Since our choir was born, we have performed at Exeter Library with Poet in the City, and run regular sessions at Made Well C.I.C. in Hatherleigh, with support from Villages in Action.
Our recent funding from Devon County Council has supported the choir to rehearse at Newton’s Place, leading up to a performance at the museum. Over seventy people packed into the room to watch our Sing and Sign event but also join in learning some of the signs. We believe this is conclusive proof that inclusive events get bums on seats.
We have continued to perform at a variety of performances across the Southwest this summer. Our first showcase was at the Exeter Respect Festival, followed by D’arts Fest, Chudfest, and Paignton Fest.
Alongside our outdoor festival performances, our choir member Rachel, a teaching assistant at a local special school, has facilitated multiple choir performances at Mayfield School.
Next up for our choir will be performing a curtain raiser as part of our new musical in development, ‘Mary and The Matrons’.
Our choir supports one another to ensure that every member feels comfortable and confident being part of an inclusive showcase.
Check out our Sing and Sign Jukebox to stay up-to-date with our future performances.
If you are interested in signing up (no experience singing or signing required), there is more info here.
How we began
There are 1.5 million Learning Disabled people in the UK (Mencap), many of whom will be non-verbal or partially verbal. If you factor in PAs, teachers, teaching assistants, families, and friends, that is several million people who are reliant on Makaton signing, possibly as their only means of communication, and yet the language doesn’t have a big profile in the wider population. We feel in-person activities like our Sing & Sign choir helps to remove the practical barriers to engagement, which we felt was particularly crucial in “building back” this part of Devon’s community after the pandemic.
So Sing & Sign Jukebox was born!
A choir of people from the local Learning Disability community (partially verbal adults, children, carers and teaching assistants) came together to sing and sign iconic pop songs, with the help of our brilliant choir leader Joanne Rogers. You can read the feedback we’ve gathered from our participants along the way:
“I think the encouragement we give each other as a group is something really special. It always feels like a really safe and supportive space to try new things and build our confidence. Fergus has always loved singing and signing but this choir is a bit different to others we’ve tried, we actually sing for a start! Initially I wanted to join so we could do something he loves together.” – Bel
“I was lucky enough to be asked by Lucy Bell to lead the singing. I joined because I’d never had the experience of leading a group of people in song before, so it was a new challenge for me. I used Makaton to communicate with all 3 of my children in the early years of their lives and I was excited for the opportunity to be using it again.” – Joanne Rogers
“I have seen my service user gain in confidence and engage well with the other attendees. Lucy and Jo are amazing and make the sessions fun and enjoyable. I am hoping that there will be more sessions available later in the year that I could bring other service users to as it has been so beneficial.” – Nicky