EIGHT new students who are all deaf or hard of hearing have begun their studies on the UK’s first performance degree programme for deaf actors at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
The BA Performance in British Sign Language and English course has been designed specifically for deaf students who aspire to a career in the theatre industry.
Created in partnership with Solar Bear Theatre Company, this three-year degree programme is recognised as the only course of its kind currently on offer in the UK.
The Royal Conservatoire has been preparing for this new degree for almost four years, with many academic and administrative staff undertaking sign language courses, deaf awareness training and hosting short courses for deaf students in the performing arts.
The new students will be studying modules in acting, movement, improvisation, film-making and devising under head of BA Performance and RCS graduate, Claire Lamont.
Claire is excited for the start of this new degree. She said: “It’s important that people have access to high quality learning and teaching and that our theatre industry has access to the benefits that deaf performers can offer.
“RCS is educating these new students as both actors and performance makers, delivering a rich variety of skills including visual theatre work in clowning, mask and puppetry within our outstanding School of Dance, Drama, Production and Screen.
“The work that these students create and develop over the next three years will enrich and potentially transform our local, national and international scene. I can’t wait to get started, it’s going to be a very exciting journey.”
This new degree programme is welcomed from artists across the sector.
The patron of the degree, Jenny Sealey MBE, artistic director of Graeae Theatre Company, the leading deaf and disabled theatre company, applauded the work of RCS and Solar Bear.
She said: “The work of RCS and Solar Bear is fantastic – there are so few opportunities for deaf people to access education in the performing industry so this degree is fundamental.”
Professor Maggie Kinloch, deputy principal of RCS, has been instrumental in the creation of this new learning opportunity.
She said: “There is so much talent in the deaf community and there is no doubt in my mind that the performance industry will benefit from the enrichment of the talent pool that our BA Performance graduates will bring to it.
“I am proud to be part of an organisation like RCS that celebrates and promotes inclusivity and equality – the launch of this degree is a moment in history.”
Gerry Ramage, artistic director of Solar Bear, said: “Solar Bear are proud to have played our part in the development of the BA Performance but even more proud of the people we have been working with over the past five years, both in our Deaf Youth Theatre and Deaf Theatre Skills programmes. It is their talent and determination that have been the real drivers in making this happen.”
Laurence Howells, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “This is the UK’s first ever degree course for British Sign Language performance and I’m delighted our £350,000 investment has helped make it happen in Scotland. It’s exciting to see the first eight students from the deaf community beginning this course and treading the same boards as actors like David Tennant, Ruby Wax and James McAvoy.”
Cabinet Secretary for Education, Angela Constance, said: “This is fantastic news for the first group of students and sends a message that access to higher education in Scotland is not limited by background or circumstances. I wish the students the very best of success and hope to see some of their work as their careers progress.”
More information about this unique undergraduate course is available at rcs.ac.uk
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