Art & Photography21st December 2014

Art Festivals Promotes Creative Opportunities for Deaf Children

Deaf Children Treated to Inspirational Art Event

by Sarah Lawrence

A beautiful November morning greeted me, with sun beaming down as I arrived at the Chapter Arts building in Cardiff. I was looking forward to meeting Cardiff Deaf Centre (CDC) trustees, the lovely Maggie Hampton from Disability Art Cymru and deaf children from 3 different mainstream schools with deaf units (known as Hearing Impaired Units – much to my dislike of the term ‘Hearing Impaired’) from across South East Wales – Llanishen High, Llandarnam and St Cyres Penarth.

I was very lucky to find a parking space right at the front, after going around in a circle at least twice and despite the rear car park being full. Having arranged to write about the initiative, my brisk walk to the modern/refurbished building raised my excitement about the day.

The event, the first in South Wales, aimed to bring together deaf pupils from a wide geographical area to share in a unique creative experience. Delivered by Deaf tutors and using deaf aware communication, in addition to exposure to the creative arts, it was hoped the children would see the Deaf tutors as inspirational role models.          

I arrived to a warm welcome in the reception area, with all of CDC trustees, guests and Maggie Hampton from Disability Arts sitting there chatting away in BSL. Chatting to Stuart Parkinson, one of the event organisers, and Trustee of Cardiff Deaf Centre, I asked him what he thought of the event so far. “It is a relief that everything is going well and I am delighted to see all of the deaf children enjoying the event. There is a gap for deaf children to meet deaf adults but it can be important for them to recognise their deaf identity.”

Fulfilling a long time ambition to host an event like this, Stuart Parkinson was grateful for the support of Disability Art Cymru, without whom, the event would not have been possible. Expressing her delight about the event, Maggie Hampton from Disability Art Cymru told me, “There is a lack of arts for deaf people in Wales. I hope to see many more events like this one being arranged. Working in partnership with Cardiff Deaf Centre has given us the opportunity to connect with other deaf groups across Wales.”

Amidst the excited and attentive young faces, I spotted the familiar face of Catherine Robbins-Talbot, an experienced Youth Worker who had been invited along to share in the experience. “I am delighted to see the children having fun and having an opportunity to express their identity and meet other deaf children. Many deaf children are in mainstream schools where they do not know any other deaf children in other schools so this was an ideal opportunity.”

Working with deaf children on a regular basis, I asked Catherine about the biggest issue with young deaf people these days. “Life skills, such as sharing responsibility,” she told me. “Knowing their rights as a deaf person and how to access information. I hope to see more and more transition training for young deaf people to help them develop their life skills.”

With a lovely buffet put on for lunch, it was pleasing to see all the deaf children joining in with their teachers, Communication Support Workers, deaf artists, deaf guests and the organisers. I took the opportunity to catch up with Paul Scott, a Deaf poet. Commenting about his involvement in the event, Paul said, “It was challenging to deliver the workshop in BSL, as very few of the children know or use BSL at school. I hope that their experience today of various deaf artists will give them confidence for the future.”

Providing the children with several tips on how to use BSL in poetry as well as ideas on how to create a sentence using the same hand shape throughout, Paul was keen to express his support. “This is important for deaf children as they do not have an opportunity to discover BSL as a language. Learning to use it creatively will help them use their imagination.”

Enjoying a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening event, I was keen to get some concluding comments from Stuart. He told me he was pleased to finally fulfill his ambition to promote Deaf identity and Deaf culture, as well as showing deaf children that they can try out different artistic activities. "Feedback from the teachers and the children has been so positive about the day, so I hope this event is just the beginning," Stuart told me enthusiastically. 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Entertainment / Art & Photography

21st December 2014