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Children from Knotty Ash Primary School & Deaf Resource Base have caught the attention of more than half a million people around the world thanks to their amazing skills in British Sign Language.
A group of deaf and hearing children went on a mission to spead deaf awareness in the city centre last week. Having performed an impromptu version of You’ll Never Walk Alone in Williamson Square as part of Deaf Awareness Week 2019, they received a rapturous response from crowds of hundreds of Liverpool and Barcelona fans. This was the moment teacher, Kathleen Sweeney suggested they take it digital!
Under the Headship of Roanne Clements-Bedson, Knotty Ash Primary School has established itself as a centre of excellence for inclusion. The school is home to the only primary Deaf Resource Base (DRB) in the city, headed up by Kathleen Sweeney. Pupils travel from a host of neighbouring local authorities to attend this highly specialist provision for deaf children, where full social inclusion, from Nursery to y6 learn BSL is paramount.
It was from this inclusive environment in the heart of Knotty Ash that The Liverpool Signing Choir was born. The fundamental ethos of the choir was then and is now, to reduce social isolation and to build a sense of community amongst children, parents and staff.
It’s been 18 years since choir founder Catherine Hegarty set about breaking down barriers between the deaf and hearing communities and now more than 120 children and adults from around the North West attend weekly rehearsals. Catherine works in Knotty Ash’s Deaf Resource Base so all the children in school benefit from signed songs, which enriches their BSL.
The viral success online of Knotty Ash’s Signing Choir comes at the end of National Deaf Awareness Week, Catherine explained, “We call the video A Tale of Two Semi- Finals: the footage in the background shows Liverpool losing in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona and mood of the players and supporters is reflected in the facial expression of the children.
“As the match progresses and the song goes on, the mood turns to one of hope, expectation and sheer determination – it is fantastic to see how this is captured by the children through the beauty of the British Sign Language – as we always say ‘Our Voices are in our Hands”
Catherine explained the fundamental role of school’s Deaf Education Instructor Ann McKenna in ensuring the meaning of the lyrics of each song are translated into British Sign Language (BSL). Ann teaches BSL to both DRB and mainstream pupils as well as the staff at Knotty Ash. A life-long supporter of LFC, when the opportunity arose to teach the children this iconic Liverpool anthem, she jumped at the chance.
Catherine and Ann sat down together and watched the famous, moving moment in the film Carousel, which initially featured ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and immediately the true meaning of the lyrics became clear and translation into British Sign Language became visual poetry in motion.
The video has now received almost half a million views on social media. Staff at Knotty Ash and The Liverpool Signing Choir are delighted that British Sign Language has been thrust into the spotlight. Catherine said “We just can’t believe how many people have shared it, including lots of Everton fans – that shows true Merseyside spirit! Knotty Ash girls football team just won a match 9-2 this week too so it just shows team work DOES make a dream work !”
“Knotty Ash is preparing for it’s own Deaf Awareness Week in June and have invited a range of brilliant Deaf role models to come in to school to meet and inspire our children.”
Meanwhile, it’s full steam ahead for TLSC now as they gear for 3 days of performances at the Netball World Cup at the M&S Bank Arena in July.
The Liverpool Signing Choir (TLSC) is an inclusive choir no knowledge of sign language or singing is necessary to join in. To find out more about rehearsal sessions and how to get involved, head to www.theliverpoolsigningchoir.com
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