Deaf Culture in Quarantine

Check out Sign Night on BBC iPlayer! (optional captions for non-signers / hearing viewers)

I made a new year’s resolution on Instagram at the beginning of 2020 that I would “reclaim” my Deaf cultural heritage and deaf identity. As a 7th generation deaf person, I grew up experiencing art by deaf and disabled artists so I see it as the foundation of everything I now do. I later went on to make work about my own deaf experience as an art student and graduate. I was particularly interested in video projection and made a number of projection works during my Fine Art degree. However, over the years my professional practice has moved further and further away from my roots. I wanted to go back to where I started and revisit deaf story telling in my work.

Then in March 2020, the pandemic shut down the U.K. Suddenly it seemed my ambitions to reignite my own art practice would have to go back into hibernation. Luckily however in response to the pandemic, The Space Arts put put a call for artists to submit low-budget ideas for films for the BBC Arts channel. I jumped at the chance. I wanted to raise the issues the pandemic was causing deaf people and also shine a new light on British Sign Language. With over 2,600 applications, the competition was tough. But to my surprise and delight Sign Night, the projection art based film I had proposed, was selected.

Creating a new work from scratch within a short timeframe in a genre outside my comfort zone was really challenging. As the schools and nurseries had shut, I was juggling the needs of my children throughout the making process. But I’m so proud of what I and my fantastic team achieved. Jo Verrent of Unlimited and Natalie Woolman at The Space were fantastic with their support and encouragement.

Vilma Jackson and Sophie Stone who played the lead roles were outstanding to work with remotely and eventually in person when the lockdown restrictions were lifted.  I will be sharing more details of the making of process soon and I’m also excited to speaking at a workshop with Corey Baker Dance and Simon Wainwright in September for The Space webinar series. Sign Night has sparked a new turning point and creative chapter for me. Its amazing how life can change in such a short space of time. Despite the devastation and loss of income Covid-19 has brought to my family, my peers, colleagues and so many people working in the arts. I feel hopeful for the future.


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