Alex Vann from Real Arts Workshops (RAW) was delighted to get the call from Heather Wastie from Alarum Productions, to add British Sign Language and subtitles to the film of her wonderful poem ‘Histrionic Water’.
Alex is hearing and signs to level 6 and sometimes does communication support work in education and has previously added BSL to films and live performances. However, when it came to this project he asked his partner in business and in life, Gary O’Dowd, to do the signing. This is because the words of the poem are so expressive and visual that it made sense for a native Deaf BSL user to perform the poem.
Most people who have studied BSL will quickly learn that it isn’t just about doing things with your hands and arms. Rather, it uses the whole body to communicate and in particular facial expressions and it was felt that a Deaf signer would convey this with maximum authenticity.
When it came to translating ‘Histrionic Water’, it was vital to Alex and Gary that a Deaf audience should understand what it meant. It wouldn’t do just to translate the English straight into hand gestures, like others forms of communication, for example Makaton and Sign Supported English. It had to go further and tell the story and almost act it so that a Deaf audience would understand not just the words but the meaning. Alex and Gary worked on translating the poem on paper first, and Gary practiced and practiced until the poem flowed.
Filming was problematic because Gary obviously can’t hear the poem so Alex had to use hand signals and pointing to sections of the poem off camera. Even then – trying to match the timing of the spoken word was near impossible. So they shot it in small sections, in front of a greenscreen, and Alex had the unenviable task of ‘stitching’ the pieces together in video editing software to match the film of the poem. There are some fades between the signed sections because one thing BSL must do is flow – and not jump from one sign to another.
Initial feedback from Deaf audiences is very encouraging:
Alex Vann from RAW said:
We love working in collaborations with other organisations and artists so when Heather got in touch about this project we were very excited. One of our key values as a business is inclusion so making a film Deaf accessible is right up our street. We hope Heather’s film is a huge success and that we get to work together again in future.
We were pleased to be commissioned by City of Wolverhampton Council to deliver innovative art sessions over October Half Term to young people aged 10-16 who live in the city as part of the #WVVirtualSquad offer. These had to be run differently from our Summer sessions, when face to face sessions were possible, because of the second national lockdown.
Having already delivered many virtual art session to adults and to Deaf groups using the video conference apps: Zoom and MS Teams, and organising delivery of individual ‘art packs’ it was a case of using that experience to put a programme of Arts activity and learning materials together that not only encouraged fun but also stretched abilities and knowledge. As well as daytime activities aimed at younger children, we delivered evening sessions of more advanced art techniques for teenagers and made use of the ‘RAW CAM’ – a separate ‘spotlighted’ device aimed at an art demonstration piece.
'Zoom' screen shots
As you can see, the quality of work the young people created is amazing. Well done!
Here's what the young people said:
Thank you for all your hard work and effort . I have really enjoyed this and will definitely be back to join you guys again !!!! I had a wonderful half term being part if Real art club x. Thanks again to you all!!!! 🎃🤗🤗🤗
Our Summer Programme for City of Wolverhampton Council
We had a great experience over the 6 weeks summer holidays, delivering our "Summer Art Activities" programme for City of Wolverhampton Council's #WVHolidaySquad and #YES -Youth Engagement Strategy.
We designed and delivered a wide variety of art and craft activities for young people 10-16 and were totally blown away by the quality of work.
A few photos...
Our programme was delivered in two Covid 19 secure venues: 2 weeks at The Workspace, All Saints and 4 weeks at The Way Youth Zone. We observed the government guidelines for performing arts which also covers art groups like ours and are pleased to report no cases of Covid 19. This includes providing separate resource packs so there is no sharing of resources, social distancing and frequent hand washing among other things. Credit has to go to the young people who worked with enthusiasm throughout and were very sensible in observing these measures.
We reached many young people who were referred via Strengthening Families Hubs throughout the city. These young people were from different ethnic backgrounds; White British, Asian, Pakistani, Arab, Eastern European and Black Afro Caribbean.
A few more photos...!
We delivered some British Sign Language training along the way - in a fun and accessible way - WITH PRIZES!!
Your New Normal. My Normal
When we heard about the Common Ground project called “Your New Normal, My Normal”, organised by Changing Our Lives and funded by the Co-Op Foundation, about tackling loneliness in young people we did a couple of workshops with the young people and entered some of their work for the project. A judging panel chose not one but FOUR pieces of work by the young people which is currently in an online exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. We think exhibitions are a great way to celebrate the successes of people and go some way to building confidence in skills knowing that there is an audience for their work. Here is the link to the exhibition; https://www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk/changingourlives/
Pom-Poms 4 Loneliness
We were delighted to link up with Pom-Poms 4 Loneliness during this project.
Pom-Poms 4 Loneliness is dedicated to the distribution of home made pom poms in and around the Black Country. Each pom-pom represents a lonely or isolated person and by 'Pom-Bombing' they raise awareness about the situation that can face anyone. Our young people spent a day making pom-poms which they donated to the cause!
Yet more pics....!
We think they have all did incredibly well and have had the opportunity to try many different art forms and find their 'niche'. We received some lovely feedback:
We’d like to thank Wolverhampton City Council for funding this project and OnBoard Corrugated for donating cardboard for our group to use.
Special thanks to our volunteers Wayne, Sarah, Rachel, Sandra and Olivia who made this all possible, and our BSL interpreters Mad and Jemma
Here’s just a few of the things we did:
Please find the first edition of our newsletter below. It's been a busy old time at RAW HQ and we plan to produce these newsletters regularly to keep you informed about what we are doing and how you might be able to access our service.
2020 is clearly a year that will go down in history. The world has been rocked by a global pandemic and the toll on personal lives is huge and the effects will be felt for years to come.
We have been very busy doing what we can to continue to reach our audiences as we strongly believe that there is no better time for people to engage in arts activities - not least because of the numerous positive mental well being benefits.
Here are a few of the things that have kept us busy during this time - please do get in touch if you'd like any more information about any of this activity.
Free online resources during Covid-19
You may already have seen that we have created a new page on this site dedicated to free resources, downloads and 'how to' guides during Covid-19. Click on 'Free Resources During Covid-19'.
Please do have a look and scroll to see if there is something that interests you and feel free to share with your contacts.
This has meant we have been able to produce worksheets, videos and activities which we might not have done otherwise.
Art activity packs
We were delighted to be asked by our regular customer, Mossley Big Local to provide 100 art activity packs to residents of all ages. These are funded by Lottery Community Fund so there is no cost to families.
The bags include a biodegrade carrier, basic art materials and we have created bespoke creative activities worksheets for which we think most households will already have resources for. We also delivered a number of packs to Mattesly Court Housing 21 residential home for older people.
Feedback has been great and there are a few photos below.
Virtual Art Workshops
We are very lucky to live in age where technology can bring people together. During Covid-19 we have used video conferencing apps to be able to deliver virtual art sessions to a number of customers. We don't think you can beat face to face contact however this tech has enabled us to deliver demonstrations and facilitate sessions with a number of different groups - some which rely on art activity to keep the mind and bodies active. This has also meant we have developed planning strategies which we will continue after lockdown.
Above, wonderful self portraits at Bid Services, Birmingham
Above, just a few photos from recent weekly community art club sessions for Mossley Big Local
Above, some of the artwork created by young people attending the online #BigLinkUp sessions for the Hub at Ashmore Park, Wolverhampton
Alex on WCR Radio every Monday
Alex has been doing regular weekly interviews with Chris Allen on Wolverhampton's WCR radio on Monday mornings, around 10-11am - talking about the importance of staying active creatively during Covid-19 and setting a weekly creative challenge. Click the logo below to visit their website which has listen live and listen again facilities.
'Support Life' Art Exhibition
In November 2019, RAW curated the ‘Support Life’ art exhibition at Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton to raise awareness of the issue of Suicide Prevention.
The exhibition was supported by Outside Centre, an organisation in Wolverhampton concerned with disability access to the Arts. This organisation were the driving force behind the hugely successful ‘Wolves in Wolves’ public art trail in 2017. Alex Vann, founder of RAW, decorated the ‘Support Life’ wolf which is concerned with Suicide Prevention and mental well-being. The wolf gives it’s name to the exhibition.
We put a call out for submissions to the exhibition on social media and by word of mouth for example at our ongoing workshops and by attending events that were around mental well being.
We set up a dedicated Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SupportLifeExhibition/
so could share the stories of the artworks, artists and exhibition updates.
32 artists submitted work -which was a mixture of drawings, painting, prints, tattoo designs, sculpture, poetry, video and performance. Here is a small selection:
The exhibition also included a signposting section to agencies that are dedicated to suicide prevention
The exhibition was opened officially by the Mayor of Wolverhampton and a percentage of sales went to The Mayors Charities which is 2019-20 were
Exhibition dates 5 – 30 November 2019.
Dates of events & workshops:
8.11.19: Official Launch event by Mayor of Wolves, Clarie Darke. MCee’d by local actor / theatre leader Tonia Daley-Campbell / with performances by local poet: Brendan Hawthorne and musician Alex Vann plus testimonials by some of the exhibiting artists.
12.11.19: Honesty Portraits Workshop: designing and painting a 3D mask which reflects how you REALLY feel – not a surface ‘I’m ok’ (the concept for ‘Honesty Portraits’ originally came from some work I’d seen by Becky Lawley a young artist who struggles with mental health problems. She and her sister (12) both had work in the Support Life exhibition).
16.11.19: Design a ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ poster: Using the NHS initiative as a basis for drawing / writing / telling others what YOU will do to improve your mental well-ness: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/
23.11.19 : Design a Wolves in Wolves ‘Support Life’ wolf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves_in_Wolves
http://www.wolvesinwolves.co.uk/artists/about/wolf10.html (the original wolf design by Alex Vann)
27.11.19: Performance evening: Hosted by Alex Vann, included performances by Billy Spakemon / Brendan Hawthorne and The Dissenters. The Dissenters are a group of vulnerably housed people who attend a drop in centre at SIFA Fireside in Birmingham, https://www.sifafireside.co.uk/
Videos from the Performance Evening are available on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmuIArtxp_fjuz5x-Msuh_A/featured?view_as=subscriber
We know the exhibition had direct impact on individuals because of:
Exact numbers of people attending are difficult to quantify, however:
We have 70 tags on the tree – (obviously not everyone who visited would write one)
And 34 comments in the book.
40% of sales from artworks would go to the Mayor’s charities.
In addition, Ben Vann (nephew of Alex and owner of a tattoo shop) designed some Support Life tattoos and 50% proceeds from people having these were donated to the charity.
COMMENTS BOOK SELECTION:
SIGNPOSTING TO SUPPORT AGENCIES:
Working with BID Services Youth Club
May 6-12th was Deaf Awareness Week in the UK. RAW delivered several projects including one with BID Services Youth Club, Birmingham based around Deaf identity. It followed on from an earlier project we ran with adults in Wolverhampton where we created a giant (5ft high) cardboard sculpture of signing hands, decorated with posters, drawings and words made by Deaf and hearing people (see photos at the bottom of this blog).
Young people with the final giant signing hands, now in the reception of BID SERVICES.
Some of the brilliant creative work being made.
Deaf Awareness at Mossley Community Arts Club
Our very own #DAWRoleModels2019 Gary O'Dowd led a Deaf Awareness session as part of our regular Community Arts Club on Tuesday evenings, 4.30-6.30pm at Mattesley Court, Walsall.
Giant signing hands for DeafFest 2019
A slideshow of closeups of the artwork created by mixed hearing and Deaf people at our joint Art Day with Zebra Access at Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton.
The sculpture will be on show at Deaffest at Lighthouse Media Centre 17-19 May 2019. RAW will have at stall 10am-4pm on Saturday 18th May. Come and meet us!
We are excited to be working in association with Deaf organisation ZEBRA ACCESS on a unique art project at Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton WV1 4AN.
The day starts at 10.30am and finishes at 3.30pm with an hour for lunch (there is a cafe on site or you can bring your own). We will be making a 3D sculpture using recycled materials - exploring Deaf identity, culture and experiences. There are craft activities for children too. Hearing friends and family are welcome.
This is a free event but please email email@example.com or text him on 07472 958534 to let him know if you are coming.
2019 has seen us working with a wide range of ages already. We love to hear the stories from adults and also enjoy when they take ownership of their own work. Some examples of our work with the older generation are here.
Greetings Cards at BID Services: Gary led on this session at Deaf Cultural Centre in Birmingham. The artists used traditional card making techniques such as decoupage and collage as well as new technology – typesetting and sourcing images online which can be printed off during the session to create truly bespoke cards for loved ones.
Presentation to ZEBRA ACCESS Coffee morning at Lighthouse Media Centre.
We made a Wish Tree and Deaf people wrote on tags what they’d like from a potential Art Club. We also encouraged them to make small drawings which were hung on the tree. Despite many protestations of ‘I can’t draw’ I think you’ll agree the results beg to differ. It was really encouraging to see such imaginative work and watch this space to see if we get to produce more work with the Zebra Access group.
Card making at Pensnett and Brierley Hill Active Retirement. Similar to the session at BID Services, this time we met a secret poet. A 92 year old gentleman wrote and recited his own poem about the pros and cons of drinking spirits! It went down a bomb with everyone – a real tonic!
We recently did a project with LET US PLAY at Green Park School, Wolverhampton
Let Us Play organise events for children with disabilities and we devised a Jungle Book Music/Art and Storytelling workshop.
We practised performing the story with animal masks and musical instruments we’d created from scratch and the final performance would be in front of parents and carers.
We were blown away when one boy decided to stage manage the performance, suggesting we took to the stage (why hadn’t WE thought of that?) and telling the actors to hide behind the screen until their turn came up in the story. This is one of the key aims of RAW – that the people we work with take ownership of the work. It was a fantastic performance, all the better for the young man’s suggestions.
Alex Vann is an all round creative. He formed RAW in 1997 out of a University project and restarted it in 2018 after working as a graphic designer for agencies and in-house for many years.