In 2002 my son was born profoundly deaf and my whole world changed. A few months later I began learning British Sign Language and was stunned by its expressiveness. As a singer, music had always played such an important role in my life and the next few years were complicated emotionally as I struggled to come to terms with what I presumed was the fact that my son would never experience it... I stopped singing for a while but I still attempted to entertain him by signing songs like 'I Can Sign A Rainbow'. This was my first venture into BSL Singing. Over the years I have explored it further in concerts and by taking part in the Accessible Opera 'A Quiet Life' and producing the 'Ethan's Song' which featured on BBC's See Hear.
As a theatre producer I now have the opportunity to take this Singsong to another level and begin to integrate it into Musical Theatre. This year we are producing the fourth Swanage Repertory Season in Dorset and the second show of our three week season is to be a BSL Musical.
We are thrilled that Arts Council England have offered their support to this venture and we now just need to raise a further £3,000 to make this happen.
We shall be adapting a brand new family piece with a cast of around 8 actors who will be sign-singing the songs with an integrated signer performing all the dialogue. It's an ambitious and very exciting project. We believe that rather than creating 'access' for deaf people, this concept will create an equal experience for both deaf and hearing audiences, with the sign language enhancing the creativity of the piece.
This also gives us a hugely valuable opportunity to promote the beauty of sign language to a young audience, sewing the seeds for them to look for opportunities to learn more. When signing concerts in the past I have had lots of children come to me at the end of the performance asking about signs - they love it!
Having a deaf child has shown me how hard it can be to access entertainment that is generally created with only a hearing audience in mind. I cannot wait to welcome my son as guest of honour to this show :)