YOU could forgive foster mum Pam Crawforth, 57, for tiring of baby talk.
Raised in a children’s home herself, she started fostering 25 years ago – and has looked after almost 100 children since.
She has fostered 91, raised five kids of her own (now aged from 18 to 39), has a 14-year-old adopted child and five grandchildren, plus another on the way.
Add 12 reborns to the equation and it all begins to sound like the nursery rhyme.
“Less of the old woman,” says Pam, of St Annes. “I don’t live in a shoe either. It just feels like a shoebox at times.”
Reborns are realistic-looking baby dolls crafted from vinyl kit form and hand-painted. They’re all the rage in America and have featured in a Desperate Housewives storyline involving Eva Longaria’s Gabrielle Solis character.
“Americans tend to take things to extreme, Brits don’t,” stresses Pam.
She crafted her first five years ago as a labour of love for one of her foster children who wanted to know what she may have looked like as a child.
“It was important to her because of her circumstances – which I can’t go into. But I got a reborn kit and painted and repainted it four or five times until we both agreed I’d got it right. The art is what matters to me. It’s a great stress relief.”
Her dolls have since joined some of her foster children at a local special needs school, and are regularly pressed into body double service as the baby Jesus in nativities.
But now Pam is going public on her passion.
She’s not the only reborn artist – Jan Gell is another – but lives alongside a woman with a very similar interest: this time in vintage, classic and retro prams.
Pam and neighbour Beccy Bridgewater, 20, admit it takes ages to shop because of people stopping to share memories of the prams they push.
Beccy has seven vintage prams including the Rolls Royce of them all, a Silver Cross, a great British brand founded in 1877. “Everyone wants a closer look,” says the 20 year old mum. “Everyone has a story, too.”
The pair took part in the St George’s Day Parade in Lytham last year – winning best group walk prize for their perambulations. They have done a pram walk since, taking a flotilla of Mary Poppins-esque prams to Lowther Gardens in close formation.
And this weekend they have organised a vintage pram and doll fair at Lytham’s Lowther Pavilion. Prams in the park on Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Beccy adds: “The online club means I’m in contact with people up and down the country and abroad, so we share information – but, although there was recently a pram fair at Stoke on Trent and some doll events in Lancashire, there’s hardly anything on this scale in our area.”
Beccy moved from Blackpool to St Annes six months ago and stumbled across a kindred spirit in next door neighbour Pam.
Her daughter Ellie, 25, has a little girl, Patience, two (pictured in our pictures), the same age as Beccy’s little boy, Jack.
Beccy admits: “I’m not really into dolls. I’ve got a reborn though. There’s massive interest in them.”
Beccy also likes to collect and restore classic prams. “They are so luxurious and comfortable and good for kids. You can spend a fortune on a plastic push chair which won’t last.
“I’ve got a Silver Cross coach-built Balmoral and six others. A lot of collectors have the reborns, too, as it’s nice to put something in them if you haven’t got a baby.
“We’re not whack jobs, it’s like any other hobby or collection. It’s harmless, and it makes people happy, but it’s been a bit sensationalised on the telly.
“Here in Britain people are quite down to earth about it.
“You think you have no room at first – then find nooks and crannies to keep your prams or dolls! Fortunately Jack loves his massive Silver Cross pram, he puts all his snacks and toys in it, and hates his little buggy. The big pram is warm and cosy, waterproof and windproof. I’m also lucky as my partner Dan is very understanding.”
Beccy, who has just finished a degree in project management, admits: “I’d love to get into event organisation, so this has been a big learning curve for me. It’s been a hard process. The total outlay has been quite a lot for a young family to pay out on a whim, if you like, or a hope. But it’s going to be a lovely event.”
Pam agrees: “I’ve always had a big pram. My oldest is from 1937, a deep wooden body in battleship grey. My daughter Ellie has used it for her little girl, Patience.
“You never get far as people stop and talk. We hear lovely stories.
“I also have a 1952 fully- restored Chelsea pram in white and navy blue. We can usually get spares, but the large 24-inch wheels are a problem.
“I strip them down, despoke them and get them re-chromed, with my husband’s help. The prams are worth salvaging. They are social history. Last time we visited Lowther Gardens an elderly couple stopped us.
“The lady was on a walking frame, but took the pram and walked it round the pond. Her husband said she hadn’t walked without the frame for years.”
jacqui.morley@blackpool gazette.co.uk or tweet her @jacquimorley