Category Archives: Charity shop research

Secondhand Cultures in Unsettled Times – 15-16 June 2021 – Symposium Report and New Announcements

The Secondhand Cultures in Unsettled Times Symposium, held online 15-16 June 2021, brought researchers and practitioners from around the world together to talk about pressing issues related to secondhand cultures and economies.

Many thanks to all of the brilliant presenters. The symposium was co-organised by Dr Jennifer Ayres (NYU), Dr Triona Fitton (University of Kent), and Dr Alida Payson (Cardiff University), with the help of research assistant and JOMEC BA grad Kamila Buczek. It was supported by The Leverhulme Trust and Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media & Culture (JOMEC).

If you missed the 2021 symposium, see the short programme below!

The symposium has led to some exciting new connections and a growing Secondhand Research Network. We have some research network activities coming up in 2022:

Follow @2ndhandcultures on Instagram and Twitter to get involved and keep in touch.

Secondhand Cultures in Unsettled Times

Day 1  –  15 June 2021

Welcome and Introduction to the symposium with co-organisers Dr Jen Ayres, Dr Triona Fitton (University of Kent), Dr Alida Payson (Cardiff University) and Kamila Buczek (Cardiff University)


Introductory Workshop: Well-Worn: Falling Back in Love With Our Clothes

Wendy Ward (Independent practitioner /author)
◊ Show and tell and reflection session. Participants can bring (or wear!) to the workshop an item of well-worn and/or well-used clothing.


1.1 FABSCRAP Textile Journeys

  • Dhamar Romo Chavez (FABSCRAP Community Coordinator) Textile journeys: One-stop textile reuse and recycling enterprise providing fabric scrap pick-ups, sorting, consolidation, and recycling in New York City


1.2 Panel – The meanings of second-hand buying and selling in modern England

Chair: Dr Henry Irving (Leeds Beckett University)


1.3 Global fashion cultures

Chair: Professor Hazel Clark (Parsons, The New School)

  • Dr Aulia Rahmawati, Syafrida N. Febriyanti and Ririn P. Tutiasri (University of Pembangunan Nasional ‘Veteran’, Indonesia), “Thrifting is Thriving”: Secondhand Fashion Consumption and the Indonesian Youth
  • Liz Ricketts (The OR Foundation), The OR Foundation: No sustainability revolution without justice in supply chains
  • Brigitte Stockton (Bucks New University), Second-hand clothing and young adults in Dalian, Northern China


1.4 Design Education 1

Chair: Dr Sara Tatyana Bernstein


5. Household economies

Chair: Dr David Nettleingham (University of Kent)

  • Professor Jon Stobart (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Dr Sara Pennell (University of Greenwich) The anxieties of the auction: risk and the trade in second-hand household goods in eighteenth-century England
  • Lorna Flutter (Cardiff University) Handing down home among boatdwellers
  • Dr Jennifer Le Zotte (UNC Wilmington) Secondhand Studies as Historical Gap-Work


6. Charity shop & thrift store ethnographies

Chair: Dr Jennifer Ayres (NYU)

  • Violet Broadhead (University of Bristol), Salvage and waste in charity shop stockrooms
  • Siobhan Kelly (University of Salford), Sociability and belonging or professionalism and profit? Exploring the lived experience of volunteers aged 65+ working within the charity retail sector
  • Dr Jennifer Ayres (NYU), The Work of Shopping


7. Objects and exchange

Chair: Dr Triona Fitton (University of Kent)

  • Maya Wassell Smith (Cardiff University), Sold at the Mast: Secondhand cultures and social economies at sea in the Nineteenth Century
  • Vita Kurland (New York University), eBay: The Secondhand Market and USPS Memorabilia
  • Dr Triona Fitton (University of Kent), Gifts in the “Quiet Economy”: an ethnography of UK charity shops


8. Problematizing Second Hand Cultures

Chair: Dr Alida Payson (Cardiff University)


Book talk 1 – Tansy Hoskins, Stitched Up: The Anti-capitalist Book of Fashion  (Pluto Books, 2014) (with Dr Jennifer Ayres)


Keynote: Professor Avril Maddrell (University of Reading) ‘Unsettled Times & Unsettling Secondhand Cultures’

(discussant, Dr Triona Fitton)

Secondhand Quiz and Social – (created & led by Kamila Buczek and Triona Fitton)

Secondhand Cultures in Unsettled Times Day 2  –  16 June 2021


Welcome to Day 2 – Design sprint – secondhand futures, or what next for secondhand research & praxis?


2.0 Research/Practioner Workshops

  • 2.1 Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd (Nottingham Trent University) Fashion Fictions Secondhand Safari – a participatory research project to generate, experience and reflect on engaging fictional visions of alternative fashion cultures and systems.
  • 2.2 Kat Roberts (Cornell University) Fabric Scrap Twine Workshop: Contemplating Waste-free Creative Practices (BYO fabric and scissors)
  • 2.3 Dr Jules Findley (University of Brighton) Secondhand and the Tacit

2.4 Vintage sellers panel

Chair: Dr Jennifer Ayres (NYU)


2.5 Waste, households, and the state

Chair: Dr George Campbell-Gosling (University of Wolverhampton)

  • Rhiannon Craft (Cardiff University) The Social (De)Construction of
    Waste: Bodging, Tatting and Making Do
  • Dr Annebella Pollen (University of Brighton) Post-mortem Dress:
    Extinguished Sparks
  • Rose Sinclair (Goldsmiths, University of London) The Jumble Sale: Second hand Thrift: From Dorcas Society’s to Dorcas clubs


2.6 Design education 2

Chair: Dr Greg Climer (California College of the Arts)


2.7 Makers, remakers & designers

Chair: Kelly L. Reddy-Best (Iowa State University)

  • Professor Mark Joseph O’Connell (Seneca College, Toronto, Canada) Y Sin Embargo Te Quiero (And Yet I Love You) Economic Policy Encoded in the Consumption of Used Garments
  • Dr Gesche Huebner (UCL) Clothes with Stories: An interdisciplinary art-science project
  • Kyra G. Streck and Dr Kelly L. Reddy-Best (Iowa State University) Trans YouTube Content Creators: Informal Economies for the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Trans-Supportive DIY Undergarments – Research in Progress
  • Debarati Sarkar (Jadavpur University) Embroidering as (re)collecting


2.8 Secondhand narratives

Chair: Dr Alida Payson (Cardiff University)

  • Dr Alida Payson (Cardiff University) Makeover Welfare: Mary, Queen of Charity Shops, reality TV and real secondhand politics
  • Brenda Mondragón and Diana Morales (University College Cork and Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla) From the ‘tianguis‘ to Instagram: Secondhand Market in Puebla-Tlaxcala, Mexico.
  • Elena Johansen (The New School) Goodwill Industries: Unexpected Catalyst of Fashion


2.9 Institutions & reuse

Chair: Dr Triona Fitton (University of Kent)

  • Dr Lucy Wishart (University of St Andrews) Universities as sites of second-hand exchange: exploring the role of non-commercial organisations in the Circular Economy
  • Ceylan Akbas and Eva Souchet (University of Greenwich) The Un/Archived Textiles project – a hub at the University of Greenwich for swapping clothes, organising repair stations and mending workshops using natural dye.
  • Lindsay Parker (King’s College London) Exploring fashion rental practices through a lens of secondhand cultures


Book talk 2 – Rachel Lifter (NYU Steinhardt) ‘Secondhand surprises and future threads’ from Fashioning Indie: Popular Fashion, Music and Gender (Bloomsbury 2018)

(w/ discussant Dr Alida Payson)


Keynote – Professor Angela McRobbie (Goldsmiths, University of London) ‘Unpicking Fashion as Capitalism’s Current Crisis: the Politics of Second-Hand Washing’

(w/discussant Dr Jennifer Ayres)


Film screening: Unravel (14 mins)

Q&A with Professor Lucy Norris (Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin)


Thrift labours: Charity shops in the austerity economy

This post is by Dr Alida Payson, and reposted from Journalism, Media & Culture: the Official JOMEC Blog – commentary, debate and opinion 2019

For the past six months, I have been going to a lot of charity shops. This is not so unusual for me, an avid thrifter who grew up trawling cavernous Goodwill and Salvation Army warehouse stores in strip malls across the US.

I’ve relished charity shops here in the UK for years. But I have been going to more shops than usual lately, and venturing farther afield. And I have been browsing with sharper attention, snapping photos of shop windows, trying to remember every quirky detail before scuttling off to type up my notes.

I have often been overwhelmed at the variety and quantity of stuff: a child’s hairdressing doll staring balefully from under a towering blonde rat’s nest; an immaculate 1930s hand-crank Singer sewing machine; tattered polka and soul and 80s pop records; a blue porcelain soup tureen; at least 17 copies of Love Actually; acres of polyester tops and dresses from the same ten brands; a museum’s worth of slow cookers and sherry glasses; packs of new pants and socks next to mugs celebrating the Queen’s various jubilees, or shaped like a football or a hippopotamus, or printed with a periodic table of obscenities.

Charity shops are apparently everywhere because they are everywhere. According to the Charity Retail Association, the number of charity shops in the UK has nearly doubled every decade since the mid-90s, and has been hovering around 11,700 since 2017.

Used by many and loved by some, charity shops recirculate thousands of tons of castoff material culture – winter coats and glittery heels, plastic toys and vintage teapots, vinyl records and DVDs, school uniforms and sofas.

But as precarity and poverty worsen and public services recede under austerity, charity shops have also come to play an expanding role in what Patricia Mooney Nickel (2016: 173) calls the ‘welfare mix’: the loose array of agencies, organisations and relationships on which people actually rely for their everyday livelihoods.

So if overwhelmed and sometimes wearied by the avalanche of stuff in charity shops, I have been surprised and intrigued by what people are doing here. While I am sure some shops get ‘ransacked’ by style-hungry shoppers, as Angela McRobbie (1989) described it, picked over by middle-class young women hunting (as I do, sometimes) for dresses, in most of the shops I have visited people seem to be up to something different.

That difference is part of what I’m interested in: what kinds of work or labour are happening in these spaces, and in particular, how people are using them to get by, make do and live together as inequalities and social welfare cuts deepen. (Elsewhere in this three-year research project on charity shops under the austerity economy, I also explore how charity shops appear in the news, public discourse, and popular culture, from Mary, Queen of Charity Shops (BBC2, 2009), to the mockumentary web series Charity Shop Sue (YouTube, 2019).

Delyth Edwards and Lisanne Gibson (2017) argue that charity shops are not only sites of consumption, but used like libraries, as sites of local connection and resources, and as craft supply stores. Jen Ayres (2017) tracks the creative ways shoppers pick through thrift stores as independent income-generating ventures in precarious times. Triona Fitton (2013) describes the ‘quiet’ connections of charity retail to other, perhaps unexpected sectors: social services, for-profit retailers, the police, prison and probation systems. Ruben Flores (2014) writes about the emotional side of the care work that volunteers do, framed as labours of compassion.

In the seminar this week, I explore how charity shops serve as important sites of different forms of cultural labour typical of the austerity economy. Drawing on debates in feminist economics, cultural studies, and cultural geography, as well as recent fieldwork, I identify three forms of labour in particular: 1) ‘provisioning’, or the everyday, often collective, relational work people do to get by and make a living; 2) a mix of re-fashioning, reselling, rehabilitative and hope labour I am calling makeover labour; and 3) the work of navigating charity shops as sites of welfare governance and carceral space. Arguing that all three of these forms of labour are characteristic of the austerity economy, I explore how thinking about charity shops can help us to understand more about how a shifting, caustic present is lived and felt.

Symposium Flier

Secondhand Cultures in Unsettled Times

Virtual Symposium >> 15-16 June 2021

Secondhand cultures and practices, from reselling sites to charity shops and thrift stores to waste picking, have expanded and transformed over recent decades, with profound social, political, and environmental implications.

Despite vibrant and growing research into secondhand worlds, opportunities to share and discuss this research across interdisciplinary boundaries have been rare. Further, secondhand cultures have been unsettled by the global pandemic in ways that are not yet well understood.

This virtual symposium brings together scholars and practitioners across disciplines to problematise and explore secondhand cultures in unsettled times.

We are delighted to share our keynote speakers for the event will be:

Professor Angela McRobbie, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Avril Maddrell, University of Reading

The Symposium will bring together a lively collection of papers from scholars around the world on a range of secondhand topics, as well as hands-on workshops, practitioner panels, book talks, short films, and plenty of opportunities for participants to connect and share ideas.

Based on the symposium, we will co-edit a special issue of JOMEC Journal, an online, open-access and peer reviewed journal dedicated to publishing the highest quality innovative academic work in journalism, media, cultural studies, and other interlocking fields, for late 2021.

We hope to see you there!

Dr Jennifer Lynn Ayres, New York University; Dr Triona Fitton, University of Kent, and Dr Alida Payson, Cardiff University

The event is free, but registration is required.

Please register here: