Over the last few years Solar Bear has worked in partnership with The National Theatre of Scotland, Birds of Paradise and SignArts (Catherine King and Yvonne Strain) on a project called Creative Licht, funded by Creative Scotland.
Creative Licht is a training programme for Sign Language Interpreters working in Scotland, to develop and improve approaches to BSL interpretation in theatre.
Origins of Creative Licht
Creative Licht developed out of a Deaf Audience research project by National Theatre Scotland in partnership with Solar Bear and Culture Republic over NTS’ 2011/2012 season. The project devised Deaf Theatre Clubs which took place in Access Scottish Theatre venues nationally, on nights when NTS productions were being performed. A £5 ticket price was offered to deaf audiences who use British Sign Language to come and view a BSL interpreted performance, in return for feedback on their experience.
A theatre set or a tennis court?
One of the key points from deaf audience members was the poor value for money when paying a standard ticket price and being offered a ‘side of the stage’ interpretation. Deaf audience members had to flick backwards and forwards between watching the interpreter (to know what’s being said) or the actors (to watch the performance).
The feedback highlighted the lack of equality for deaf audiences with this model of theatre interpretation.
Can interpreters perform?
Historically, interpreter training qualifications have not offered modules relating to theatre interpretation. This field has improved and currently Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh offers a CPD module in Interpreting in Arts and Culture Settings (20 credits at SCQF Level 11) and Creative Licht has developed a CPD programme of masterclasses to allow registered sign language interpreters to develop performance skills. There are also CPD courses running in London and Manchester.
Changing the sector
Alongside the programme of performance masterclasses Creative Licht has also run a series of knowledge exchanges. These have brought together industry professionals and registered sign language interpreters, allowing them to gain an understanding of each other’s professions. The result of the initial Deaf Audience research project and the Creative Licht knowledge exchanges has seen a revision of the traditional model of BSL interpreted performances. Instead of being overseen by Front of House departments, much of this work has moved into Artistic Development following the lead of National Theatre Scotland.
A recognised cultural minority
Since the start of this work there have been several major developments in Deaf Arts, with the passing of the BSL Act (Scotland) 2015 and the graduation of 10 deaf actors from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Performance in British Sign Language and English, a course developed in partnership with Solar Bear. Now the need for Registered Sign Language Interpreters with performance skills is in demand more than ever – to support deaf artists professionally, as well as continuing to deliver high quality interpreted performances for deaf audiences across Scotland.
The number of ‘side of stage’ interpreted performances is declining and integrated interpretations are being developed with deaf artists and performance interpreters engaging with the productions from the start of the process. This model is supported and encouraged by funders at Creative Scotland and programmers in Access Scottish Theatre venues and other organisations such as Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, Glasgow’s Mayfest and Buzzcut.
If you are a theatre maker, or a theatre or dance company and would like to contact performance interpreters who are members of Creative Licht please contact: email@example.com