Music and Drama were key parts of the curriculum at Ovingdean Hall School. The Foundation has funded a number of projects in this area, working with charity partners that provide music or drama experiences for deaf children:
During 2023-24, we are supporting Deafinitely’s popular Youth Theatre programme for deaf young people. The Youth Theatre is the only specialist, free of charge, deaf-led arts provision available to young people aged 14-21 in London and nationally. ‘The project will benefit 100+ deaf young people to take part in youth activities where they will learn skills, meet peers, improve their communication and personal development,’ said Frankie, their Executive Director.
Since 2022, we have been supporting a project to involve deaf young people in making theatre more accessible. Pilot is a leading national touring company specialising in creating theatre for, by and with children and young people.
Over the last year, Pilot have delivered eight workshops to 99 deaf young people at four schools/ settings in the Midlands and North of England. ‘In the workshops, we introduced the themes, stories and key characters to the students before they attended the performances, as well as engaging them in drama games and activities,’ said Pilot’s Associate Director, Oli.
Pilot also provided free online resources, including video interviews with cast members and filmed extracts of the production, which the teacher and students could revisit at any time to reinforce learning and vocabulary. The students all received free tickets to see captioned and BSL-interpreted performances of Pilot’s productions of Noughts and Crosses or Run, Rebel at their local theatre. Pilot returned to schools after the performance to seek students’ views about the production and its accessibility. We look forward to supporting Pilot’s ongoing work with deaf young people in 2024.
Sounds of Intent and University of Roehampton, London
We have sponsored the printing of special music resources for 125 families with deaf or hard of hearing children in the UK. The families are participating in IMAGINE: Deafness and Hearing Loss project. This initiative, run jointly by Sounds of Intent and University of Roehampton, London, is piloting a new model of music provision for families with young deaf or hard of hearing children. Their aim is to empower parents (whether deaf or hearing – and who don’t need to have any special musical skills) to engage with their children in musical activities, which will be enjoyable in their own right, as well as supporting communication and social skills.
IMAGINE (‘Ideas for Musical Activities and Games in the Early Years)’ includes a set of resources (an Introduction, four Activity Books, a Songbook and a Notebook), online audio-visual materials and, for a representative sample of families in the pilot scheme, visits from specially trained practitioners.
Beyond the pilot project, the aim is to set up a national music scheme similar to those already running for the families of blind children at The Amber Trust and children with complex needs at Soundabout Families.
Down the Rabbit Hole
We have supported soprano Charlotte Hoather’s project to bring opera to schools. Charlotte toured her Alice In Wonderland-inspired opera Down the Rabbit Hole during March 2023, delivering 25 performances across schools in Winsford and London. Down The Rabbit Hole was written by Charlotte, with music provided by Zollino. Charlotte also wrote and illustrated a guide to accompany the opera.
Fiona Maddocks, writing in The Guardian, gave the show a five star review: ‘The free flow of song, dance, clever piano riffs, mime and sign language absorbed every child present. This tiny enterprise has incalculable resonance.’ Read the full article here.
‘I wanted to create an inclusive and enjoyable opera for both hearing and deaf children,’ said Charlotte, who was diagnosed at birth as profoundly deaf in one ear. ‘My aim was to remove barriers to classical music caused by access, location or finance and show that anyone can be creative. Ovingdean Hall Foundation provided crucial support for this project, and your belief in the idea and generous donation made it possible.’
‘Thank you for making the opera accessible and for using British Sign Language in the creative storytelling,’ said one student who saw the performance at Frank Barnes Primary School for Deaf Children, ‘It meant we could get involved too.’ Another child added that it was his,‘favourite show to watch.’
Music and the Deaf is a small national charity committed to enriching the lives of deaf children though music. Our grant delivered musical inspiration days to 114 deaf children across the West Midlands, Devon and Rotherham during 2017/18. The project was organised in partnership with five Music Education Hubs and their local Deaf and Hearing Support Teams.
Called ‘A local and national treasure’ by The Guardian, this theatre in Wimbledon is dedicated to children, with 90,000 visiting each year. Our grant enabled Polka Theatre to adapt six shows for deaf children. During summer 2021, we funded a project for a group of deaf children to create a digital backdrop for the newly refurbished Polka Theatre’s opening show RED. We are supporting more adapted shows in Autumn/ Winter 2023.
Our work with Go Live Theatre Projects (previously known as Mousetrap Theatre Projects) began in 2014 when 65 deaf children from the London area attended a theatre day built around Matilda the Musical. The event was supported by a series of play-writing workshops in school. The children saw their plays brought to life by professional actors at a showcase at London’s Leicester Square Theatre. ‘We’re the gods of comedy,’ said one student.
Our work with Mousetrap Theatre Projects continued. During summer 2016, children went to see productions of James and the Giant Peach or Gangsta Granny, and then took part in a series of drama and writing workshops back at school. They returned to the West End to see their plays, which included a detective mystery and a story about the power of friendship, being performed by a company of professional deaf and hearing actors. ‘It was inspiring,’ said Trustee Pauline Hughes.
During summer 2017, we contributed toward another project. Over the course of six workshops and with the support of drama practitioners and playwright Andrew Muir, children from four primary schools prepared short plays which were then performed by a company of deaf and hearing actors. The plays, which were introduced by short films made by the children, brought to life imaginative characters including a time-travelling farmer with smelly feet, a hungry pirate in search of golden pasta, and a superhero with rainbow chicken pox.
In 2018/ 2019, we helped to fund four of Mousetrap’s Stageseen events for deaf children. Two events in October 2018 were built around School of Rock; 60 children from across London, Brighton, Kent and Hampshire participated. A further two events, in March 2019, were dedicated to Romeo and Juliet, with 157 deaf children from London, Bedford, Berkshire and East Sussex taking part. Each event included a pre-show drama workshop exploring the story and its characters and themes, an onstage tour and a matinee performance which was either captioned or BSL interpreted.
After being on hold for two years, Mousetrap’s popular Stage Seen returned in March 2022 when 153 deaf children and young people gathered to watch Macbeth at The Globe in London. The event included a pre-show workshop, a theatre tour, and the performance itself, which was either captioned or sign-interpreted. Stage Seen returned to The Globe in March 2023 when deaf young people attended events built around The Tempest.
Deaf children from the Bristol area took part in two percussion-based music workshops organised by Bristol Ensemble: Hearing Beethoven was based on the life and work of the deafened composer, while Reich On! was built around the music of Steve Reich. Over the course of the workshops, children used a variety of instruments, and composed and performed their own work. Their music was showcased at Bristol’s Colston Hall, an event attended by Dame Evelyn Glennie, a musician who is herself deaf. ‘Music enriches life,’ she said. ‘These children are proving that music is for the inclusion of everyone.’
‘It changes my feeling that music is really for hearing people,’ reported one student. ‘I know deaf people can do this.’ Another student added that, ‘The workshops made me feel excited and happy and LOUD.’
We funded three year’s worth of music lessons at Hamilton Lodge School and College. ‘Thanks to the seed funding we received from OHF for a partnership with a local youth club to provide music lessons, music has become part of everyday life here,’ said the Head of Development at the Brighton-based school for deaf children.