Media Release: British Sign Language takes centre stage

THE Scottish Storytelling Centre is exploring British Sign Language storytelling. This year, the annually-awarded Nancy and Hamish Turner bursary for storyteller development will be presented to a storyteller telling in British Sign Language.

The Centre will work with the successful applicant to use the £1,750 bursary, which is supported this year by Creative Scotland, to create a tailor-made professional development programme of training and research to build on the storyteller’s existing skills and experience.

The Storytelling Centre hopes that the bursary will be a route to exploring the creative potential of British Sign Language – a language naturally rich in metaphor and story – and embedding vibrant BSL storytelling performances and projects into the Centre’s year-round work. The bursary is open for applications until the end of February, and the application form and criteria are available from

There is also the opportunity to see BSL storytelling in action as Richard Carter, a deaf storyteller from Bristol, will give a lecture in the EdSign series on Wednesday February 23rd at 6.30pm at Paterson’s Land G34, in Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh.

Richard, grew up in a hearing family as most deaf children do. His family were travelling showmen and moved round the UK. He went to a mainstream school where he was taught using speech and lipreading. Teachers also used Paget Gorman sign language and cued speech with him. However, Richard’s preferred language is British Sign Language, the natural language of the deaf community. He started BSL storytelling as an 18 year-old at Derby College for deaf people. He has performed in many venues at deaf performance in Scotland.

Richard has been a teacher of BSL at Elmfield School for deaf children in Bristol for the past four years. He will be discussing how he teaches storytelling and introduces BSL poetry with deaf children as well as showing some of his work.

Moray House has an important place in the eyes of the UK deaf community as it was here in 1976 that Mary Brennan started investigating the language she saw deaf people using. The language of signs became known as British Sign Language; Mary investigated the structure and particularly the metaphorical potential of this natural language, which is organised so differently from English.


Nancy and Hamish Turner award

Set up in 2007 by Elspeth Turner and her husband Stewart Asquith in memory of Elspeth’s parents, who were founder members of the Storytelling Network, the bursary exists to recognise and encourage innovative storytellers in their work. It was first awarded to Botswanan storyteller and educator, Kelone Khudu-Petersen for her pioneering work amongst children from cultural minorities in the Eastern Kalahari region. 2009’s award supported Tim Porteus in his work with vulnerable young adults and last year’s bursary went to Marie Louise Cochrane for using storytelling in emotional literacy work with very young children.

How to apply

Anyone who wants to apply for the bursary should request an application pack (available in English and BSL) from

The Scottish Storytelling Centre is the national body for the support and development of the storytelling artform. The organisation is a partnership between the Scottish Storytelling Forum and the Church of Scotland, and is supported by Creative Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and a wide range of charitable donations. SCO 11353

The Edsign group is made up of lecturers from the universities of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Queen Margaret, students and interested members of the local deaf community. All its lectures are free and always interpreted so that deaf and hearing people can participate on an equal basis.

Further details about the EdSign series of lectures, poster and website:

More details about the lecture arrangements:

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Contact: Esther Blackburn
Phone: 0131 556 9579