Volunteers are sew talented

Volunteers are vital to the work of the RSPB, and undertake roles as varied as conservation to copy-writing and catering. But it’s not often they’re asked to produce medieval costumes.

But ask we did – and in true style – they came out in force to answer the call! The outfits will be worn by costumed guides in the forest once we have opened our new centre. They’ll be tasked with sharing stories with our visitors about forest life, from Robin Hood to the many species that make Sherwood their home.

More than 30 keen costume-makers have already begun the task of building up a wardrobe of outfits – with those taking part ranging from 20-something students to amateur dress-makers with a life-long passion for sewing.

Each has brought along their sewing machine to workshops led by professional costumier, Anne Ryan, who has taken on the challenge of designing the new costumes.

Anne, who ran her own historical costume company for more than 30 years, providing outfits for a host of settings, from films and theatre to museums and exhibitions, is proud of her Nottinghamshire roots, and was keen to volunteer herself, to ensure the job is done right.
“I said I would only get involved if what we were doing was authentic. I know that Sherwood Forest is visited by people from around the world, who come to Nottinghamshire with their own expectations of what Robin Hood who’ve worn, and I wanted to make sure we were doing it right!” she explained.

“I’ve used my knowledge of clothing from that time, combined with some practical elements that need to be considered, as people will be wearing these throughout the year, together with what I know about the colours, the cloth and the shapes of that era.

“There are a couple of adaptions – for instance, we thought a modern-day man might not be so comfortable with the leggings worn at that time, which are more like tights, so we’ve made them a little less fitted, but everything has been done to combine practicality with authenticity, both of which are essential.”

Molly Stallard is a student at Notts Trent University, in the second year of a degree in costume design and making.
She got involved in the project as she liked the historical costume aspect to it, and admitted her dad is a huge Robin Hood fan.
“He was so excited when he heard I was doing this! He can’t wait to come and see people wearing the costumes I’ve helped to make – he’ll be telling everyone too, I’m sure!”

Another volunteer is Margaret Keep, who has travelled to Sherwood from Derby to get involved in the costume workshops, having seen them advertised in an RSPB local group newsletter. “I used to make my own clothes, and my children’s clothes, I’ve made jackets for my husband. But nothing quite as unusual or exciting as this!”

For more details about future workshops, or how to get involved in volunteering at Sherwood, please contact paul.cowley@rspb.org.uk