Developing art and performance by deaf people is the aim of the Deaf Cultural Centre and very much at the heart of its vision.
This began in 2007 with the appointed co-ordinator (Lisa Davies) finding artists to form the UK’s first Deaf Arts Network and two years later, there were between 30 – 35 artists on the list. Some hailed from as far as London and Wales. An arts focused conference, during early 2007, highlighted difficulties and problems faced by deaf artists, forged new partnerships with other arts related organisations in the Midlands namely Age Concern, the CBSO, Ikon and Wolverhampton Art Gallery and museums. These exciting partnerships expanded opportunities for the deaf artists with interactive projects, some of which continue today.
The artists, all with differing mediums ranging from fine art, dance, music, painting and photography to sculpture, was involved in a number of creative projects at the Deaf Cultural Centre. Aptly named, Creative Hands, an annual Deaf Arts Festival, took place for three years which brought arts and crafts by professional Deaf artists to interested visitors via a week-long exhibition and a number of workshops with regional and mainstream schools.
Although the annual Deaf Arts Festival is no longer running, the new Deaf Explorer Project brought a Festival of Deaf Arts in October 2013 which showcased the learning development of 6 professional deaf artists who undertook national and international travel to find out more about arts by deaf people in another country.
Over the years, we have had a number of projects and shows. See below for further information on each one.
October 2012 – the 5th Anniversary of the Deaf Cultural Centre
Performance by acclaimed deaf performer Ramesh Meyyappan
To celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Deaf Cultural Centre in October 2012, BID Services recruited the help of acclaimed deaf performer Ramesh Meyyappan, an impossibly funny, story-teller who presented the humourous ‘This Side Up’.
‘This Side Up’ was about one man’s battle between the urban sprawl of the city and his need to go back to his roots. He had a practical eye for spotting natural beauty and an unquenchable thirst to come a little closer to the world. Unfortunately, when he attempted to go back to nature, he neither had the skills or knowledge to make it happen. The result of which brought amusement to those who lived around him. ‘This Side Up’ created a world of strong characters, a distinctive style and madcap humour set in a wonderfully visual narrative world.
December 2011 – Razzle Dazzle
Christmas Deaf Variety Show
To celebrate deaf culture during the festive season, BID Services teamed up with the Deaf Cultural Centre to present a Variety show called “Razzle Dazzle” on Saturday 11th December, 2011 at the Deaf Cultural Centre.
BID Services has been supporting the Deaf community for over 100 years and this event highlighted the many ways in which deaf people celebrate and explore their musicality. Being Deaf is not necessarily a barrier to experiencing and enjoying music and the Deaf community have a very rich culture in interpreting music through sign language and visual representation.
The event showcased a range of very talented deaf artists and musicians who each have their own extraordinary talents, which appealed to both deaf and hearing audiences. On stage was Richard Carter, a well-known and gifted deaf poet with a natural talent for words, sign-song performer Rebecca Anne Withey, who married the sound of music with music to the eyes, John Smith, a profoundly deaf comedian, who engaged his audience in hours of laughter reflecting on growing up deaf in a hearing world, Riccardo, a dancer, who created a truly visual experience though movement and song, and a Birmingham-based theatre company called InteGreat, who performed a mixture of drama and singing.
July 2010 – In Tune
A Deaf Awareness Variety Show
To celebrate Deaf Awareness Week, BID Services hosted a Variety show called “In Tune”, on Friday, 2ndJuly, at the Deaf Cultural Centre.
We showcased a range of talented deaf artists and musicians. For instance, we had a profoundly deaf flute player Ruth Montgomery whose performance was enjoyed by hearing people through sound, and deaf people though visual representation using colour and graphics. The other artists who performed included a deaf poet, Richard Carter, who has a natural gift for poetry, acclaimed sign-song performer Jayne Fletcher, who transformed the sound of music into a truly visual experience, Ricky ‘Ricardo’ Hoyte, who danced and signed to songs, and InteGreat, a theatre company, who performed using a mixture of drama and sign songs.
The event was supported by the Mayor of Birmingham, Len Gregory and the Lady Mayoress, Gillian Gregory, who chose BID Services as one of the charities they fundraised for, during their year in office.
2009 – Age Concern: The Renew You Project
The Renew You project was created to encourage Deaf elders recreate their acquired skills and learn new skills in a variety of mediums at fortnightly sessions over a period of 6 months.
This project gave the elders a new opportunity to break out of their usual monotonous routines and to try new interests. Many of them, in their 70s and 80s, enjoyed drawing, painting, card-making and even took part in belly-dancing which brought much excitement! They also felt that the exercise sessions, favourites of which were the chair-based exercises and tai chi, benefited them very much both mentally and physically.
2009 – Deaf Arts Exhibition: ‘A Different View’
Deaf Artists bring a ‘Different View’ to Bilston Craft Gallery
Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museums worked in partnership with the Deaf Cultural Centre to exhibit the work of the Centre’s Deaf Arts Network.
This partnership was the brainchild of Francis Neilsen, Outreach Officer for Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum Service, who liaised with the Deaf Cultural Centre to bring the deaf artists work to Bilston Gallery. This exhibition, entitled ‘A Different View’, explored the perception of the artist’s world as seen through their eyes.
Artists who exhibited at the gallery in Mount Pleasant, Bilston, included Linda Bagnall, a ceramics and sculpture specialist based in Stafford, Sunny Chana a digital print artist, Iva Hay an illustrationist and painter and Olivier Jamin, a well known contemporary Deaf artist in his own right.
All of the works on display varied in form and style but linked together through communication of ideas, concepts or the messages contained to convey the artist’s unique view of the world around them.
The exhibition ran for three weeks in 2009, and included a Saturday workshop for interest participants to learn some artistic techniques used by the artists themselves.
June 2008 – CBSO Deaf Project
Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ gets a visual twist
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the Deaf Cultural Centre worked in partnership to explore visual and aural links of Mussorgsky’s orchestral work ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’.
As part of an education project, CBSO musicians including Deaf musician Sannah Gulamani and Deaf artistts Fiona McLean and Iva Tetauerova worked with four local hearing impaired schools to develop creative performances that explore how musical themes can be represented visually, enabling creative music making opportunities.
The final performance took place on Monday 30th June 2008 and was attended by pupils, their families and teachers involved in creating the performance.