Simon Floodgate – Deaf Theatre History Workshop at Deafinitely Theatre

On Saturday 7th September I led a workshop presentation on (Some) History of Deaf Theatre for the UK’s only professional deaf-led theatre company, Deafinitely Theatre, at the Diorama Arts Studios, London NW1.

Deafinitely have recently established a working group called The Hub composed of professional deaf actors and writers.  The group is formed of both established and up-and-coming artists and they are engaged in a series of workshops and presentations designed to enhance their theatre training and knowledge.  The Hub enables these deaf artists to access training that remains largely inaccessible to them via the majority of available theatre courses and training.

My session was the second in their series and enabled them to reflect upon their own heritage by focusing upon the history of the semi-professional British Theatre of the Deaf (1960-77) and Interim Productions that followed it, (1977-83).

In addition I also took the group through a range of international Deaf Theatre including the first professional deaf theatre company – the Moscow Theatre of Sign and Gesture, and, without doubt, the most renowned Deaf Theatre company in the world, the National Theatre of the Deaf in the USA.

The deaf artists present included Paula Garfield, the Company’s Artistic Director (a Bulmershe College Theatre of the Deaf alumni), and several actors who had appeared in the BSL version of Love’s Labours Lost, presented as part of the Globe to Globe International Shakespeare festival in the Summer of the 2012 Olympic year.  They were able to assess their own practice by analyzing the historical incarnations of Deaf Theatre and theatre incorporating deaf sign language.  Questions of aesthetics and access were vigorously and constructively debated at a time when Deafinitely Theatre is preparing a four year business plan for the Arts Council which will argue for their continued existence and development.  Having recently celebrated their tenth anniversary the Company is, as with most arts organisations funded by the Arts Council, concerned about their future funding.

They have asked me to write an endorsement of their work for this vital document.

Despite the amount of Deaf Theatre and drama there has been within the UK, largely through amateur work in deaf clubs, prior to the end of the twentieth century, the existence of the first and only, deaf-led professional theatre company in the UK is something worth supporting and developing.

I believe the session has also stimulated a range of debate about Deaf Theatre on twitter.

Simon Floodgate

TAEDS’ Vicki Hobbs is off to new pastures

Vicki Hobbs leaves TAEDS after a five year career as academic tutor during which time she used her excellent teaching skills to develop the physical theatre work on the Programme.  Vicki had been a student on the Programme, 2002-05, and used her knowledge of and enthusiasm for the unique Course to support and enhance student work during her time here.  Perhaps her greatest legacy will be the Careers modules and work placement opportunities she has initiated and embedded within the Programme.  This is pioneering in what will be essential provision within the developing landscape of higher education.  On behalf of current students and alumni, colleagues and former colleagues we thank her and wish her well on the next steps of her life’s journey

Simon Floodgate



Vicki Hobbs (right) giving farewell speech, standing next to an international student
Vicki Hobbs (right) giving farewell speech, standing next to an international student

Deaf Learners’ Conference hosted by Ilan Dwek

Deaf Unity, set up by a young Deaf man, Abdi Gas in 2010, aims to reach out to all deaf learners not just in the UK, but all over the world, such as Qatar, Tunisia, etc. Reaching out to deaf youths in the Community, Deaf Unity acts as a gateway and guide to the world of Further and Higher Education, recognising the need for more transparency and support for those thinking about progression into college or university, this Deaf Learners project provides access to events across the country, detailed information and tailored support

Deaf Unity’s first Deaf Learners Conference was held on 28th May 2013 at the University of Westminster in London. The aims of the day were to facilitate discussion and share information about the future of deaf education and access to education in the UK. The conference was also a chance to discuss how to support deaf learners after education in jobs and training.

I was the host for the day and I discussed how to inspire change and empower the next generation of deaf learners through role models, networking and technology; emphasising the need for positive discussion and action.

There were several speakers. The first one was David Chater from The Department of Education, who spoke about what the government is doing for deaf learners. The title of his talk was ‘Breaking Educational Barriers: Providing Deaf People with access to information, resources and support that leads to sustainable achievements.’  i.e. closing the gap for deaf learners. He was then followed by Liz Sayce, CEO of Disability Rights UK, who presented a talk about ‘Breaking Work Barriers: Providing Deaf People with Employment Support to Find and Keep Jobs.’ She discussed the work she has done with Disability Rights UK, and how she has brought many different organisations together to work on breaking down barriers within employment for deaf and disabled people.

The third speaker was Rob Wilks, Deaf Lawyer and head of RAD Law centre, who discussed “Equality for Deaf Learners: Why is the law failing them?” He succinctly summarised the barriers facing Deaf people in accessing legal assistance and gave everyone something to think about in terms of making changes in this area. There was an afternoon speaker, Asif Iqbal, who recounted his education and employment journey, providing us with an example of what can be done with a ‘can-do’ attitude.

The afternoon was action packed, with four workshops with Jane Cordell (Successful employment), Penny Beschizza & Dr Marian Grimes (Communication needs in education), John Hay (History of Deaf Education), and Gary Morgan (Linguistics Research on Deaf Learners).

Four deaf learners gave their accounts of their education journeys during the afternoon session of the conference – which brought home how much deaf learners need the right resources, information and access to support. All four had different experiences but the common thread was that they have had to work hard to knock down barriers within education and society to achieve, even in the 21st Century.

Overall, the conference was a chance for organisations and individuals to come together and discuss how to change education and employment opportunities for deaf people for the better. We are proud to be involved in this work with our Deaf Learners project, providing information and looking for ways to improve the experience within education, and to support deaf learners into employment. We hope all who came had an informative and inspiring day.

Ilan Dwek


TAEDS: The Scottish Play at Coombes – Summer 2013

Two TAEDS Year 2 students and their tutor, Cathy Wardale, devised and facilitated a series of four drama workshops at the Coombes School, with the stimulus of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Their task was to explore the play and broaden the Year 6 children’s understanding of the concepts and themes, whilst also showcasing for the teachers which roles each child would be most suitable for in their very own end of year production of the piece, to be staged in July. Traditionally Coombes uses drama workshops as an alternative to auditions because it gives all the children an opportunity to not only grow as performers but also for the staff to get a much better idea of what each child’s strengths are within the performance environment.

As the workshops progressed, the activities became more focused on performance skills. The children gained in confidence and contributed some very moving and innovative ideas that will be used within their end of year performance, for example the ghostly dagger speaking key lines. This was important, as they had the satisfaction of seeing their own input to the devising process. It was delightful to see individuals come out of their shell and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wishes to work in Theatre in Education groups or train as a teacher. For me as a student it was an extremely enjoyable and valuable experience to take part in a progressive workshop, where I was able to build a relationship with the children.

Roxanne Scotten