Archive for the ‘Sign’ Category

Deaf Awareness Week 2013

With Deaf Awareness Week 2013 coming to an end, social media has played its part. In addition to the usual communication tips (these are especially noteworthy and humorous 1 2 3)  there have been significant news events circulating the internet.

3 topics that have got people talking:

1. Comments on The Guardian’s article: ‘Lack of British Sign Language interpreters putting deaf people at risk“.

2. Gerry Hughes returns from his solo voyage. (metro) (bbc)

Animation by Amy Dawson

3. Rocky Horror BSL Flashmob

Here at Stage and Sign we love a flashmob! Especially one that is based on a musical and very especially one that includes BSL. Lauren Harris arranged this crazy, sexy fun for an interpreted performance. Join the Facebook event for videos and pictures, read the article via Limping Chicken.

So this post involves no original content but it’s all about sharing. Happy Deaf Awareness Week to all.

4Play 2013 Deafinitely Theatre

This year’s 4Play by Deafinitely Theatre – an initiative which supports deaf writers, was hosted at the newly opened Park Theatre. So newly opened in fact, they were literally putting up the front door and frantically posting up “wet paint” signs as I arrived. Nevertheless, the theatre was welcoming and the performance space intimately gorgeous with the auditorium seating 200 people. I sat perched in the circle with fantastic sight lines, even for a little’un like me.

Having attended last year (4Play 2012) I came with a few expectations of form, content and style. However, new writing opens up for infinite possibilities so the anticipation of what was about to commence was filled with intrigue.

Buddha Knows by Aliya Gulamani and directed by Deafinitely Theatre’s artistic director Paula Garfield was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. A highly relevant piece of societal perspective with moments of comic relief, just as you thought you knew where the story was headed Aliya took you in the other direction. Performers Brian Duffy and David Sands had wonderful on stage chemistry whilst Charlotte Arrowsmith delivered a beautifully truthful performance drawing the audience into her character’s desperate desire to have a baby.

Mine was next up, written by Limping Chicken’s very own Charlie Swinbourne and directed by Jeni Draper. (Charlie’s blog) Now, I don’t often cry at the theatre but this piece moved me so much I was on the edge of my seat, holding back tears. Mine cleverly portrayed many complexities through a simple script. Whilst much of the signed dialogue had a recorded voice over to enable access for the audience, there were choice moments where beautiful storytelling through BSL was left in it’s purity. This was wonderfully delivered by Jean St Clair who played the protagonist Annie. The lack of explicitness contributed to the powerful impact of the piece; the strong subtext, the conversations not had, the things that make us human and unite us all.

After the interval (which was much needed to recover from the emotional rollercoaster), Lianne Herbert made her second appearance at 4Play after showcasing her first short play last year Twentyfourseven. The Door was directed by Ramesh Meyyappan and the character of The Girl performed by Lina Kankeviciute. The play consisted of no dialogue but a montage of scenes which could have been repeated forever to show the girl’s endless entrapment inside a locked room. The performance exhibited Lina’s command of physical theatre skills as she allowed the audience to see into the mind and memories of her character.

The last piece of the evening was En-Route, written by the familiar face to Deafinitely Theatre; Matthew Gurney and directed by Daryl Jackson. The comical but endearing story that saw an unlikely friendship formed between an old man and a Libyan backpacker without a passport. With deafness in common but still a language barrier the highly visual communication was perfectly placed upon the stage. They say a picture paints a thousand words, if that is the case then visual vernacular paints at least 2,000! But no words were needed.

A truly enjoyable evening where physicality, visual vernacular and BSL triumphed over spoken English. I am certainly looking forward to 4Play 2014.

4Play 2013 was at The Park Theatre, London 1st – 4th May

Post Paralympics – Are Attitudes Changing?

Today I read an article in The Stage where make-up artist Amber Sibley was quoted:

“The Paralympic Opening Ceremony was joyful, working with a less-abled cast and seeing everyone’s inner beauty shine.” full article
Whilst to some this may at first glance seem like a positive comment, to me it encapsulates my disappointment following the attitude after the staging of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.

For me the Paralympic Opening Ceremony was one of the most exciting things to happen in 2012. Leading up to the event I knew it was not “a miracle cure” in response to disability awareness but I was sure that using the world stage to showcase the talent of some deaf and disabled performers would create a change in attitude to those in the Arts sector.

I’m not trying to single Sibley out here but, there still seems to be a feeling of “ didn’t they do well despite…”

So the niggling question is why?

Recently I attended a skill sharing and networking event linking to the Arts and disability.When talking about the use of sign language within performance I made reference to the signed performances in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. To my surprise and horror less than half of the participants had watched it and one or two even gave me a look as if to say “big deal, why was it so important?”

*Lies down*

So is this what actually happened? Did the nation let this monumental event pass them by with a vague acknowledgement of “disabled people performing, oh how lovely, good for them”.

Well it wasn’t lovely, it was blooming fantastic with a bit of “oi oi!” thrown in for good measure! Who cares about “inner beauty” shining. If people could have engaged with the spectacle for what it really was we’d all appreciate the talent and the exciting creative opportunities out there.

Tanika’s Journey – Deafinitely Theatre

Picture from Deafinitely Theatre’s Facebook page

Ever since enjoying Deafinitely Theatre’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost involving their use of visual signed language I have been eagerly anticipating this performance and was hoping for more of the same, I was not disappointed. Before attending a show I prefer to remain uninfluenced and have avoided reading reviews and the comments rapidly spreading on the social networks. Considering the buzz around Tanika’s Journey, it has not been easy!

It was my first time attending Southwark Playhouse so I had the glorious advantage of enjoying this unique space as a blank canvas, not imposing any previous ‘ghosts’, memories or feelings ‘The Vault’ may contain. My journey from the cosy bar to the performance space mimicked that of stepping through the wardrobe to Narnia. I was immediately immersed into a world, somewhere far away, I carefully trod through snow, pushing bare tree branches aside in a quest to find my seat. Whilst convention often dictates I should passively sit and fulfill my role as a ‘good’ audience member, a feeling in my belly told me otherwise, I cast my eyes across at the rows of audience sat opposite. Some were chatting in hushed tones, some were signing and some were just sat, but I sensed we were each pieces in a snow globe waiting to be shaken up at any second.

The performance began and I was plunged in to the harsh weather conditions of a Ukrainian forest. Southwark Playhouse was warm but I found myself tugging at my sleeves of my jumper and popping my coat across my knees. As the story unfolded I laughed, cried a little and smiled a soft, heartfelt smile. Now, I could dissect why this performance had this emotional impact on me. For one, the acting was excellent, the set, sound and lighting remarkably clever. Ultimately what made this performance great was simply beautiful storytelling.

How key storytelling is to great theatre and Deafinitely Theatre certainly did a fantastic job of it!
Now off to finally read those reviews.

Tanika’s Journey is on at Southwark Playhouse until the 20th October 2012. For more info visit Deafinitely Theatre’s website here.

Encouraging Individuality in Young Deaf People Through Inclusion

Last week I saw an excellent BSL interpreted performance of Billy Elliot.

“If you wanna be a dancer, dance
If you wanna be a miner, mine
If you want to dress like somebody else,
Fine, fine, fine.

Everyone is different
It’s the natural state
It’s the facts, it’s plain to see,
The world’s grey enough without making it worse
What we need is in-div-id-ual-ity.”

From a brilliant number called “Expressing Yourself”, the lyrics got me thinking about access and the barriers faced by young deaf people.

In the audience of this accessible performance were groups of young deaf people from a variety of schools, colleges and organisations across London. The surprising thing was, most of these young people had NEVER attended the theatre before! OK, I am admittedly a total theatre nut but I do understand (well, sort of) that a lovey thespian life is not for everyone. However, cultural activities such as going to the theatre should be made accessible for all, so young people can try them at least once regardless of background, deafness or disability.

A deaf and hearing integrated company called Handprint Theatre in collaboration with Mousetrap ran workshops at the Victoria Palace Theatre prior to the afternoon performance to prepare young deaf people for their first theatre experience. First, a tour of the stage, set and props was given and there was the opportunity to ask questions, then Handprint lead workshops focusing on the themes of Billy Elliot and encouraging the young people to perform to each other. It was wonderful to see such engagement and the response from one individual who expressed his newfound interest to explore a career as a performer.

Theatre is not the centrepiece of cultural experience (sometimes I may need reminding of this). Young people should be exposed to a variety of activities and be encouraged to make an informed choice of their interests, otherwise how can we expect them to grow into well rounded individuals? I direct you again to the lyrics of “Expressing Yourself”.

The Limping Chicken recently posted about how deaf children are being turned away from swimming clubs and lessons as they are seen as a health and safety hazard. Ludicrous! To me the health and safety risk is having a population of deaf people in the UK who can’t swim. We can’t all be amazing swimmers, as a child a quickly gave up swimming lessons to join a youth theatre group but only after I had got the basics and earned a few badges. As a child, this was my choice but thankfully I did not have access barriers to contend with.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and the NDCS have stepped in to assist swimming coaches to be inclusive through providing advice, resources and teaching a few signs to assist communication.

The NDCS are a great charity and provide so many options and experiences for children and young people. If you have a deaf child, I’d really recommend having a good look at the activities and events that they offer.

The work being done to provide access and create inclusion for deaf children and young people is invaluable. It will encourage independence, creativity and confidence in the next generation. Oh and most importantly, individuality. “The world’s grey enough without making it worse…

Aaaand jazz hands!

TAEDS Silver Anniversary Celebrations

Friday 22nd June 2012 saw the celebration of a course that has been running for over a quarter of a century. TAEDS; for those that aren’t aware, stands for Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies and is a three year degree course that began its life as a 1 year certificate training deaf actors under the title Theatre of the Deaf.

The course’s heritage was reflected in the evening’s entertainment. Ex-TAEDS regrouped at the new facilities on London Road, Reading to meet, perform and share. An eye-opening timeline emerged as  Ian Chandler took us back to the 1960’s, describing his work as an actor in Pat Keysell’s Theatre of the Deaf. The contrast of performances from the current first year students followed, in the form of signed poetry and song.

Ian Chandler performing the poem Fern Hill written by Dylan Thomas

Ian Chandler performing the poem Fern Hill written by Dylan Thomas

First Year Performance

First Year Performance










Other performances contributing to the “cabaret style” evening were presented by the wonderful integrated theatre company Handprint who gave an excerpt of their children’s show Soapy Sam.

Soapy Sam

I was thrilled to see an excerpt of this show for the first time.

Once the crowd were suitably warmed up it was time for the “adult entertainment” to begin. Deaf duo, Roger and Ruth performed 3 comical signed songs; Kylie and Jason eat your heart out! Siobhan Dodd wrote a piece especially for the event; “SSE the Musical” which I have to say is crazier than a bowl of fruit loops but also absolute genius! I shan’t give too much away as I’ll be encouraging her to develop this work and bring it to new audiences.

SSE The Musical

“SSE the Musical” coming soon to a Deaf club near you?

The final climax of the evening was “The Angry Vangina Monologues” performed by a certain deaf West-end star who showcased without a shadow of a doubt the visuality of BSL. By the end of the performances I was worn out through a combination of emotion and side-splitting laughter, however, many partied on until the early hours of the morning.

A great evening was had by all, and whilst I loved the performances which were of an exceptionally high standard, what really stuck in my mind was the general atmosphere of the evening.

Recently, I have been considering the word “community” and how it relates to my own life. I think it’s quite easy to go through life and not feel part of a community. In terms of location a courteous “good morning” to my neighbours does nothing to suggest unity and with regards to my work I am sometimes very aware that I am neither deaf or disabled. I have no religion or diverse cultural background to share with others. However, at this celebration event, it dawned on me. This was my community, the TAEDS community. TAEDS, due to its broad teachings has influence in many areas of theatre, education and deafness across the UK and beyond. For a small course of approximately 25 graduates per year, you may be surprised how many of us are actually out there covering a diversity of professions but with one commonality, TAEDS. I have come to realise how uniquely special that is, there is no deaf and hearing divide. Even those who haven’t signed since graduating knew how to communicate in an inclusive way with an apparent knowledge of deaf awareness. There is no right or wrong career choice after graduating, after three immersive years the world is your oyster.

At the Silver Anniversary celebrations I met new faces and treated them as old friends, I reunited with old friends as if no time had passed. I hugged, conversed, laughed and cheered more than I have done in a long time.

Simon FloodgateA big thank you to course director Simon Floodgate for believing in us all as individuals and getting us together as a collective to celebrate our roots and give a very important sense of community.


Pictorial BSL – The pros and cons

Recently there has been outrage from the deaf BSL using community over OFSTEDs use of pictorial “BSL translation”.

OFSTEDs "BSL translation"

Bloggers @DeafFirefly and @Limping_Chicken have written responses to this alleged accessibility which are certainly worth a read.

OFSTEDs major error is in their lack of understanding of BSL as a language. I’m sure the document was created with the best intentions, perhaps a level 1 BSL student decided to try and introduce accessibility. After all it was clearly created by a hearing person, where are our deaf representatives in OFSTED?

For those feeling confused, lets be clear in the definition of BSL. BSL is a language, it has its own grammatical structure. It is a visual language that relies on movement, lip-pattern and facial expressions to convey meaning. It can not be written down (unless you are an artsy type trying to translate songs or scripts in which case you may write your own version of written BSL that no one else in the world would really be able to understand!) BSL is not a communication aid, deaf people do not descend into a game of charades every time they wish to converse.

What OFSTED can do as second best to a BSL video is write in plain/basic/simple English which is free from jargon, double negatives and the complexities of the English language. This is deaf accessible and also beneficial for people whose first language is not English.

A previous BSL teacher of mine who shall remain nameless once expressed his dislike for BSL dictionaries, especially the cartoon ones as they often depict more “baby sign” than actual BSL. One example of this is the sign for home.


In BSL the sign for “home” is different from the sign for “house”; it is directional depending on whose home you are referring to and to sign the verb “to go home” in any tense is a different sign altogether.

However, I do believe there is a place for pictures of signs and the use of basic signed vocab. Posters are often seen in educational establishments. I recently ran a drama workshop in a primary school where the pupils knew how to sign “good morning” and practised this on a daily basis. Lovely!

Just a while ago, I was looking through some photos of a trip to Paignton Zoo. I love holidaying in the UK, it can be much cheaper than heading abroad and reminds me of the beauty of this country that we can often overlook due to our busy lives. But my leisure time preferences are neither here nor there, what I did come across was these signs displayed around the zoo.

I personally think it’s fantastic that BSL vocab is getting this exposure. Also CBeebies characters such as Mr Tumble and others created by children’s TV actor Justin Fletcher are using signs to teach and communicate to children.

There is an increasing popularity in baby sign as it has been proven that babies can communicate through signs before they can use words and as a result of all this a form of “children’s sign” has developed as a communication aid and is being widely used.

There is a place for this, I don’t think we should discourage children from using signs but it needs to be understood, especially by government service regulators that this is not BSL. With the introduction of the BSL GCSE children would be able to use their knowledge of vocab from primary school and progress to understanding BSL in secondary school. Let’s keep our toes crossed that the GCSE will be implemented.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Missing Something British

I hope you have all enjoyed your long Jubilee weekend eating scones, getting rained on and partying in the street.

Everything quintessentially British. Although one uniquely British element was lacking, the visibility and promotion of British Sign Language.

On a positive note, accessible events were held in the Capital. Remark! in conjunction with the British Deaf Association hosted a street party on the corner of Leather Lane/Greville Street, whilst Terptree provided interpreters for the festival in Hyde Park. So fun was to be had by the London Deaf community and those wishing to travel to Lizzy’s home for the weekend.

However, I spent Monday evening, slobbing on my couch, watching the Jubilee Concert and browsing Facebook. It came to my attention that the televised event could have been made not only more accessible but more visually beautiful by including some of the great deaf sign song performers of this Great Britain such as Caroline Parker, Daryl Jackson and Jayne Fletcher.

Since 1992 every American NFL Super Bowl has has an ASL performed National Anthem of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Whilst this signed song provides access for deaf Americans across the entire United States there is also a sense of American pride that Brits could learn from.

With the wonderfully creative deafie Jenny Sealey co-directing the opening ceremony of the paralympics I’m hoping to see some British Sign Language displayed with pride.

FaceTweet it!

Love Labour’s Lost

The Globe to Globe project sees the theatre staging 37 plays in 37 languages. Many cultures have been brought to The Globe Theatre to celebrate the World Shakespeare Festival 2012.

Personally, I love The Globe and I love Shakespeare. I also happen to love Sign Language so it was with utter excitement and delight that I attended Deafinitely Theatre’s production of Love Labour’s Lost.

Picture by Simon Annand via Facebook

Let me cut to the chase and say the performance was fabulous. I have never quite considered a relationship between BSL and the Bard but after having experienced a pure signed performance I can confidently say they are a potential match made in heaven.

A focus of the festival, which was highlighted by Deafinitely’s performance, was on language, in this case BSL. Sign Language was king, without the stigma of “impairment”, it did not matter if the actors were deaf, HoH or hearing, it was the language that was central to the show. The audience response strongly echoed this as tweets came flooding in such as

Hurruh to those who came with no knowledge of BSL and left with an appreciation for the richness of the language.

The cast were brilliant! It’s impossible to pick out any one exceptional performance as they were all of equal calibre.

David Sands got to do what he does best and engage with the audience in a highly energetic performance as Costard the fool. The King of Navarre was played with wonderful honesty by Stephen Collins. The Lords played by Matthew Gurney and Vitalis Katakinas had impressive energy (and equally impressive beards!) The Princess of France (Nadia Nadarajah) and her Ladies (Charlotte Arrowsmith, Donna Mullings and Patsy Palmer) portrayed the strong female characters with buckets of playfullness and sass. Brian Duffy played Boyet with fantastic physicality and Adam Bassett as Don Armado the Spaniard ended the performance with a signed poem that truly blew me away. Well done to all! A special mention must also go to the musicians who provided an aural background whilst offering comical engagement with the actors.

The translation from Shakespeare’s text to Sign was expertly done and the deaf cast performed so visually and made excellent use of the unique space that is the Globe Theatre. (A personal highlight being The King exiting the sage to the yard and crying on the shoulder of my friend’s sister.)

Picture by Simon Annand via Facebook

Ever since I was a young whippersnapper of a ‘BSL for Beginners’ student I have loved watching signed stories and found myself mesmerised by how visually descriptive BSL can be. Recently I found out about Visual Vernacular (VV) and it’s influence was clearly represented in the performance of Love Labour’s Lost. Shakespeare’s use of descriptive language made for a wonderfully visual performance that made BSL accessible to hearies (with the aid of surtitles).

The surtitled appeared on 2 screens and summarised the scene being performed in a sentence or a few words. The feedback I got from non BSL users was that they really got the gist of the storyline and I took pleasure in seeing hearing BSL students around the theatre who were clearly following the story and also picking up on some of the basic signs.

Whilst making BSL accessible to all was great, it was wonderful to see what felt like the entire Deaf Community in a packed house creating a buzzing atmosphere. Due to the nature of the theatre it was possible to sign a conversation across the Globe to a familiar face (another reason why Shakespeare and BSL are a perfect match). In my previous visits I have always enjoyed the atmosphere of being a groundling but this event without a doubt trumps them all.

Truly a historical event to remember!

Love Labour’s Lost is now embarking on their National tour, to ensure you don’t miss out check the dates and venues on Deafinitely’s website.

Deaf Awareness Week 2012 Monday 7th – Sunday 13th May

So Deaf Awareness Week has been and gone for another year. NDCS launched their Look, Smile, Chat campaign, The Odeon scheduled more subtitled films at their cinemas and local companies had joined together to give advice and support on the streets of Reading. deafawarenessweek2012

Oh DAW2012, I had big plans in store, (well not so big) but plans for the week to immerse myself in the activities and goings on, then report back to Stage and Sign readers. Unfortunately I was struck by what only can be described as the plague.

Well, I may be exaggerating slightly but last week involved mostly boosting Lemsip and Kleenex sales (I would definitely recommend balsam tissues, much kinder on a pink nose).

In some respects, I feel I have failed you, and for that I can only apologise and  cheekily reblog DAW2011. Last year I compiled some important tips and links to educate my readers. Much of it is still very relevant this year and there is a very funny video about the role of a CSW, check it out here.

However, I do try to keep things as relevant as possible, so after an unnecessarily long intro, here is my belated blog on Deaf Awareness Week 2012. I think that it is allowed, after all Clinton’s sell belated birthday cards for a reason… OK so maybe not the best analogy to use.

Prior to the 7th May I tried researching events in my local area (and a bit further afield too) but activities look quite sparse. Quite frankly I am disappointed, how can people who need educating in Deaf Awareness be reached? Unless they randomly find themselves stumbling into an audiology department (Deaf Awareness debate tba) or Deaf club. Although, if I’m honest I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. I suffered the same false expectations for BSL Day, in my head I imagine parades and street parties but this is probably only because I consider myself to be a member of the metaphorical choir to whom Deaf Awareness is preached. But in reality is it any more celebrated and appreciated than other awareness weeks happening in May such as British Sandwich Week and International Donkey Week. I do believe that this week is National Doughnut Week so feel free to treat yourselves!

As I understand it, from looking at responses to blogs, forums and my favourite social media site Twitter, there are a mixed views regarding the purpose and aims of Deaf Awareness Week. Some people seem to think it’s just about charities and organisations trying to cash in, and if it is I don’t see where the harm is. Others appear to be arguing about what Deaf Awareness should be, deafness covers a vast number of people, their communication methods and needs. For me, this diversity is why we have Deaf Awareness Week, it should not favour big D Deaf or little d deaf but embrace, support and educate on all communication methods and cultural identities.

In my experience, the average Joe has one example of a deaf person fixed in their mind and therefore make assumptions of any other deaf people they may encounter. Working as a CSW I often get told things like “Oh my Grandad has a hearing aid” as they then begin to shout and use exaggerated lip pattern to a baffled client. Whilst intentions are good they are assuming absolutely no difference between their Grandad with a hearing loss and a BSL using college student. I think at some point and to some degree we’ve all been there. I remember the first time I met a deaf person, I was frustrated by the communication barrier and pretty much ran away from the situation to enrol myself on to a BSL course. I do not regret this decision at all but if I had a better understanding of Deaf Awareness I may have written notes on paper or used my phone and asked about the best way to communicate. Almost 10 years on my knowledge of Deaf Awareness has broadened and I want to put some words down that all have equal weighting under the Deaf Awareness umbrella, please feel free to add your own, so in alphabetical order:

BSL, cochlear implant, Deaf, deaf, deafened, hard of hearing, hearing aid, interpreter, lip-reader, lipspeaker, partially deaf, profoundly deaf, SSE.

Lets celebrate diversity and all eat doughnuts!