Our year in BSL Soc!
What has BSL Society been up to this year?
As the year starts to draw to a close, a summary of what we have been doing and what has gone on in the world of BSL society this year ☺️
It has been a really busy year! We started the year with our stall at Freshers Fayre, encouraging students to come to the give-it-a-go sessions where they could learn a few bits of sign language and meet our tutor to see what they thought of the sessions. We also held a ‘meet the committee’ event at a pub in town – aimed at making people feel more comfortable about attending a first session as we know it can be daunting to come along to a session where you don’t know anyone! This was a success with higher attendance than anticipated and a good evening out had for all.
Then give-it-a-go events came along at the start of October. These were hugely successful, and we grew even more than we had hoped in numbers – climbing from 22 paid members in 2017/18 to a whopping 106 this academic year! This in itself led to some challenges; our give-it-a-go sessions had nearly 70 people attend and there is no way a class this size can be taught sign language so we had to have discussions as a committee around how to handle this and how many classes we needed, balanced with what we could afford to pay for. However, after a very busy and stressful first month or so this year the numbers settled down a bit and we got into the run of things.
Then our events got started in November. We needed to fundraise and wanted to do a bake sale event with games – but what game to do that incorporated BSL? We settled on an evening of BSL Bingo held in Britannia Mill. We encourage people to bring cakes and raffle donations, we created the BSL bingo game and made bingo cards and then advertised and had a successful evening of fundraising. This was a good opportunity for members to meet up outside of session time and socialise whilst also practising their signs, and most importantly – eating cake!
Around this time our tutor suggested a gathering in the pub once a month after the session – this worked well although many of our members commute in for the sessions and did not therefore end up attending these. Those who did had a valuable opportunity to discuss amongst themselves and with our tutor ideas for the society as well as ideas around Deaf Awareness and learning of BSL. This led to some really exciting suggestions and opinions being aired in a more informal environment.
Christmas time brought with it our signing choir, a group of society members who worked together to learn a Sign Supported English translation of some of our favourite Christmas songs and then performed these at various times throughout the lead up to Christmas as a fundraising activity for the society. The idea of the choir was popular among society members, but with not everyone attending the same sessions, and some people attending only fortnightly or different sessions each week, getting everyone learning the same set of signs to the same backing music and in a synchronised was very challenging. We utilised group chats and facebook pages to share videos and links, encouraging people to practise at home.
We signed carols at the Christian Union’s carol service at the cathedral and also at a performance at Derby Theatre, but the fundraising aspect of this project was in the corridor at Derby Hospital; an idea that we had initially been unsure of. We set ourselves up in corridor at the hospital and did several sessions where 5-10 society members used a backing track on the speaker to sign Christmas songs and carols with a fundraising bucket in front of them. This was hugely successful and on a couple of the performances we raised around £100 from passers-by putting money into the bucket!
2019 so far…
After all that successful fundraising we entered 2019 on a high, and in February we had our chance to have professional society photos taken just like the sports clubs!
Unfortunately things got a bit more stressful for the society when we lost our tutor in March. Due to personal circumstances changing he was no longer able to work with us and this left us very suddenly without a tutor and therefore having to cancel some of the usual sessions. Numbers had already decreased during deadlines and unfortunately took another hit when this happened. Fortunately, after hard work from the committee members and meeting with various potential tutors, we have been able to secure a new tutor who started working with us just before Easter.
Finally, we recently had a trip to Derby Theatre to go and see The Jungle Book. This show had fully-integrated BSL, meaning that it was accessible to the Deaf community of Derby. Derby Theatre provides BSL-interpreted performances of many of their shows, but ordinarily a show that is BSL-interpreted will have an interpreter to one side of the stage and this can make it difficult to become fully absorbed in the show because you have to watch either the interpreter or the actors on stage. The recent performance of the Jungle Book was amazing because the sign language was inside the show, being performed by the actors on stage and moving around with the action of the show, too. Those of us who went really enjoyed it and we hope to see more shows like this next year.