Shaftesbury’s Amateur Models Taking To The Catwalk For Charity

You might expect the proprietor of a women’s fashion and footwear shop to know about all styles, stocktaking and VAT. You wouldn’t think the roles of ‘event organiser’ or ‘show producer’ would form part of the job description. But over the last 21 years, Shirley Allum has had to develop those additional skills. And she’s become rather good at her extra duties.

Shirley has arranged many fundraising fashion shows for causes that are close to her heart or important to her loyal customers. “The last one we did, we raised enough money to put the kitchen in the hospice in Poole. One of our models died there about two months before the show. She asked us if we could raise the money, which we did,” said Shirley.

The next fashion show is an exciting new departure for Shirley and her team of helpers. On 19th September she is hosting two shows, an afternoon and an evening event, in a new venue – Shaftesbury Arts Centre.

Shirley Allum

Shirley is modest when asked what first-time attendees can expect. “We’re all amateurs. We’re all volunteers. Nobody gets paid to do it. Every penny of your ticket money, £15, will go to the cause,” Shirley said. “We pay to put the show on and all money goes to charity. Everybody is on a bit of a high with raising money and having a bit of fun at the same time.”

Shirley says that planning and rehearsing the show is a team effort amongst her staff and friends. “All the people involved have an input into it. I start the ball rolling and they will say what they like to do. One of my girls has chosen a lot of the music. Another one is doing the props. One is helping the girls to get ready to go on stage. They do what they feel capable or comfortable of doing. There are lots of people involved. The Arts Centre have been amazing to help us put the show on. They have been one of the most helpful venues we’ve been to,” Shirley said.

The two shows will be well-polished performances, complete with a compere who will inform the audience about what is being modelled on stage. “Val will tell them the brands. Samantha, our local singer, will start and finish our afternoon show. She is excellent. I’m afraid she can’t do the evening because she has other commitments,” said Shirley. “We have about 22 models, including two men. We are not selling anything. It’s all about going out with a smile on your face and a good afternoon or evening’s entertainment.”

Show goers can call into Shirley’s shop the next day and buy the clothes that they have seen on the catwalk. Shirley says that she is keen to present styles that suit real people. “We haven’t got professional models. They are all amateur. And we put sizes 8 to 24 on the catwalk. Hopefully people will see themselves, rather than stick-thin models. They’ll see normal sizes and normal, everyday people,” Shirley offered.

When the audience arrives, they will be given a complimentary drink and a free gift, before curtain-up. “All the music this year is taken from different theatre shows. Last year we did the circus, but because we are at the Arts Centre this time, we thought theatre was the way to go.”

All of the money raised will go to good causes. Shaftesbury Arts Centre, the venue, will be one of the beneficiaries. “Because they’ve been so supportive to us, helping us with props and all the things that we may need, we wanted to support them. They need help with their leaky roof so 20% will go to Shaftesbury Arts Centre,” said Shirley.

“We’ll try and raise a little bit more for them with our raffles. We have fabulous prizes – from £250 vouchers for Joseph Ribkoff right through to £50 vouchers to spend in the shop. The majority of the ticket money is going to Brain Tumour Research,” said Shirley.

I asked Shirley why they chose that charity. “Brain Tumour Research don’t get any funds from the government. As we have raised £68,000 in the past, we have given lots of money to breast cancer because we have the mastectomy department in the shop. One of our customers, and in fact one of my cousins, died of a brain tumour. They don’t get help. We raised a couple of hundred pounds for them a few weeks ago with ‘wear a hat day’, when we all wore a hat in here on the Saturday. They were so appreciative. I wanted to give a little bit more.”

The show is on Wednesday 19th September at Shaftesbury Arts Centre at 2.30pm and again at 7pm. It lasts approximately 75 minutes. Shirley says the amount raised will depend on ticket sales. “If we sell out of both afternoon and evening performances, we could raise in excess of £5,000. We have to get people behind us. If they buy the tickets, we’ll reach the target.”

Tickets are available only from Shirley Allum’s store and not from Shaftesbury Arts Centre. And men are allowed! “It’s primarily women but we still get men who come and enjoy it,” Shirley said.