My name is Joanne Woodhouse-Roberts. I am Profoundly deaf and a BSL user. I live with my teenage son and my deaf husband.
I grew up in London and I played the violin from the age of 7 to 16. I also played the drums and dabbled in the piano now and again during my teenage years. Music has always been something that I have enjoyed, of course being profoundly Deaf, I can’t hear everything but I enjoy it in my own way. I loved watching ‘Top of the Pops’ with the subtitles, the lyrics fascinated me and loved reading the Smash Hit magazines and read the lyrics as a teenager.
During lockdown in the summer months of 2020, I had been following Lynn Stewart- Taylor with the #WTI campaign and I supported Lynn and the campaign 100% and I donated money to the campaign.
I think I gave something like £20 but somehow this didn’t feel enough for me, I felt I could/should do more. At the time I was part of a BSL choir, which reminded me of how much I enjoyed signing along to songs.
Some of the lyrics will appeal to hearing people simply because of the confusion of lockdown rules! I felt if I could write a song and create a choir and get as many deaf people, hearing people, BSL interpreters and children involved – our voices/signing would be heard and be seen. I felt it would raise awareness of the need for an interpreter at these important briefings and equally raise money along the way for the campaign.
When I wrote the song, I tried to think of how my song would translate into BSL, as I feel not every song can be translated in BSL/SSE. Sometimes, the meaning of a song can be lost in a BSL/SSE translation.
I was careful with my lyrics, and made sure that they were meaningful and could be translated into signs that would be creative and make an impact and related to Covid 19, to the lockdown and the deaf community.
For example one line in the song is, “put our friend in the same room and let them sign 2 meters from you”.
Our ‘friend’ is the ‘BSL interpreter’ and that interpreter needs to be in the same room as Boris and another line,
”Let us follow you in real time just like our neighbours and hearing friends do”.
Our ‘neighbours’ means everyone, those who live next door to us but also those that live in Wales, Scotland and Ireland as they have access to a BSL interpreter during their Covid briefings, and of course ‘real time’ means we receive the same information in parallel with hearing viewers, in the same way our neighbours in Wales, Scotland and Ireland do.
I completed my song on the 15th October 2020. I decided to be brave bold and go for it.
I decided I would ‘self fund’ the choir, and project – manage it.
I contacted Liv Austen who is a talented artist/musician to see whether she would be willing to be part of the project and sing the lyrics.
Liv was very supportive and she willingly accepted my invitation. Liv recorded the lyrics and she created the music to accompany the song, and of course it is absolutely beautiful.
Liv did a fantastic job and she also joined the choir along with everyone else and she learned the BSL signs too, if you look carefully you will spot her signing! I am so grateful for all Liv’s support, without her none of this would have been possible.
Although I can sign and have been signing for many years and been part of signing choirs and also been a BSL tutor for 12 years. I felt that it should be someone impartial and a professional who should lead the choir and teach the choir the signs for the song. I was very pleased when Fletch@ came on board.
Fletch@ taught the choir via Zoom on 3 occasions. It took some thinking as to how it would work, as we wanted to be sure that we could deliver to 90 people via Zoom. Fletch@ did an amazing job as I don’t think she had ever taught 90 people at once on zoom before! It was also a learning curve for me, to get my head around Zoom!
When I started the choir, I was hopeful of getting around 20 people to join.
I never imagined that this would attract 90 people in the choir! It has been a busy few months, it’s been a learning curve. Having 90 people made the project a huge task. I often joked the emails were coming in faster than I could get them out!
Yes, there is no doubt I have made mistakes along the way and yes I have had to apologise for those mistakes but the next day, I didn’t repeat them and I carried on learning!
We did our sessions over Zoom in October and they were good fun. We had Sam Calder-Bray from Drummer TV join us on one occasion to do a short recording for Drummer TV. And Fletch@ did a fabulous job being the choir leader.
Lynn Stewart- Taylor and Liv joined us on Zoom also, you will see the result of their excellent work on the video. We also had Ann as co host on Zoom from Kakou who helped hugely with dealing with the technical side of Zoom, and I … Well I did the presenting!
I had a few members of my family who also joined us on Zoom. They’ve never signed before, so it was a real joy to see everyone come together over Zoom in lockdown!
Once we’d completed our 3 sessions with Fletch@ the choir had a couple of weeks to practice for their videos at home before they sent the finished clip.
Ann from Kakou was involved in creating the final edited version. She was responsible for the huge task of bringing the choir together. I didn’t think we would get very many videos, as experience tells us that not everyone enjoys filming themselves.
“To everyone’s credit, they went above and beyond and we received 67 videos!”
The videos were mainly sent either via ‘WeTransfer’, ‘WhatsApp’. I had to forward these on to Ann and again the sheer number of videos took us by surprise.
I salute Ann who has created an amazing video and who has so much patience! I shall be forever thankful to her. For Ann and I it was a learning curve and we had to take each day as it came! And now it gives me great pleasure to release the final video of all the choir signing ” Give Us a Sign”.
I hope this video will be shared as much as possible, amongst family, friends, social media and more. It is my wish for each and everyone of you to share this video, this is what I have worked hard for!
Finally, I also hope this inspires the younger Deaf generation to be brave, bold and create something beautiful. I have had the most wonderful journey and I want to thank each and everyone of you who accompanied me on this amazing journey, without you nothing would have been possible!