Annabel Heseltine, the School House editor, meets the students who used lockdown as an opportunity to hone their skills and make money for charity
Augusta Williams – Drawing for the NHS
Augusta, or Gusty, 21, was in her third year at Oxford Brookes studying criminology when COVID-19 sent her packing. Not one to be trounced however, and with a strong entrepreneurial streak already honed from a former business when she upcycled vintage clothing, Gusty exercised another of her talents. When her mother, gallerist Alexandra Williams, saw her daughter’s drawings she suggested she sell her work. But Gusty, an Old Oundelian, went a step further and was inspired by her mother’s own fundraising efforts to give NHS workers a hot meal after their incredibly long shifts. ‘I knew my mother was struggling to reach the £4,000 a week target, so I decided to help by donating 25 per cent of what I made to Food for Heroes.’ Gusty, who has been invited to exhibit at Gallery Eight in Duke Street, London, has raised £325 so far and is continuing to donate money from her drawing, most recently to Refuge, which supports victims of domestic violence, and the Beirut Appeal, run by Red Cross Lebanon. ‘All charities are important, but I am choosing ones that really need help at that moment.’
Alfred & Amber Fletcher – Pandemic Pizza
Pandemic Pizza hit the news big time when the two Fletchers – Old Etonian Alfie, 20, who is studying English literature at Trinity College, Dublin and his sister Amber, 19 – took their old school Land Rover to Trafalgar Square and sold pizzas to raise money for the NHS. Like all good ideas, it started over a kitchen supper when the two students and Alfie’s girlfriend, Allegra della Ragione, 19, were complaining about the dearth of pizzas around and wondering, at the same time, how they could bring joy to people. An idea took hold, and dusting down a rusty old BBQ they started practising. ‘We spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos; Alfie got obsessed with making the perfect Neopolitan pizza,’ says Amber, who was at Dauntsey’s and has just secured a place at Bristol to study human geography. Finally, when even Alfie conceded the pizzas were ready for public consumption, they popped the dough and the oven into the back of their car and set up shop outside hospitals and homeless shelters in Wiltshire giving away free pizzas. Supported by an initial cash injection from GoFundMe and local wholesalers, the students soon found themselves giving back in spades. ‘For every three pounds donated we sold one pizza for six pounds and gave away another one for free,’ explains Amber, who calculated that their usual capacity was about 40 pizzas a day, although they sold 200 on their visit to Trafalgar Square. Having raised £5,000, they have given away over 2,000 pizzas and counting.
Gemma Harrison – Upcycling For Charity
In a way, lockdown was a blessing in disguise for Gemma Harrison, who is a second year student at Leeds University studying textile design, which she says, ‘gave me so much time to get started with my company’. Now her company Dappled Shade upcycles vintage fabrics and old clothes as make-up bags, head bands and masks. ‘I have always made things for my friends and family, and I’ve always been very focused on sustainability and recycling, so my family encouraged me to turn it into a business’, says the Old Oundelian. ‘My granny was amazing; she’s into everything arty you can imagine, but now focuses on painting, making rag rugs and tapestry. She does less sewing these days, so she gave me all her old fabrics.’ It was only natural that Gemma would extend her entrepreneurial instincts to donating to charity after she was nominated to take part in the Run Five, Donate Five, Nominate Five challenge on Instagram, for the charity Run for Heroes. Gemma donate 15 per cent of her earnings to charity including the Lebanese Red Cross, but plans to focuson environmental charities in the future.
Coco Slemek & Lola – Cooking for Carers
Coco Slemek is passionate about cooking and doesn’t stop; she even had to be hauled out of a pub kitchen for this interview. But, if she hadn’t been banished from the Irish cooking school, Ballymaloe, because of a certain pandemic, she might not have gone commercial so quickly. Coco and Lola – who went to Dean Close in Cheltenham and is studying history of art at Trinity College, Dublin – live in neighbouring villages in the Cotswolds and both went to Ballymaloe, albeit at different times, so their shared passion for cooking might never have been discovered were it not for a chance meeting. ‘Lola was in New Zealand when the pandemic hit and I missed the last two weeks of my course,’ says Coco, who left Cheltenham Ladies College a year ago and is heading off to Newcastle to read Spanish and Portugese this term. Together they came up with the idea of practising some of their newly acquired skills and started selling croissants, sausage rolls, pastries, sourdough bread and apple-turnovers from the gates of their home, using Coco’s mother’s gallery kitchen as their headquarters, with strictly enforced social-distancing and sanitisers everywhere. It started with a pop-up on Saturdays advertised on Instagram and posters they put up locally – they sold out within an hour. ‘We never expected so many people,’ says Lola, who told me they made around £3,000 a month to go towards helping the NHS from the pop-up and from running a delivery service every Wednesday to people’s homes.
Jude Fry & Henry Heneage – Pass It On
Want to buy a secondhand Harrovian’s tailcoat or a Marlborough tweed jacket? Then look no further than Pass it On. Old Marlburians, Jude Fry and Henry Heneage, both 19, always knew they would go into business together, having started thinking about it while they were still in school, planning websites and writing Ts&Cs between A-levels. ‘We would sneak off between lessons to chat through our ideas. I think some people thought we were having a secret affair,’ said Jude, who is off to study politics at Newcastle. But it wasn’t until the pandemic cut short an exciting gap year – a 170 metre bungee-jump in Nepal, travelling around Asia and being forced to return home from Thailand via Abu Dhabi, Athens and Paris on a 46-hour journey that involved wrapping themselves in bubble wrap and sleeping on a VIP red carpet behind a kiosk in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport – that the boys were ready to put their idea into action. ‘Parents are paying too much for uniform and books, and very few schools provide a secondhand selling forum,’ says Henry, who is reading international relations at Exeter. Pass it On provides a peer-to-peer market whose members can upload and sell the kit they no longer need when they leave school, explains Jude. The plan is to keep working through university, uploading everything from desk lamps to sports kit for sale, donating a part of their uploading service charges to charities in need at the time.
This article was originally published in the 2020 Autumn/Winter issue of School House Magazine
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