Life & Living
Sashay over to the Norfolk Showground on Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 October 2022
If you like fashion, you’ll love the Keeping Abreast ‘More Than Just Fashion’ Shows which will take place at the Norfolk Showground on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 October 2002. These exciting fashion evenings were formerly held at OPEN in Bank Plain, but as that venue has now closed, this year the models will be taking to the catwalk in a new, purpose-built area at the Norfolk Showground, put together by professional events company Production Bureau.
Twenty-four models will show off the latest autumn/winter styles from a range of local retailers including Jarrold, Scarlet, The Style Show and The Rock Collection. Plus some of the models will be wearing lingerie by Holt-based store Pollard & Read, and others will be accompanied down the catwalk by male models wearing menswear from John Lewis Norwich. Around half the models have been in the Fashion Shows before (they’re allowed to do it twice) while for others it’s their first time under the spotlights.
The difference about these fashion shows – apart from their scale – is that all the models have been through or are going through breast reconstruction following a breast cancer diagnosis or the discovery of a hereditary breast cancer gene. The Keeping Abreast ‘More Than Just Fashion’ Shows will take place during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and are organised by the Norwich-based breast cancer reconstruction charity Keeping Abreast, which started in the city in September 2007 and which is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary.
The charity now has face-to-face Support Groups around the country, and continues to have a strong presence in Norfolk, with Support and Outreach Groups now in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Stalham and Wymondham. There is also a wealth of breast reconstruction support on the charity’s website, www.keepingabreast.org.uk, including patient stories, FAQs and real-life reconstruction videos.
The charity was established by patients Anna Beckingham and Beverley Birritteri, and Breast Reconstruction Nurse Specialist Ruth Harcourt, who recognised a need for those newly diagnosed with breast cancer, facing the possibility of a mastectomy, and those considering reconstructive surgery, to be able to meet and talk to others who have been through similar experiences. This peer-to-peer support is also available by phone, email and online, with Keeping Abreast also often arranging ‘Zoom Speaker Sessions’ on different breast reconstruction-related subjects as well as well-being events such as free Reiki Healing Sessions and monthly Mindfulness classes.
The aim is to support breast reconstruction patients in as many ways as possible and the Fashion Shows – which used to take place every two years, but which were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic – are a chance for breast reconstruction patients to show that they can still look great and feel feminine despite having gone through major surgery.
The models are different ages and from different backgrounds, their common ground being that they have all faced breast reconstruction surgery. The Fashion Shows, which have an audience of several hundred people each night, are a wonderful way for them to celebrate the end of their treatment journeys and are a great bonding experience, and these events are open to everyone. As KA support & volunteer officer Carolyn Atkins said: “You don’t need to have any connection with breast cancer and breast reconstruction to come along to these events. The models have been through breast reconstruction and the Shows are a great way for them to celebrate the success of their treatment, but it’s also a chance for local shops to show their support by providing the clothes for each set. The Fashion Shows are a great way to find out what the latest looks will be, while supporting a very worthwhile cause.”
Fundraising officer Jenny Bond added: “The Fashion Shows are also an opportunity to raise funds for the charity to support its on-going work with breast reconstruction patients. Keeping Abreast doesn’t receive any Government funding and so events like these are crucial to its continuation. The Fashion Shows can be a key part of the models’ breast cancer and breast reconstruction journeys, but they are also a great night out for the families, friends and supporters. They’re open to everyone – if you like clothes, then come along!”
The last Keeping Abreast ‘More Than Just Fashion’ Shows took place in October 2018, and the next one should have been held in 2020 but, like so many other events, it had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Commenting on this year’s events, Keeping Abreast’s business development manager Kerry Kemp said: “It’s fantastic to see the Fashion Shows back in action again this year, after a four-year break. Anyone who has been to a Keeping Abreast ‘More Than Just Fashion’ Show before will know what a dynamic, vibrant, uplifting event this is, and with a new venue this year, and one or two surprises in store, the 2022 Shows are set to be even more special.”
One of the models, Danielle Day, said: “This is my second time as a model and I’m proud to be a part of such an amazing show” while fellow model Joanna Rudram said: “I’m looking forward to returning to the catwalk this year for KA” and the general consensus amongst the models is that this will be a moving, uplifting and perhaps rather emotional event, as well as a fun-filled evening.
Besides the fashion itself, the Fashion Shows include talks, music and dancing and there will also be a bar from Crabb & Fox, Express Coffee car, Cute Little Cupcakes counter and a Keeping Abreast merchandise stall. The models will strut their stuff on both evenings, showing off a series of different sets, from daywear, eveningwear, lingerie and partywear to outdoor wear, and the Shows will be hosted by two local TV presenters, Sascha Williams and Chris Page from ITV Anglia, who will be modelling outfits from Jarrold and John Lewis Norwich respectively.
Those familiar with Keeping Abreast will be aware that well-known local presenter Chris Bailey is a big supporter of the charity, and that he has recently been asked to become a patron of Keeping Abreast by the charity’s Trustees. Chris Bailey will act as the evening’s MC and, besides welcoming the models and speakers, he will also be introducing a team of dancers, together with a group of fashion students from City College Norwich who will be showing off some of their work.
The dancers will be from the Keeping Abreast Dance Challenge Team, made up of friends, family and supporters of the Fashion Show models who have been learning a dance routine over 10 consecutive weeks and who will be performing in front of the public on
both the Tuesday and the Wednesday. Besides learning their moves, the dancers have also secured sponsorship for their sessions to raise some money for the charity.
Meanwhile, this year’s Keeping Abreast ‘More Than Just Fashion’ Shows have been supported by a number of different companies, both local and national. The main sponsor of this year’s events is GC Aesthetics, while the supporting sponsors are Hansells Solicitors, Canny Screeding Ltd, Production Bureau, Viking Stage Lighting, Epic Event Hire and the Norfolk Showground.
Profits from the ticket sales will also go to help support those accessing the charity’s services and so the Keeping Abreast team is keen to sell as many tickets as possible. A highlight of the county’s social calendar, the Fashion Shows will take place from 7.30pm to 10pm and are open to everyone aged 14 and over. As Kerry Kemp added: “The Fashion Show is a fantastic night out while supporting a great cause. The Shows are usually a sell-out, so get your tickets soon!”
Tickets are selling fast, with standard tickets priced at £23.50 each, available from www.buytickets.at/keepingabreast/723799. Meanwhile, there is also a limited number of VIP tickets on offer, priced at £40, available from Jenny Bond at: email@example.com. Both sorts of tickets include a welcome drink, while the VIP tickets also include early entry, front row seating, canapés, a dedicated VIP area, a complimentary programme and a goody bag.
As Jenny Bond explained: “The Fashion Shows are a chance to raise much-needed funds for Keeping Abreast, which are always welcome, but they are also a valuable source of support for those involved. Previous models have commented on how uplifting and life-affirming they have found taking part in the Fashion Shows to be, and they are also a great way for family, friends and colleagues to show their support. Breast cancer and breast reconstruction are long, emotional, involved processes which can take their toll both physically and emotionally and so it’s fantastic to have these Fashion Shows to look forward to which not only showcase the wonderful clothes from retailers around the county but show that breast cancer can be beaten and that people can come out the other side feeling motivated and positive about the future.