Media Release: Storytelling and sign language go hand in hand

THE Scottish Storytelling Centre will host a special event next month to celebrate British Sign Language (BSL), signalling the beginning of plans for future collaborations between storytelling and BSL.

The Deaf in the Story: Visual Stories of an Invisible People event on Saturday 5 November aims to promote BSL and storytelling to hearing as well as Deaf audiences, encouraging the general public to explore the power of BSL, as well as showcasing the magic of stories told in richly creative sign. The Scottish Storytelling Centre is delighted to be working in partnership with BSL:UPTAKE and other partners to host a day of BSL storytelling, information and discussion which celebrates Scotland’s Deaf community. 

Robert Duncan, project officer for BSL:UPTAKE at Heriot-Watt University and lead organiser , xplains:

“Last year, BSL:UPTAKE ran a successful Knowledge Exchange Café with Deaf Action in Edinburgh. A £2,000 prize from Edinburgh Beltane for the Best Public Engagement Project has enabled us to work with a wide range of mainstream as well as Deaf cultural and academic Partners to stage this groundbreaking event.

“This is a first not only for Scotland but for the whole of the British Isles. Sign Language literally brings a new dimension to storytelling. It’s important that British Sign Language (BSL) stories should be recognised on a par with those in Scotland’s other languages. BSL:UPTAKE is part of the Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University, so we can work with our partners to explore this wonderfully different dimension in storytelling on a sound linguistic basis.

“We’re thrilled to have translated two traditional stories from the School of Scottish Studies Archives into BSL for the first time ever, including Stanley Robertson’s classic, The Old Woman Who Sold Her Soul to the Devil. These will be shown on 5 November and made available online. We’ll also have Deaf translators and hearing BSL/English interpreters on hand to translate and interpret many of the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s stories live on the spot, including extracts from Edinburgh’s own storyteller, Robert Louis Stevenson.”

People can learn how to express themselves and tell stories using visual signs through workshops, talks and activities with many Deaf organisations, and there’ll be the chance to see a physical and sign performance from Firefly Arts and stories and poetry from storyteller Mark MacQueen.

Esther Blackburn, National Storytelling Coordinator at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, explains the excitement in the future progression of partnering storytelling and signing, as part of the Storytelling Centre’s general programming:

“Storytelling has a magical power to connect people, and tales told in the rich and creative language of BSL are no different. The Centre has been working with deaf BSL storyteller Mark MacQueen since the beginning of 2011 and we’re delighted at the huge interest in signed stories that there is among Deaf and hearing audiences.

“Working closely with Mark to set up sessions in a school and prison, as well as public performances has led to lots of new and exciting partnerships. Deaf in the Story is the perfect opportunity for Deaf and hearing communities to come together, share their stories and discover some new ones.”

Upcoming BSL events at the Storytelling Centre:

Deaf in The Story: Visual Stories of an Invisible People

Saturday 5 November, 12-4.30pm

A family-friendly drop-in day of information, ideas and story sharing, plus sign story taster workshops and performances.

Stories on Air

Thu 10th Nov, 7pm

Sign storytelling performance with Mark MacQueen, followed by drinks reception.

Discovering Signed Stories

Say 26th Nov, 2-5pm

A workshop for anyone interested in exploring sign storytelling.



For further information, images or to arrange interviews contact:

Lindsay Corr | marketing officer or 0131 652 3272

Notes to editors:

This event is organised by BSL:UPTAKE (, with the Scottish Storytelling Centre, School of Scottish Studies, Deaf Action, SCoD/Deaf History Society, Firefly Arts and Donaldson’s School, Scottish Sensory Centre and Artlink Edinburgh.

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.

MEDIA RELEASE posted by the Church of Scotland/Scottish Storytelling Centre. You too can post media releases (aka press releases) on For more information, email here.

Contact: Lindsay Corr
Phone: 0131 652 3272