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.

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

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 a 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.”

Picture captions

- Deafinitely Youth Theatre production of Beautiful and Disaster at the John Lyons Theatre, City Lit, in Covent Garden, earlier this year (credit – Becky Bailey)

- Deafinitely Youth Theatre group in action (credit – Rhian Cox)

- Frankie George, Deafinitely Theatre Executive Director (credit – Rhian Cox)

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust has allocated £11 million to the London Community Response, set up to help charities deal with the impact of coronavirus, and has also given over £1.7 million in one-off grants to 202 organisations it already supports to help them offset lost income resulting from the pandemic.

The London Community Response Fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. The City of London Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge House Estates and Members of its Court of Common Council form the City Bridge Trust Committee, responsible for taking grant and funding decisions for the charity.

About Deafinitely Theatre

In 2002, Paula Garfield set up Deafinitely Theatre alongside Steven Webb and Kate Furby after becoming frustrated at the barriers that deaf actors and directors face in mainstream media. The company launched with a sell-out première of Deaf History at the Gate Theatre in London. In May 2012, the company performed the first ever British Sign Language Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre, Love’s Labour’s Lost, celebrating its 10-year anniversary. In 2018 Deafinitely won the Off West End Award for Best Production for its site-specific production of Mike Bartlett’s Contractions and in 2019 Paula Garfield received a Tonic Award for her energy and unwavering commitment to opening theatre up and the artistic quality of the work Deafinitely Theatre presents.

The company’s vision is a world where deaf people are a valued part of the national theatre landscape, recognised for the excellence of their work. Deafinitely Theatre is the first professional deaf-launched and led theatre company in the UK that works bilingually in British Sign Language and spoken English and produces work that caters to audiences of all ages. Deaf theatre has a vital contribution to make to the UK's diverse and vibrant theatre landscape. Deafinitely Theatre challenges barriers to training and opportunities and embraces the deaf world's diversity. The company work hard to nurture the next generation of deaf actors, writers and audiences through its Deafinitely Youth Theatre and Deafinitely Little productions for young people, plus its Hub training and development programme for adults.


Twitter: @DeafinitelyT

Facebook: deafinitelytheatre