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Celebrity-backed auction to fund craft studio for children in Edgware

A national pottery auction backed by the UK’s leading makers and celebrities will fund life-changing classes for children in Edgware.

The online auction, known as FiredUp4, will include 50 unique ceramic artworks donated to fund new pottery studios for children from OnSide Youth Zones.

FiredUp4, founded by artist Kate Malone MBE and backed by DJ Sara Cox, comedian Johnny Vegas and House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is aiming to raise £150,000 for facilities, tutors and classes at Unitas Youth Zone in Edgware as well as Future Youth Zone in Dagenham and Warrington Youth Zone.

The event raised more than £100,000 when it was first held in 2020, funding studios at Youth Zones in Chorley and Wigan where classes have been provided after school for the past year.

2022’s auction looks set to be an exciting event as the 50 pieces donated include works by the UK’s leading makers such as Edmund de Waal; Dame Zandra Rhodes; Jennifer Lee; Andrew Wicks and Great Pottery Throw Down judge, Rich Miller.

Kate said clay had the power to ignite a spark in children and young people and the classes were about much more than the end-product.

She said: “This project reaches young people who don’t usually have access to ceramic studios, providing them with opportunities to explore their passions and unlock their potential. This is where art can make a difference.”

Classes at Inspire, Chorley Youth Zone, take place for one to two hours a week for four weeks, involving up to six children or young people.

Christine Cherry, a contestant on the latest series of Channel 4’s The Great Pottery Throw Down, leads the classes at Inspire and said the craft makes a huge impact on emotional wellbeing.

She said: “Working with pottery makes a massive difference to the children who come to classes. Some of them are too shy to speak to me when they start and they really open up the more they attend.

“Clay isn’t precious, it’s not pressured. Give children a pencil and they can panic because they think they can’t make a mistake, but they can do whatever they want with clay.

“Schools have got rid of their kilns and don’t tend to have wheels, so to provide something like this – with the impact it can have on children and young people – is incredible. Clay is a dying trade and we want to be able to celebrate clay as an artform and discover the makers of tomorrow.”

Onside Youth Zones have shown to have an impact on the wellbeing of members with 77% noting they are more self-confident and 70% consider themselves to be healthier.

Ella Pullen, ten, has been part of the class since the start. She said: “I like the freedom you get with clay. I feel relaxed and calm because of the feeling of the texture of the clay and I always look forward to coming to the classes after school.”

Ellie Spencer, nine, said she enjoyed coming to the class with Christine. “You can make new friends and try new things,” she said. “It makes me happy to be here and even if my pot doesn’t turn out right I’ve still had a nice time with my friends.”

Ten-year-old Ashley McClean said she was proud of the clay pots she had made since attending the classes, which are now displayed in her home.

She said: “If anyone was thinking of coming to pottery classes I’d say just do it. If you get angry easily, you could come because it’s calming. I look forward to coming here every week.”

Bidding will go live during London Craft Week, May 9 and will be auctioned by Maak on May 27. Lots can be viewed at www.firedup4.com