BBC Radio Derby Interview

BBC Radio Derby Interview, 08/09/19

Presenter: Donna Alos

Link: (skip to 1hr 8min)


Donna: Now what do you know about Sign Language? Derby Signfest is taking place next week, celebrating and raising Awareness of Sign Language and the fact that Derby has the second largest Deaf community outside of London. There will be Theatre, workshops, family activities, tours, arts and films, and Lauren Barkes is from Derby Signfest to tell us more, good morning Lauren.


Lauren: Morning


Donna: Erm, first of all tell me a little bit about Derby’s Deaf community.


Lauren: So, Derby has the second largest Deaf community outside of London, erm and a lot of the reason for that is because we have The Royal School for the Deaf in Derby, erm and it used to be on Friargate, so it opened years and years and years ago on Friargate. Erm so, Deaf people tend to move to Derby, because of the school, and a lot of children actually live at the school, so they live in house, they come from everywhere and live at the school. Erm it’s a really rich community, erm they have a lot of social events, which is obviously where Signfest comes from, is creating more social awareness around that. They have a load of social events erm, and I can’t actually, I should have looked this up before I came in, but I can’t actually remember how many people there is, Deaf people there is in Derby. But, the community’s huge, like I say the second largest community outside of Derby, er, outside of London. So It’s a really really rich community we’ve got here in Derby.


Donna: Ok, so with regard to sign language, I know some schools try and do just a little bit, even just saying good morning everyone in sign language, which at least gets a little bit of awareness out there. Erm, but, I mean I, I feel ashamed now to say I don’t know any sign language. Is it something we should all have a basic grasp of?


Lauren: Definitely, so, sign language is such a rich language, erm and it’s really good that schools are starting to recognise that, and starting to teach their pupils a little bit. Even if it is just hello, or you know, how are you? So they can engage with Deaf people and make them feel welcome, like wherever they are. You know, if you work in a shopping centre you can say hello and just that basic polite skills, that you know, if you go to Greece for example, you’re going to learn good morning, like it’s the same thing. Erm, and so I think everyone should have basics, so it’s really good that schools are starting to do that. Erm, but obviously, what would be really great, is if more hearing people had full qualifications in sign language, so they can actually communicate fully. The same as you know, in schools we learn French and Spanish and German, which are languages that we probably never actually use, if we’re honest. I did GCSE French and I can remember my name and where I live, and I think the colour of my hair and that’s about it really, erm as soon as I left that, you know, fell out my brain, I’ve never met a French person, bar when I went to Paris when I was 11. Erm, whereas obviously Sign Language is around us, there’s people who use sign language every single day around us here in Britain, so we should learn British Sign Language. And it’s a beautiful language, it’s really beautiful.


Donna: Ye, I was just going to say, there has been a call recently for sign language to be more of a, sort of popular formal qualification. I mean you obviously very keen for people to get behind that.


Lauren: Yes, so I obviously 100% agree that there should be a formal qualification, because obviously as English native speakers we have a qualification in our own language. So why shouldn’t native sign language users have a qualification in their own language, and it is, so sign language doesn’t follow English structure, so it has it’s own grammatical structure, erm, it was a recognised, I think it’s been a legal recognised language in Britain since 2003, which is not that long ago really actually…


Donna: No


Lauren: …Because sign language has been around for hundreds of years, and it’s only really just recently been recognised as it’s own language. So, it’s like were kind of getting there, and we just need it to be, recognised as a, language within schools so that Deaf people can learn their native language, not have to learn English all the time, because that’s not their structure, that’s not their language. And obviously hearing children then can learn it, and from a young age, you learn better when you are young…


Donna: Yes absolutely, absolutely


Lauren: ...As you get older, you know, your learning diminishes a little bit and it gets a lot harder to learn. Whereas children, if they learn right from being born even…


Donna: Their like sponges yes


Lauren: …so that there is a lot of obviously popularity in baby sign aswell, like, which sometimes there’s a bit of controversy over that because sometimes it’s more Sign Supported English which follows the English structure. And sometimes, people do it in Makaton, which isn’t Sign, British Sign Language, that’s more kind of looking at erm, language that supports English for people with learning disabilities.


Donna: Ok


Lauren: But, it’s a start

Donna: Yes Exactly


Lauren: It’s a start, and it would be really great. I would have loved to do a Sign Language GCSE.


Donna: Yes. But now obviously, Signfest is taking place. Just tell us a little bit about it.


Lauren: So, Signfest is a weeklong festival, in Derby, celebrating the fact obviously, we have the second largest Deaf community outside of London. Erm, and there’s a range of activities, erm, so we’ve got Theatre, comedy, er we’ve got family fun days. So that, so that, Deaf people can come and you know, have a really great week of, you know, activities. But also to raise awareness for hearing people, so we’ve for BSL taster sessions, we’ve got Deaf awareness session and everything’s either got an interpreter, or a, for Sign Language or an interpreter for English with a voiceover, so that everyone, Deaf, English users, sorry, BSL users, English users, everyone has access to the festival. And the idea of it came from, so Alison my colleague at Signfest, erm, she started it, she was in a meeting with the councillors, about the stars, do you know that went up, was it a year ago, a year and a half ago, erm in Derby. Erm, she was at a meeting about the stars about famous people, and she went, where’s the famous Deaf people represented in theses stars, like, there’s such great culture in Derby, where are they. And that’s kind of where it started from, erm, and then she thought well let’s celebrate that and lets have a festival in Derby. Lets let the Deaf community take over Derby, let’s make it so they can access, you know, the Ghost Tours on Friargate that usually they can’t do because there’s not an interpreter, or the tours of Pride Park, they usually can’t do that because there’s not an interpreter. And, obviously you can get access to work for interpreters, but you don’t get interpreters, money for, you know socially, social events, so.


Donna: So if people want to find out more how can they do that.


Lauren: So if you want to find out more you can follow us on Facebook and it’s @DerbySignfest or Twitter @DSignfest or on our website which is


Donna: Lauren Barkes, I wish you all the very best and thank you so much for coming in and talking so passionately about it, er really appreciate it. That’s Lauren Barkes from Derby Signfest, all the details on the website.

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