Two Birmingham women proving there really is life after 50 have been selected by retail giant Selfridges to showcase the work they have created through their newly adopted hobbies.
A teaching assistant-turned-textile artist and actress-turned-chairmaker have been selected from hundreds of entries to be part of Selfridges’ ‘Bright Old Things’ campaign - a spin-off from the store’s annual ‘Bright Young Things’ initiative, which celebrates and promotes up-and-coming UK talent.
The campaign sees the creative talents of 53-year-old Sally Peplow and 60-year-old Den Woods’ showcased to thousands of shoppers at Selfridges Birmingham, with their handiwork taking pride of place in the store’s newly-installed 360 degree windows - the first thing shoppers see when they approach the store through the Bullring shopping centre - for six weeks.
Having dedicated most of their lives to a single career - teaching for Sally and acting for Den (who might be better known to Doctors fans as Angie Briggs) - in recent years, both decided to throw caution to the wind and pursue their passions.
The campaign coincides with the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which identified a self-employment revolution among older workers, with the majority of new entrepreneurs over the previous five years aged 50 plus. The number of people working beyond state pension age has also nearly doubled in the past 20 years to 1.4 million.
Sally, who worked as a teaching assistant in Birmingham schools for 18 years, opted to embark upon a course in Fine Art Textiles followed by a degree at Birmingham City University after realising that spectacular school displays were just the tip of the iceberg of her creative potential.
Den did a career U-turn after stumbling upon, and lovingly restoring, an old unwanted chair. Using only the finest materials sourced from around the world, Den is now on chair number nine - with the fruits of her hobby selling for almost £3,000 a piece.
The initiative, which champions both the boldness and the talent of mature creatives who have gone against the grain and are enjoying a later-in-life career renaissance, provides a ‘window into the world’ of Sally and Den, who have collaborated with Selfridges’ creative team to design and execute their dream displays, showcasing the Brum duo’s world-class but little-known talents to the masses.
Speaking of her installation, which fills the store’s 3.5m tall, 8m wide curved glass window display located at the main entrance on Level 3 from the Bullring shopping centre, Sally said: “I am over the moon with my window. It is absolutely what it wanted to be - fun, exciting and vibrant. I’m so proud of it and feel extremely grateful - I’m just a mature student from Birmingham and now I’ve been gifted this incredible opportunity. It’s a real moment for me.”
Den’s dynamic display, which sees two of her handmade chairs sitting under a large wooden tree, dominates the Level 2 store entrance. Of the project Den said: “I am really happy to have had the opportunity to work with the wonderful creative team at Selfridges, who have completely realised my visions for both my window in Birmingham and in London. Both are exactly as I’d hoped and truly reflect my work and passion.”
Ruth Harris, general manager at Selfridges Birmingham, said: “We are proud to be part of, and reside in, Birmingham - a city that is famous for innovation, manufacturing and, more recently, its burgeoning creative industries. Traditionally Selfridges has shone a spotlight on the wealth of young talent in the UK, but this year we are doing things a little differently, proving that even those with considerable life and career experience can be the ‘next big thing’.
“Den and Sally are both hugely inspiring women - it takes guts to change career no matter what age, but these pair have proven that age is nothing but a number. They’ve found their callings later in life, and we’re only too pleased to give them the stage they deserve to showcase their fantastic and unique creative curiosities. We urge people to come and see our new store windows - they are truly beautiful works of art.”