A half-time special from signing choirs

Hands4Voices and Unify Sign Choir:

On the 28th October Chelsea hosted Brentford in a Premier League match. During half time, Deaf and signing choirs, Unify and Hands 4 Voices performed ‘Blue is the Colour’ with singer James Vickery as part of Cadbury Fingers and the NDCS ‘Sign Fingers Big & Small’ campaign. The on-pitch activities marked the ongoing commitment between the NDCS, Cadbury Fingers and Chelsea FC to foster better inclusivity within football.

Indeed, football is a big part of British culture and therefore a great way to maximise deaf awareness. Unfortunately, more than half of deaf fans (55%) believe that their experiences at live sporting events are restricted due to a lack of deaf awareness. We hope that this initiative enhances deaf awareness and reduces the loneliness of deaf football fans.

To find out more about the performance, Signature got in touch with those at ‘Hands4Voices’ to find out more about this important campaign.

  1. First, can you tell us a bit more about the choir?

The choir who performed at Stamford Bridge was a mixture of Unify Deaf Performers and Hands 4 Voices Signing Choir members. Unify is an online group who are based all over the country and Hands 4 Voices meet face to face in Rayleigh, Essex. So, both choirs have very different learning methods. We were introduced to each other by the booking agent back in August and have been working together to prepare for our Stamford Bridge performance.

  1. Why did you start the choir ‘Hands4Voices’ and what was the main aim when it was set up?

Unify was set up in April 2022 by Rebecca A Withey after a call out for an all deaf group to perform for the Queen Jubilee Street Party at the AO arena. Hands 4 Voices was set up in 2011 by Carol Cook as many of her BSL students wanted another way of learning some signs in a more relaxed atmosphere, rather than in the classroom.

  1. Since setting up the choir, what has been your biggest achievement?

This was a huge achievement for the joint choir as we had never met in person until 8 a.m. on the day of our performance! Prior to that, Hands 4 Voices has only ever met Unify over Zoom for our online rehearsals. Additionally, managing to keep it all a secret was also a huge achievement.

  1. You recently performed at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC, how important was this performance for you and what were your emotions surrounding the event?

The performance for us all on the day was so important as it was a wonderful way to raise awareness of BSL to so many people. We were all nervous but very excited and couldn’t wait to get on to the pitch to perform. As soon as we started to sign, any nerves disappeared as the atmosphere was so amazing. Overall, we were one very proud choir working together to spread awareness.

5. What has been the biggest barrier that your choir has faced?

The biggest barrier that the joint choir faced was learning the song together over zoom, especially while ensuring that our timing was correct, that handshapes all matched and that we all went in the same direction. Despite our worries, everything worked out really well. We had some quick rehearsals in the morning, led by Carol, the Hands 4 Voices choir master and this led to a sensational performance on pitch.

  1. How important is it that choirs like yourselves are present to perform at big events?

Raising awareness of BSL at events such as these is so important. The more we do, especially to crowds of that size, the more that awareness is raised. We have all received amazing feedback about the impact we made on the day, which was wonderful.

  1. Finally, do you have any future goals for the choir?

As a joint choir, we would love to work together again. We had a wonderful day, showing that two groups of people with the same goal and passions can achieve so much together.

Thank you to those involved who shared their experiences of such an important campaign. Indeed, it is important to bring more people together over the nation’s favourite game.

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