If you were to bring to mind an image of political activism, chances are a jumble sale isn’t exactly what you’d picture. This summer though all that is set to change as on the 14th of August the Big Bum Jumble will arrive in Stratford, East London. The Big Bum Jumble is a landmark fatshion event – a sale of low-cost second-hand and vintage clothes in sizes XL and up (that’s a women’s size 18). Its organiser, fat activist Kay Hyatt, was inspired by similar events in the US such as the Fat Girl Flea in New York, and by the desire to forge some fat community spirit and find a pair of trousers that actually fit.
The Big Bum Jumble is an event with a clear practical purpose – to give fat people a chance to get cool stuff to wear, and to be able to choose it. From a selection! For many fatties, however comfortable you are with your size, clothes shopping can be frustrating, expensive and demoralising. Scarcity of large sizes on the high street can strip the shopping experience of its supposed fun or creative aspects (questionable though these pleasures may be), while the existence of a euphemistically named ‘plus size’ section doesn’t necessarily help the situation. Always tucked away at the back of the shop, the clothes are somehow less fun, more ugly and seemingly designed to accentuate retailers’ perception of you as a desperate, self-hating blob. The Big Bum Jumble aims to offer an abundance of styles and sizes, and encourages shoppers to try on something they usually wouldn’t dare to in a celebratory atmosphere free from shame and body-hatred.
Not only is the Big Bum Jumble an opportunity for bargain hunting and dressing up, but it will also provide a space for (fat) community building. With a month to go that has already started and the Big Bum Jumble already has a lively Facebook group and a blog. This element of the event is at least as important as stocking your Autumn/Winter wardrobe for the Big Bum Jumble is firmly located in a thriving fat activist movement in the UK. The event is being partly funded by last year’s Fat Of The Land queer harvest festival, and any proceeds from the jumble sale will go towards similar future events, for example the proposed 2012 Fattylympics. Aside from the sale the Big Bum Jumble day itself will feature a catwalk show with models and clothes found amongst the jumble, DJing from Unskinny Bop’s Tamsin & Ruth and ample space and time for making new friends and building new alliances.
While fat activism is still a relatively small world the growing number of blogs, zines, academic conferences and publications, not to mention vicious girl gangs (see www.chubstergang.com), speak to a political and personal need amongst many to contest mainstream views of fat as unhealthy, unattractive and unethical and challenge the validity of the idea that fat is a problem which requires a ‘cure’. These politics are deeply informed by other liberationist perspectives, be it feminist critiques of the body and medical science, queer strategies to reclaim pejorative labels, or riot grrrl-esque DIY culture. So you can begin to see how the temporary dose of consumerism the Big Bum Jumble is providing is part of a bigger ideal to create autonomous fat culture, re-use and recycle resources and resist mainstream ideals of beauty with their attendant fatphobia and gender-regulation. That image of activism just got a make-over, right?
Everyone is welcome at the Big Bum Jumble, whatever your size. Whether you like a bargain or a revolution, need to replace some falling-apart jeans or want to hang out with cool fat folks it looks like being a day to remember. See you there!
Big Bum Jumble takes place on Saturday August 14th at Stratford Circus from 12-5pm.