I was recently able to sit down with this year’s DONT WALK board of five directors to get an inside look into the inspiration and process behind one of the UK’s biggest charity fashion shows. The all-female board — a rarity in the 20 years of the charity’s history — laid out their goals for the year ahead, as well as some of the changes being made.
What is DONT WALK?
DONT WALK puts forward what they call “The Show” – a culmination of a year’s worth of events into one massive artistic performance combining art, fashion, social commentary, music, and more. It is a student-run organization that donates 100% of profit to charity, as Alex Wolf, the Finance and Sponsorship Director, explained to me. Each year, the organization starts anew, drawing sponsors, reconsidering which charities to donate to, and orchestrating events.
What changes are the Directors focused on this year?
One of the biggest changes that DONT WALK’s board is focused on this year is ensuring, as Executive Director Grace Dreher put it, that “all of the committee, all of our models, and all guests feel safe at every event we host.” In order to focus on this, the board opted to undergo additional GotConsent training specifically catered to the event, aiming to cover as many potential situations and responses as possible. Additionally, DONT WALK will be adding clearly visible ‘sober areas’ to their events in order to give people a place to go for resources or assistance in leaving an uncomfortable situation. Other measures are being continued from previous years, such as an intense vetting process for the hired security, and a partnership with a first aid charity. When asked why there was such an emphasis on safety and assault prevention this year, the board agreed that these kinds of changes were born out of a sense of responsibility to use their platform to initiate positive change. An all female board, they were acutely aware of the spheres in which these changes were most needed.
What charities will DONT WALK be working with this year?
This year, DONT WALK will be contributing to Impact Arts and the Domestic Violence Project of the Urban Justice Center. Impact Arts, as stated on their website, “is a forward-thinking community arts organisation which uses the arts and creativity to enable and empower social change.” Much like DONT WALK itself, Impact Arts uses artistic endeavours to address inequalities and to encourage others to think and act creatively. The Urban Justice Center is a New York-based charity, and their Domestic Violence Project focuses on legal services and advocacy efforts on behalf of survivors of domestic violence. While there are numerous charities to which DONT WALK contributes, these are their two main focuses this year.
However, my biggest takeaway from our discussion was just how involved and passionate this year’s board of directors seem to be. When asked about their specific goals for this year’s “Show’,’ the directors continued to emphasize the importance of social change. The question the directors seemed to be constantly challenging themselves to answer was how to continue to make social change not just a by-product of The Show, but the main subject. As Events Director Zoë Ellison stated, “it’s such a labor of love, everyone puts their soul into it which I think you can really see in the final event.” It’s clear that this year’s board of directors are dedicated to producing a fantastic show, and I for one cannot wait to witness all their hard work in person.