mantle of John Cabal as my brother could not make it. Stephen Finn was brillant and took it in his stride, actually his costumes were in the parade too – so proud that they were so enthusiastic!


Film work

This placement opportunity came through at my uni and I jumped at the chance of working on a film! The only problem was finding accommodation at such short notice – I could only work 1 month in Leeds and finding somewhere proved very difficult. However, I ended up signing up to SpareRoom which had an array of different places and allowed me to filter the searches so I could find exactly what I wanted. Anyway I found a place and took myself off to Leeds!

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The whole thing was quite an adventure – I had only ever been to Leeds visiting galleries or le Tour de France and never imagined it would be my home for 4 weeks! When I arrived I was informed that they had to push the filming back by a week so I had time to settle in properly, find my feet and get some of my on jobs done before getting straight into it. I found that Headingley was a hubub of charity shops, cupcake cafes, barber shops and uni students!

A busy little suburb of Leeds in which I felt very safe and at home even though my house was rough and ready (no hoover, no toaster, no kettle, no dustpan and brush, no internet, not tv and a million locks and bolts on the back door!) On the brighter side, my new housemates were very lovely – a woman from a little Caribbean island who came over to teach english and a man who works with computers in the city centre from Spain.

Week 1

I went to the studio, a 20 min walk from my room, and met a few people who i’ll be working with, signed all the paperwork and had the opportunity to read the script – it turned out to be a Bollywood film about an arranged marriage and the romance and drama surrounding the wedding. It’s a very sweet, sparkly and surreal story. The next part of my week was going out sourcing with Ayesha (one of the two stylists involved with the film) to find suitable costumes for the cast – I found it difficult at first because I had not seen or been a part of the design processes so it was tricky to visualise the colours and effects desired. But I felt helpful and useful as another pair of hands and eyes. And by the end of the month I was trusted to go sourcing on my own – I felt very priviledged!

Week 2

I thought, since filming started on the Monday, that I would be working with the costume team on set but they wanted me to stay in Leeds and source more things for them – they clearly had run out of time and were using me as back up plan. Not that I minded – it meant I was useful – indeed, I thought I was better suited to shopping than on set because at this point I had no idea what to expect and worried that I might be more of a hindernace than a help in the thick of it!

Our costume van.

Our costume van.

On of our bases was literally in the middle of a field!

On of our bases was literally in the middle of a field!

It was tricky to coordinate with those on set because when sourcing I’d take pictures of all the options and send them to the costume team so they could make the final decision. However, often where we filmed had next to no signal so the days were long and it was hard to get answers. I now feel I know my way round Leeds Trinity centre impicably well and all the shop assistants know me and my awkward questions! For example, trying to find black, sparkly, peep toe pumps with a small heel…in winter! I was also given other interesting sourcing jobs – for example, the wanted two Geriender uniforms with the bear skin hats and it was my job to find them – this meant searching online then ringing these companies to find out all the necessary information then reporting back to Ayesha. Often I came upon glitches; like that no where hired the uniforms and hats apart from one company and they only had one. We hired one complete outfit to use and then they changed the call sheet so it was not needed, I sent it back and then a week later they suddenly needed it again! And then the costume did not arrive when it was supposed to…oh dear, it was all fine in the end but that was a very stressful day. I also had the responsibility of hiring two tail coats and wasitcoats from the West Yorkshire Playhouse costume hire, which was fun but I felt the responsibility.

Week 3

So the first thing I realised when I went to set/ base was that it was exactly what I had expected – the costume van, the caterers, the toilets, the make up van, the bus, the vanity vans and the cars which take everyone to and from base and set. We normally have 12 hour days, for example 7am to 7pm, but as costume people we had to be there a few hours before to iron costumes and organise the correct shoes and jewellery, then stay a bit after to pack everything away and prepare for the next day.

Temple Newsome was one of my first experiences one set - a beautiful old house in the heart of Yorskshire.

Temple Newsome was one of my first experiences one set – a beautiful old house in the heart of Yorskshire.

One of the interiors used - beautiful and ornate!

One of the interiors used – beautiful and ornate!

Allerton Castle, the interior and exterior were used and gorgeously decorated!

Allerton Castle, the interior and exterior were used and gorgeously decorated!

So they were long days but a lot of fun and I met a lot of new and interesting people. It was very exciting being on set, checking the costumes before the shoots, sorting out changes on set and collecting all the accessories back again. It was amazing watching the monitors and seeing how the scenes would actually look in the film, seeing the colours and how it works together. There was a lot of waiting around in the middle of the day, especially if there was only one change needed throughout the whole day. I have learnt a lot, I mean a lot – how to do and not to do things, that a costume bible is one of the most important and vital pieces of equipment, that the whole scene has to be taken into account when finding clothes for lots of actors, that mud and costumes should never ever be introduced, that laughter and friendliness go a long way, being on time and helpful are imperitive, accounts have to be done and woe betide anyone who falls behind, never to be afraid of speaking your mind and that friends can be found everywhere!

Don Juan

Film work, Uni Work

One of my favourite projects we were given was that of Don Juan – we were asked to design two different versions of the play, a modern film using Marber’s ‘Don Juan in Soho’ and a historically accurate operatic version based on Moliere’s ‘Don Juan’.

We started with the operatic version which we set in the 17th century; I used the University library more than every for my research, it holds a treasure trove of essential information on costume history and also the history of opera. I think the biggest challenge for me was to create costumes which would fit the period and allow the dancers to move freely whilst portraying the characters.Castlineup copy

I love the colour palettes I used for the characters, taken from the painting (seen in the background) by Remebrandt from the Age of Enlightment, the movement of new thought and theories which I chose to set the opera in – the most exciting, innovative and enlightening period in history which I have researched. The dark, dirty colours reflect the grim realism of Moliere’s script.

We then moved on to Marber’s modernised script and I the internet was invaluable in informing me about current fashion trends and designers. I used the same characters as I did for my first version so that the differences but also similarities can clearly be seen. One of the exciting aspects of this project was that we could chose a directing style to help us design a realistic film production; I chose Quentin Tarantino as the script is gritty and gripping, indeed I thought the dark and honest style of Tarantino would fit in perfectly with my idea for the new film – I moved the Soho setting to New York or Chicago due to the similarities between the characters and ‘gangster’ families (like in the Godfather films) really hit me and sparked my imagination when reading the script.

I decided to create a new background for the characters –  the family had to leave Italy due to friction between a rival ‘mobster’ family and move to America, where they had relatives to help them build a new life. I wanted the Catholic belief of Don Louis to be put to the test by seeing his son fall in love with consumerism and materialism of western society leading the protagonist to neglect his family duties and honour.

I researched italian designers for the family and high street fashion for the americans in the play – I think they fcast line upit very well together, the subtle, dulled colours and different styles show the character’s individual personalities. I am very pleased with the outcome of my work and think I was able to achieve an essence of Tarantino’s style and work to the brief which allowed my imagination to lead my designs.


This project also showed me different ways of researching and designing; I now feel I have developed and improved the way I work through the design process and time management. Indeed, I have discovered an alternative illustration style which adds more character and movement into my designs.

Amanda Hambleton

Construction, Film work, Volunteering

Around this time last year I was fortunate enough to be given a list of contacts from a family friend and Amanda‘s was one of them – I spent a week and a bit with her working on a design she had been sent for a film being made in Wales, about a mining town which gets a visit from a travelling circus. And she very kindly let me help her with the construction on a costume for a trapeze artist – therefore it was important to get the fit right, no straps slipping off shoulders, etc, no thank you!

The inside of the bodice.

The inside of the bodice.

But to also make sure that the actor could move and perform comfortably which was a bit of a challenge as the dress, a period costume, was supposed to be quite fitted around the bodice and shoulders, so there was a bit of fiddling needed to get the shoulders sitting comfortably but that is all part of construction; nothing is always straightforward and problem solving is a good skill to rely on!

I feel I grew in confidence after my sessions with Amanda because the way she worked and went throughout the construction process was almost identical to the way we were being taught in 1st year – I learnt different techniques and tricks of the trade and experienced what it would be like to be a freelance costume maker/designer; and I have to say I loved every minute of it!

The finished costume!

The finished costume!