'Anything is possible': Stepney grandma graduates with fashion degree

Bernadette Taylor graduated from Newham's University of East London with a fashion degree

Bernadette Taylor graduated from Newham's University of East London with a fashion degree - Credit: University of East London

A Stepney grandma has graduated with a fashion degree and launched her own sewing business at the age of 75.

After a career as a palliative care nursing assistant, four years ago Bernadette Taylor fulfilled her life-long dream to study fashion.

Since graduating from the University of East London (UEL) in September, she has encouraged others to do what they love - no matter their age.

Bernadette said: “If you’re happy doing what you’re doing then that’s fine.

"But if you don’t feel you’re being fulfilled doing the job you’re doing then the easiest way to go and change it, and your life, is through learning. 

“Go back to the beginning and take the opportunity to start again. You can do it any age.

"There is nothing to stop you. If you’ve got the gumption to get up and do it – then do it."

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Bernadette left school at 16 with no formal qualifications, and said as a working mum with a young family money was tight.

“There weren’t the opportunities when I was at school,” she said.

“Going to university was not something I would have even dreamed about. It just wasn’t an option."

Not wanting her daughter to go without, Bernadette taught herself to sew, using new patterns and fabrics to dress her daughter and then granddaughters.

The Stepney grandmother left school at 16

The Stepney grandmother left school at 16 - Credit: University of East London

Aged 71, she signed up for the 12-week New Beginnings course at UEL which prepares people who have been out of education for a long time to embark on a degree programme. 

“The course gave me the confidence to go forward," said Bernadette.

"The team made it easy because they treated everyone the same, everyone was included, everyone was encouraged.

"Once I got through this stage it was my pathway to go on to do the degree. I thought 'if I can do this my grandchildren can do this'.

"I wanted to prove to them that wherever you’re from, whatever your age, anything is possible.” 

She went on to complete a BA in Fashion Design, calling her graduation "one of the proudest days of her life".

Bernadette has since launched her own business, running weekly workshops and courses teaching beginners and improvers in Stepney how to sew and make clothes. 

"I love to see their faces. It makes me so proud for them – and for me," she added.