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The next generation of footwear fashionistas took a step back in time to learn how well-heeled 15th century women displayed their social standing by showing off their shoes.

Footwear manufacturing apprentices at Northampton College were given a sneak peek at a pair of 12 inch platform shoes being created by a historical shoemaker to go on display at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery next year.

The Venetian chopines are currently being made by Andy Burke, thanks to funding from the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. He unveiled them for the first time during a workshop and practical session held at Booth Lane, where he discussed his work and the historic and heritage elements of shoe making.

Rebecca Shawcross, senior shoe curator at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, said: “Chopines are platform shoes that were worn by women in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. They were very popular in Venice and made with a very tall platform to protect the dress from mud and street dirt. The size of the chopines was made according to the status of the wearer – the higher the platform, the higher the social status.

“We have more than 15,000 shoes in our collection but we still have some significant gaps which are unlikely to be filled through donation or loan. Although the collection contains a 1960s reproduction of a low platform chopine, we don’t have an example that shows the amazing heights they could reach.”

Students currently undertaking apprenticeship with globally-renowned Northampton-based footwear brands Church’s and Loake Bros were able to examine the chopines at first hand and learn more about the techniques involved in recreating a style of shoe so popular more than 500 years ago.

Colin Needle, employee development executive at Northampton College, said: “Our apprentices are used to getting hands-on and understanding how shoes are made in the 21st century so being able to take a step back in time and learn more about the historical side of the industry is a really good experience for them.

“Discovering the heritage of shoemaking and seeing how styles have evolved over hundreds of years is vital. We’re thrilled to have been able to see these stunning chopines during their development stage and look forward to seeing the finished product.”

Councillor Anna King, cabinet member for community engagement, said: “We are extremely grateful to the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers for the grant of £1,200 which has allowed this project to take place and introduce an important new piece to the museum’s collection. The chopines will be on display in the history of shoe fashion cases in the new shoe gallery when the museum re-opens in spring 2020 after an extensive re-development project.”

big rig for web

The next generation of scientists, engineers and construction specialists will come together to take part in a week-long series of innovative challenges and workshops being held at Northampton College.

The Construction Engineering Festival will take place from June 17 to June 21 at the college’s Booth Lane headquarters and will see students from schools across the county have a go at challenges set by Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin and Gabriel Stroud, a former winner of Robot Wars.

Teams will also be asked to design and install a hot water system capable of running a shower and emerge as part of The Big Rig – a low carbon challenge which first took place as a standalone event at the college last year.

Principal of Northampton College, Pat Brennan-Barrett, said: “The success of last year’s inaugural event showed the appetite for STEM subjects in Northamptonshire and we look forward to igniting the spark in a new set of students and inspire them to consider science, construction or engineering courses in the future.

“The event recognizes the power of partnerships between education and industry, providing pupils with the opportunity to learn directly from those actively working in STEM-related careers. We want to create a future workforce capable of thinking for themselves, solving problems quickly and efficiently and using technology to create innovative new ways of doing business.”

The festival will feature an innovation workshop led by the award-winning, industry-led organisation TeenTech. The session will help students better understand the concept of ‘connected cities’ and they will be challenged to design a device for the ‘internet of things’.

Gabriel Stroud, team captain of winning Robot Wars challenger ‘Sabretooth’, will discuss his career and how he acquired the skills to build a successful fighting robot.

Sophie Dale, from Kettering Buccleuch Academy – one of the schools due to take part in the festival – said: “These events are invaluable when it comes to igniting a spark in our future generation and encouraging them into much-needed STEM careers.”

Students will also get the chance to enjoy a series of taster sessions to experience what life could be like on a STEM course at college, with opportunities to try a virtual welding simulator, build a brick wall, get to grips with plumbing techniques and use scientific theories to predict volcanic eruptions.

The festival is being backed by a host of local employers, eager to meet their potential future workforce. Companies represented include Kier, Briggs & Forrester, Higgins, Opus Energy, Taylor Wimpey and Metcalf Commercial Decorators.

Paul Nelson, from sponsors Kier, said: “There is a major skills gap in the construction industry and events such as The Big Rig are vital in inspiring the next generation, giving students an opportunity to get hands-on and gain invaluable experience of a replicated workplace environment.”

Northampton College will open a £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre at Booth Lane later this year. The centre will help train the next generation of construction industry professionals including builders, plumbers, carpenters and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping future workers with the very latest skills.

Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.

west end wondersUp-and-coming stars of the stage will showcase their talents at the Northampton College end of year musical theatre show, performing some of the West End’s biggest hits.

Level Three students will take to the stage at the Cripps Hall Theatre at Northampton School for Boys as they embark on a musical journey through the wonders of the West End, with songs and performances from classic shows such as Hairspray, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Chicago and Jekyll and Hyde.

Performances of ‘West End Wonders’ will take place on Friday, 14 June and Saturday, 15 June with both shows starting at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10 and are available online by clicking here.

Musical theatre tutor Suzanne Bushen said: “I’m incredibly proud of this group, they have worked so hard over the past year and I’m confident we have got some stars of the future. They have all got the talent and work ethic to make it to the very top and this show is a great opportunity to catch them before they appear on some of the biggest stages in the world.”

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Kathryn Holmes

Kathryn Holmes

Kathryn Holmes was part way through a professional chef’s diploma at Northampton College when she realised a career in the kitchen wasn’t for her. Rather than letting her give up, staff...

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