College learners runway creations raise money for HIV awareness charity

A group of our creative learners will see their creations on the runway for a Drag Queen fashion show to raise money and awareness in support of World Aids day.

Nine budding costume construction learners from Coleg y Cymoedd have designed and created extravagant costumes and accessories to be showcased by professional drag queens for the live event taking place on World Aids Day on 1st December at Mary’s bar in Cardiff.

The second-year learners, who are all studying a level 5 foundation degree in Costume Construction for Screen & Stage, were tasked with bringing the drag queens to life for the fundraising event, which was organised in aid of Terrence Higgins Trust – the charity that campaigns to eradicate HIV, empower and support those living with the disease as well as eliminate the stigma and discrimination surrounding the illness.

Inspired by the popular reality competition RuPaul’s Drag Race, the ‘MaryTacular Fashion show’ saw the outfits modelled and judged by an expert panel, including established Cardiff drag queens Fanny Fierce and Polly Amorous, and artist Nathan Wyburn, who shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent after creating a portrait of judge Michael McIntyre using Marmite on toast.

Creating everything from sparkling bodices and sequined leotards to flamboyant headdresses and diamante heels, the up-and-coming costume makers from the Nantgarw campus constructed a total of 18 costumes for the fundraising event, with each learner creating two of their very own designs. The winning student will be unveiled on the night.

Iona Duff, 26, one of college learners involved in the show said: “Working on this show has been amazing and we were all excited to see our creations come to life at the live event.

“It’s been a fantastic experience that has been both fun and valuable for our professional development at the same time. Being used to working from set costume designs, having to create my own designs from scratch was a little intimidating and challenging at first, but allowed me to have more freedom to be creative than I would working from a design which was really enjoyable.

“It’s touching to that we are able to use our skills and passion to not only put on a great show, but to also help to raise money for charity.”

The idea behind the project came after course tutors Emma Embling and Caroline Thomas collaborated with former students Hazel May-Elstone, otherwise known as Cardiff drag queen ‘Pom Pom’, and Gordon Tovey, the owner of Mary’s who is passionate about AIDS awareness after losing friends to the disease.

Based at the college’s Nantgarw campus, the two-year specialist costume construction course at Coleg y Cymoedd, which is delivered in partnership with the University of South Wales, introduces learners to the cut and costume construction skills required within the areas of film and theatre.

Throughout the foundation degree, learners work on a variety of live projects to gain real life industry practice of costume design and production to boost their employability.  

Course leader, Emma Embling said: “Our learners will be showcasing some fabulous items on the runway at St Mary’s which will highlight their exceptional talents to members of the public and industry professionals.

“The event is a great opportunity for learners to not only gain some valuable practical experience, which will help them with their future careers, but to also play an active role in making a difference and raising awareness of a really important issue.  

“We’re all really excited for the night, which is set to be an extremely enjoyable night, and we encourage everyone to join us on to celebrate, have fun and raise money for a great cause in the process.”

The event, which is open to the public, took place on Friday 1st December from 7pm at Mary’s bar on St Mary’s Street in Cardiff.

For more information on the Foundation Degree in Costume Construction for Screen and Stage at Coleg y Cymoedd, please visit: /costumeconstruction



Wellington Street
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN


Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
CF15 7QY


Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
CF82 7XR

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