Children in Crisis

In the mid nineties, I visited war torn Bosnia for my first presenter/director film for the BBC.

We had created a national call for new or nearly new clothes through the BBC's Clothes Show programme. We purposely did it at Christmas to appeal to teens who might have received clothing items as presents that didn't appeal. We got an overwhelming 13 lorry loads of clothing which I personally travelled with to deliver supplies to a refugee camp, 30 miles away from Mostar where the fighting was taking place. Children in Crisis had approached me to front the campaign, I also got my first chance to direct as no directors could be found to accompany me at the time. Funny that!

Most fashion editors get to travel but not through the mountains in a convoy of lorries at midnight with the headlights turned off to avoid snipers. I don't know what should have worried me more...stray bullets or the thought of falling off the side of the mountain... The stony pass was unlit by nothing more than a slither of moon you see.

After helping to unload everything in the rain the next day, I visited 10 makeshift homes over the course of a week, inhabited by Serbian families who had been marched out of their village at gunpoint. Some were in a complete state of bewilderment, their Bosnian  neighbours of many years, had initiated a revenge act, fuelled by old wounds leftover from the 1936-45 European War. Some told of stories of older brothers and husbands being shot, of sleeping on concrete floors in the freezing cold, under gun point, of loosing everything they had and seeing their homes go up in flames as they left.

Talking to the younger teenage boys, who had very little clothing because most of it was appropriated by the makeshift Serbian Army, I was reminded how important identity and promotion of self is for is all, but, especially the young. It's currency as well as facilitating an outward expression personality. Image is the language we all speak without moving our lips. They came alive when given a gift of some fashionable shoes (good old Dr Martens to be precise)...things they connected with their old life. The simple act of redressing themselves in contemporary, clean and new and most importantly fashionable items was rejuvenating, even just a tiny bit healing.

I made my film. I came home and edited it and it went out to an audience of 13 million. I can still remember the joy in the make shift shelter as the boxes of clothing were opened.

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