Archive for March, 2023

A Drama School First – British Sign Language at ArtsEd

Posted on: March 13th, 2023 by Neil Roig

As part of Sign Language Week, ArtsEd are delighted to celebrate the fact that they are the first UK drama school to embed British Sign Language into the curriculum.

ArtsEd’s student cohort is notably diverse with a curriculum that reflects the richness of cultural references and experiences of the students, as well as a focus on the ever-evolving developments in the creative industries.

ArtsEd Principal, Dr Julie Spencer says:

As the sector works to develop its inclusion of the deaf and hard of hearing community both on and off stage, ArtsEd is equipping students with communication skills that will help to support this integration in the long-term.  Expanding the BA Acting curriculum to include BSL was a natural step in the ongoing development of a course that is both contemporary and inclusive.

BSL is integrated into the first year of the BA Acting degree, with a first term module developed in collaboration with Rupal Chandi, a leading BSL tutor, with in-depth experience of working with performers and as a Deaf Consultant for theatre.

In their first term, students have weekly classes with Rupal, exploring the use of visual communication with the support of BSL. Using facial expression, body language, placement and fingerspelling. This insight into communication beyond voice encourages students to explore the physicality of language in other areas of curriculum.

1st Year BA Acting student Saphira Wing says:-

Learning BSL with Rupal has really helped me to progress as a performer, particularly implementing what we’ve learnt into our project work.  Not only has it allowed my performances and learning to be more dynamic and positively challenging, it has also highlighted the importance of inclusive practice in the performing arts, to me and to the rest of my cohort.  Working with Rupal has highlighted the multifaceted nature of communication and I hope prepared us to be part of the change that will make the industry more facilitating and accessible to everyone.

The success of the pilot project in September 2021 has led to BSL being embedded further, and it is now included in the contemporary physical theatre and verbatim theatre modules  in the second term. Students work with Rupal and external directors, blending BSL into their performances.  Rupal says:-

Working with Arts Ed so far has been an amazing challenge, we are constantly changing and developing how we incorporate BSL into the students learning and projects. I enjoy supporting them in exploring the benefits of BSL being used within their performances.

Find out more about ArtsEd’s Acting courses here