Often, when people think of disability they think physical disability – not sensory.
This week is National Deaf Awareness Week, recognising and celebrating deafness, raise awareness of best practice and use the week for demonstrating change and positivity.
Originating in 1958, the purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to come together in unity, celebrating and promoting the rights and achievements of the Deaf Community.
Access Fylde Coast has provided signers through Blackpool-based Co-Sign, to high-profile events right across the Fylde Coast – including every single night at Lytham Festival – in the past year, making events accessible and more enjoyable for the deaf community.
And, bringing Evelyn Glennie, profoundly deaf and world-renowned percussionist to the North West was a highlight of our project, which has been funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.
Tony the Signer as he affectionately became known was truly a star of Lytham festival. Not only did he bring performances of Kylie Minogue and Rod Stewart alive for deaf people, he also became something of a legend with the rest of the crowd too.
Twitter became a buzz of “who is the signer?” over the weekend in July.
It was just tremendous that people without impaired hearing thought it was great that worldwide hotshots were having their songs signed.
Tony Redshaw was the signer who provided British Sign Language Translation at Lytham, and is just one of several signers who have done an excellent job at each and every Access Fylde Coast event – including our Comedy Evening at Lytham Hall, which featured comedian and Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Robert White.
Tony, who first learned to sign after seeing two people signing and became intrigued, then went on to learn sign language – and spent the next 8 years honing the skill.
Tony, a former painter and decorator, says that signing for Kylie Minogue was one of the highlights of his career so far.
Carol Kyle, of Co-Sign, which provided the storming success signer Tony Redshaw for Lytham Festival, says: “As the hugely positive response from Lytham Festival showed, having a BSL Interpreter makes such a difference to the experience to those in the Deaf community.
“Improvements have been made in the past few years and there is an increase in awareness for the need for BSL to make events fully inclusive, but there is still a long way to go.
“So, we are pleased to be working in partnership with Access Fylde Coast to continue to enhance accessibility at events across the Fylde Coast.”
Watch Tony talking about the importance of providing signing at events, such as Lytham Festival
In October last year, Evelyn Glennie, the first person in history to sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist, performing worldwide with the greatest orchestras, conductors and artists.
Her performance at Fleetwood’s Marine Hall, in which hoped to enable the world to listen, wowed the audience with her impressive and eclectic range of music styles.
Evelyn fondly recalls having played the first percussion concerto in history of the Proms at the Albert Hall in 1992, which paved the way for orchestras around the world to feature percussion concerti.
She said she was “deeply honoured” to be supporting the “dedicated and vital work that Access Fylde Coast is doing”
“Inclusiveness has been paramount to my upbringing and my career.
“Being surrounded by people who value you as a person, without boundaries or prejudice and who create bridges is key to a healthy and thriving society. Any opportunity to listen to those who require extra support will benefit us all and help create better understanding of what it is to be human,” she says.
Access Fylde Coast has been dedicated to making events in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre, as inclusive as possible since it was launched in April 2019.
From Lytham Festival to the Blackpool Light Switch On, the project, spearheaded by Blackpool-based charity Disability First has wanted to beak down the barriers to accessing events for disabled people, but to also break down perceptions of disabled people.
Alan Reid, CEO of Disability First, says: “Making an event as accessible as possible, people rave about it and also perceptions of disability are positively challenged.
“And rightly so, in this day in age we should be making events accessible for everyone, so that everyone no matter whether they have a physical, sensory, mental health or learning disabilities can have an amazing experience and enjoy themselves.
“The feedback from disabled people – whether a signer or a Mobiloo we have provided – has been really fantastic. We also hope that by making events accessible that organisers will see the benefit of taking simple steps to make their events fully inclusive.”