As part of the British Deaf Association’s (BDA) 125 year Anniversary Celebrations, a landmark documentary film has been created about the deaf community. The cleverly-titled Power In Our Hands combines recently discovered archive footage with newly recorded interviews, recognizing British Sign Language (BSL) and deaf rights in the UK.

Ahead of the screening at Picturehouse Bradford, staff from both the cinema and the National Media Museum attended an informative Deaf Awareness Training session provided by Samantha Allen, one of seven Access and Inclusion officers for the BDA.

The session kicked off with a lip-reading exercise. As none of the approximately twenty attendees had much experience with this, it provided quite a few laughs. Was that ‘cry’ or ‘fry’, ‘choose’ or ‘juice’, and what did you say your favourite food is?  Seemingly simple words become hard to distinguish in lip-reading; a fun guessing game quickly turned into a tiring activity, stressing the importance of the training session.

In order to draw the attention back to the front of the meeting room, Samantha turned the lights off and on again; a method commonly used in deaf culture. With the interactive introduction done, Samantha explained a bit more about herself and how she has learned to communicate with both the deaf and the hearing community. Following that there were several questions from the audience, mostly about common courtesy and ‘what not to do’ (such as covering your face or mouth, or turning your head away when talking).

While seen as rude in the hearing community, in deaf culture it is perfectly acceptable to gesture or point, Samantha reassured everyone, although the participants of the training session insisted on learning a few key signs to welcome cinema and Museum visitors. From ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to pointing out where the toilets are located, explaining how much a coffee costs or asking to see the ticket, all areas are covered and the enthusiasm of the staff increased with every new sign they learn.

Power In Our Hands presents deaf people as an active community that has long campaigned for its language to be recognised. The film gives audiences a glimpse into the deaf culture that is mostly hidden from the hearing world. If a one-hour training session is received with such eagerness to learn more about the deaf community and BSL, this feature-length doc and post-screening Q&A with Samantha is certainly one of Picturehouse’s most informative and exciting events this month.

Power In Our Hands plus Q&A. Sunday 21 Feb at 6.00, Picturehouse at National Media Museum.
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