Today (Saturday 28th January 2023), Plymouth’s own Laureate of Words, Laura Horton launched a new interactive, community campaign entitled Hidden By Things; encouraging individuals to donate items of clothing that have a story connected to them. By using digital storytelling, this unique process aims to raise awareness of collecting and hoarding behaviours, something that Laura herself has struggled with and has deep-rooted connections with as the brains behind Hidden By Things.
The campaign’s official launch was marked today by an event that took place on Mutley Plain at the Shekinah Vintage Charity Shop. Between the hours of 10am to 1pm; participants were encouraged to bring an item of clothing for donation with a story attached, who were then given a label to sew in. Through the use of this labelling system, whoever buys your piece will be able to find the story online at www.hiddenbythings.com.
When explaining the concept, Laura expressed that “The idea was born out of my play, Breathless and the fact that I’ve got hoarding behaviours. I was speaking to a lot of people who kept saying that one of the things that would stop them donating was that they were scared to let go of a piece of their social history. I saw that there was something in that because often; when you’re in charity shops, you buy something and you wonder what the story is behind it. Who wore this? Where did they wear it? What happened to their life? I find that everyone’s lives are fascinating.”
The project is being backed by digital agency, The Space, a company that supports arts, cultural and heritage organisations across the UK to build skills and produce digital creative content for online and broadcast platforms; allowing Laura to broaden the horizons of this project, alongside her Fringe First play, Breathless to develop a podcast, also entitled Hidden By Things that will be launching soon on all online music streaming platforms.
Through the support of the agency, she’s had the capability to be connected to individuals with similar stories to her own. This addition to the campaign allows those not ready to share their stories to listen to the open and honest conversations between herself and guest speakers to really uncover and destigmatize the ideas that surround hoarding behaviours.
“It’s been really nice to talk to my guests; including Paul Cooper (known for This Country) and Kimi Gordon (Advocate from Hoarding UK). Everyone I’ve spoken to has a different experience–some have more extreme hoarding behaviours, some people have had similar experiences to me. Paul works with Hoarding Disorders UK, and Kimi for Hoarding UK, so they’re bringing another level of experience to it so they can advise further. I’m also speaking to people who have had parents who hoard and people who have been in the play (Breathless) who have learnt about hoarding through being involved. It’s been really nice and I hope to grow that by talking to people with different levels of experience.”
The stories attached to each item of clothing donated are truly unique to the individuals behind them; who’s stories will be shared via the website. These can range from anything from: a dream, a memory, an anecdote, or anything special you wish to share. Should you wish to donate, but remain anonymous; this is also a versatile option from the project. With the amount of items slowly amassing, Laura is accepting donations via in-person events around the UK, where you can bring items to donate and share your story directly with her.
However, should you not be able to attend an event, the website is available as an online alternative where you can fill out a digital form with your details. You’ll then be sent a Hidden By Things fabric label, linking to the campaign, to hand sew into the item. Taking the item to a charity shop, or selling it via on online marketplace yourself, Laura encourages the use of social media and the hashtag #HiddenByThings to tell her where you’ve left the item; making this an idea that has possibilities all across the UK, and even possibly overseas as it goes into further development.
“I think seeing different stories, especially the sliding scale of different people’s experiences, lifestyles and stories is so important. Nobody is born a hoarder, you’re not born wanting a collection of things, they just build up over time. There’s such common stigmatisation that people with hoarding behaviours are old, dirty and mad; it’s really, really unhelpful because nobody wants to associate with it! I’m hoping that by showing different stories, especially with this label campaign will show that we’re collecting and sharing many, many, many different stories. I’m sure there will be people among those that donate that have hoarding behaviours. This campaign is hopeful, it allows the scope for people to change and that there is a way out if you want it.”
With each story being documented on Laura’s website, Hidden By Things as an overall campaign has the potential to carry stories for a plentiful amount of years. Through sharing personal, deep-rooted connections to clothes; all inspired by her own experience of having an abundance of items, this is truly a personal project for Laura and anyone connected to it through donations. Items donated so far have ranged from: Tap shoes, Band t-shirts, 80’s dresses, Vintage belts and a Ghostbusters print hoodie; all holding truly valuable backstories, now being shared to hundreds.
The usage of a truly unique narrative, personal and digital storytelling device is an incredibly simple, yet effective idea developed by Laura, who encourages everyone to delve into the wonders and fascination of the campaign and read-on further than just the history behind the item of clothing they’ve happened to stumble across on a second-hand marketplace.
“I hope to speak to lots of people through this project. I think it’ll be one of those things that starts small and builds big, but I have high ambitions for it. Plymouth was a great place to start it as I’m from here but we’re going to London soon as well, as well as some other places. The Space have been amazing; and with the launch we can now keep growing it to reach as many people as possible.”
Do you have a piece at home that you don’t know what to do with that’s got a story? Something you once loved but haven’t worn in years? Get in touch with Laura Horton and the team behind Hidden By Things, either on the brand new website, www.hiddenbythings.com or via Instagram @hiddenbythings.