25 years of Theatre Arts, Education & Deaf Studies

On Friday 22nd June the University’s unique undergraduate BA Programme, Theatre Arts, Education & Deaf Studies celebrated its Silver Anniversary at its new premises within the Institute of Education at the London Road site.

The Programme started life at Bulmershe College of Higher Education in 1986. Yes, it is actually 26 years old but the celebrations were put on hold in order to take place at the newly renovated buildings at London Road.

Designed initially as a one year certificate for deaf actors and teachers of the deaf to develop acting and drama workshop skills, the Programme has evolved into the only theatre and education programme for deaf and hearing students in the UK and indeed across Europe.

More than 60 students, alumni, current and ex staff gathered for a ‘beer and burger’ before touring the new TAEDS building. This was followed by an emotional cabaret of signed poems, signed songs, monologues and performances ranging from current student work, performances by alumni to a rendition of Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill by Ian Stewart, a former lecturer on the programme and original acting member of the British Theatre of the Deaf in the 1960s and 70s.

Handprint Theatre made up of recent graduates also performed a section of their innovative integrated show for children – Soapy Sam – which incorporates British Sign Language and puppetry.

Highlights included an hilarious signed duet rendition of Jason and Kylie’s Especially For You, a one-woman Sign Supported English – the Musical and culminated in an outrageous monologue, The Angry Vagina from Jacob Casselden, a graduate who performed recently at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

Congratulatory wishes were also received from the department of Film, Theatre & Television (from where the original course was born), Graeae Theatre and Deafinitely Theatre whose artistic director herself was a former student.

Reaction to the celebration includes this blog entry from one of the alumni.


Simon Floodgate,
Programme Director

Happy Days star, Henry Winkler visits the University’s Institute of Education

The actor and writer, who made his name playing ‘the Fonz’ in the popular US comedy set in the fifties, visited the University of Reading’s Institute of Education recently during his seventh visit to the UK to promote the awareness of dyslexia and learning difficulties amongst school pupils.

Mr Winkler, 66, visited the National Centre for Language and Literacy (NCLL) on the University’s London Road campus where he spoke to Special Needs Educators, researchers from the University and teachers from local schools.

Henry is offical champion for the My Way! Campaign, which is in its third year of raising awareness of children who find learning difficult, helping them to get the understanding and support of the adults and other children around them.

Mr Winkler said: “When I was at school I was classed as the bottom three per cent academically. Every day I struggled with history, I found math hard and I found spelling hard – although I was great at lunch.

“Sometimes the things my teachers said to me were not helpful. I tried really hard but it was just always a struggle. I was aware I wasn’t doing well and I certainly didn’t need reminding. Teachers are very powerful and what you say to a child will stick like glue.”

Mr Winkler was interviewed by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell and staff were given the opportunity to ask him questions.

In reply to a question about the importance of drama in education he replied; “I think it is very important. For some children it is the only way to tell the world who they are and develop a sense of self-worth. Acting – saying someone else’s words allows you to get outside of yourself.”

The father-of-three found out he was dyslexic aged 31 when he struggled to read scripts after taking on the role of cool leather-clad Arthur Fonzarelli in the 1970s American sitcom. He was awarded an honorary OBE last year for his work with children with special educational needs.
Source: http://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR451843.aspx