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Funding boost for theatre project for deaf young people

HUNDREDS of deaf young people in London will take to the stage, boost their confidence and learn new skills, thanks to a £200,000 grant.

Deafinitely Theatre – the UK’s first deaf launched and led professional theatre company – has been awarded the funding from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

It will be used to deliver theatre workshops where young people can learn skills such as acting, dance, puppetry, production skills and translating works into British Sign Language.

The project, which will benefit over 400 young people a year over five years, will also deliver summer schools and enable young people to work towards their Arts Award, an A-level equivalent qualification.

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said:

“Taking part in creative and artistic activities such as theatre is a great way for young people to gain confidence, learn new skills and make new friends, and disability should be no barrier.

“This funding will allow Deafinitely Theatre to enable young people to take their first steps towards a career in dramatic arts and will deliver life-long benefits to all those taking part.”

The City Bridge Trust funding will also enable theatre trips and backstage tours for young people, the charity having previously worked with the likes of Shakespeare’s Globe and the National Theatre.

Funding boost for theatre project for deaf young people
Frankie George, Deafinitely Theatre Executive Director. Photograph credit: Rhian Cox

Frankie George, Deafinitely Theatre Executive Director, said:

“Deaf young people sometimes struggle because so many deaf schools and deaf clubs have closed in recent years, so they go into mainstream schools where they don’t always get the support they need.

“Communication is often a barrier to their getting involved in theatre, and the benefit of our being a fully bilingual organisation is all the work we do is delivered in their preferred language.

“Taking part gives deaf young people the chance to meet people who are like them and speak their language, take inspiration from role models such as deaf actors or dancers, and see the career options that are out there for them, which they may not have realised even existed.”

Deafinitely Theatre stages professional productions in spoken English and British Sign Language, which in recent years have included Sarah Kane’s ‘4.48 Psychosis’.

The production enjoyed a sell-out run at London’s New Diorama Theatre in 2018, earning four-star reviews from Time Out and The Guardian and five stars in Theatre Weekly, and returned to the same theatre for a second run in November.

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Deafinitely Theatre is online at: www.deafinitelytheatre.co.uk

Funding boost for theatre project for deaf young people
Deafinitely Youth Theatre production of Beautiful and Disaster at the John Lyons Theatre, City Lit, in Covent Garden, earlier this year. Photograph credit: Becky Bailey

Case study: ‘It was like being part of a family’

Clinton Osondu, 16, from Elephant and Castle, joined Deafinitely Youth Theatre in 2019 with a love for performing. During his time in DYT, he developed his acting and communication skills and an understanding of how to use British Sign Language clearly and creatively in performance.

Building in confidence, he had the opportunity to perform publicly as part of the DYT production of Beautiful Disaster in March 2020. Clinton is currently in Year 11 and this opportunity encouraged him to think more about the possibility of pursuing a career in the performing arts, which he is very passionate about.

He said:

“I loved every part of being involved in Deafinitely Youth Theatre. They were so supportive of me right from the get-go, it was like being part of a family full of energy and vibrancy who all got on so well together with no barriers to communication. I also ended up making new friends.

“It has had such a huge impact on not just my life but my Mum’s as well. They created a space where I felt so safe and helped with my ability to focus on goals and achieve them. I will never forget the experience I had being a part of the project – it is something that will stay in my memory and heart forever.

“If there are any deaf people out there with a passion for acting please get involved with Deafinitely Theatre, I can’t stress this enough.”

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