Big Wig, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, focused on the history of wig making in the UK and its connection to our increasingly gender-fluid society. Inspired by the great work of The Little Princess Trust, who provide real-hair wigs to children and young adults facing hair-loss due to cancer treatment or other illnesses, the project connected our present to a past where wigs were sported as status symbols, demonstrate the use of wigs as similar statements of identity today, whilst simultaneously addressing gender stereotypes.
“The Big Wig project was a fantastic initiative which connected young people in Hereford with an aspect of their heritage that they knew little about before taking part, and how it relates to our society today. We’re delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we were able to fund such a wonderful project that gave the young people a great opportunity to visit some fantastic places on their journey through the history of wig-making, whilst still having lots of fun.”
Anne Jenkins, Director, England: Midlands & East, The National Lottery Heritage Fund
About the Big Wig Project:
Big Wig, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, looks to focus on the history of wig making in the UK and its connection to our increasingly gender-fluid society. Inspired by the great work of The Little Princess Trust, who provide real-hair wigs to children and young adults facing hair-loss due to cancer treatment or other illnesses, the project aims to connect our present to a past where wigs were sported as status symbols, demonstrate the use of wigs as similar statements of identity today, whilst simultaneously addressing gender stereotypes.
This project, working in partnership with The Little Princess Trust and Herefordshire Museum Service, is a great chance to connect young people to an oft-forgotten part of our national heritage, highlight the contemporary use of wigs as identity symbols in celebrity culture and debunk gender stereotypes that could prevent young boys suffering hair loss from accepting help from The Little Princess Trust.
The Big Wig team have worked alongside Aylestone High School and The Bishop Of Hereford’s Blue Coat School Year 8 pupils to deliver the project and build skills, experience and knowledge through life-changing access to filmmaking, production and website development experience. The pupils have engaged with the wig making history in the UK during their visits to The National Theatre, London's West End, Berrington Hall, Herefordshire Museum Service and even met Professor Emma Tarlo, an expert in historical wig-making and head of Anthropology at Goldsmiths University of London and Dr Emma Markiewicz, Head of Collections and Engagement and The National Archives, Kew. In taking part to produce the project, the pupils also gained an Arts Award, a unique qualification that supports young people to grow as artists and art leaders.
Watch the Big Wig films:
More from the Big Wig team:
“This has been a fantastic project from start to finish and we’re so proud of the journey the team and pupils have been on over the last 6 months. From the trip to The National Theatre and National Archives in London to meeting many educational hair-experts along the way, the learning process has been invaluable for not only the pupils, but for everyone involved. Our national heritage is something we love to showcase here at Rural Media and this project really feels at the heart of what we do. Big Wig is a project close to many hearts here at Rural Media and Herefordshire and we can’t wait to share the films with the public.” - Creative Director of Rural Media and Big Wig Executive Producer, Grant Black
“Big Wig was such a wonderful project to work on, looking at history, culture and aesthetics in a creative and fun way. I’m really glad the Wigs, Hair and Make-Up Department at The National Theatre could be involved in exploring the use of wigs as a narrative tool with the group and the possibilities of play and experimentation. Hair is such a liminal part of our self-styling, part body, part ornamentation and so carries a lot of messages about status, beauty and society across many cultures. At The National Theatre we are passionate about providing an environment for everyone to share their stories and innovative projects such as Big Wig are a perfect opportunity to introduce this concept to our next generation of story makers.” - Helen Casey, Head of the Wigs, Hair and Makeup Department, The National Theatre
“Big Wig gave the Education Team at The National Archives the opportunity to delve into historical documents and explore what they tell us about the subject of hair. Prison records revealed one man’s appeal to grow his hair before his release due to the ‘prejudicial effect’ his close cropped style would have on his ‘chances of obtaining employment’. Other documents showed how locks of hair were treasured as keep-sakes, as well as the connection between hair, culture and belief. It was a wonderful experience to work with such an engaged group of young people.” - Rachel Hillman, Education Operations Manager at The National Archives
“I was delighted to be a part of Big Wig, which gave the young people involved a diverse and varied look at all aspects of the rich cultural significance of hair. It was a privilege to talk to them on Wigs and Wig-Wearing in the Eighteenth Century as part of this wonderful project.” - Emma Markiewicz, Head of Archive Sector Development at The National Archives
“It has been great for our charity to work with the many wonderful different parties involved in the Big Wig project. It was particularly pleasing to hear how the inclusive nature of wigs stretches back through the ages – especially as we continue to spread our message that Little Princess Trust wigs are available to children of all genders. On a personal note, it was a thrill to meet the academic, Emma Tarlo, on her visit to the Museum Resource and Learning Centre in Hereford. I am a huge fan of her work and research so to listen to her presentation and then talk about wigs with such an expert was an informative and rewarding experience. Plus it was great to welcome children from the Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School and Aylestone School to our offices. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and we hope to use some of the video footage they made explaining The Little Princess Trust's work on our own website and social media channels shortly.” - Wendy Tarplee-Morris, Co-founder and Research Manager at The Little Princess Trust
“What a delightful, fun, informative and transformative project this has been. It has been wonderful to have the team of young people visiting the Museum Resource & Learning Centre to engage with ideas of historical image, hair styles and wigs and to use our facility for visiting speakers, filming and for engagement activities. The Big Wig projects has been a really successful way to tackle an issue that has such an impact on young lives and families affected by childhood illness and hair loss.” - Judy Stevenson, Team Leader at The Herefordshire Museum Service