Rachel Shenton: Academy Award Winner

This week Signature share with you more about Rachel Shenton, an actor and writer best-known for being in Hollyoaks and the Oscar winning short film, The Silent Child. Throughout this blog, Shenton highlights the reasons behind commencing her BSL journey and more about the ideas behind the short film that she wrote, The Silent Child.

To find out more about Rachel and the short film which granted her an Academy Award, carry on reading!

  1. Hi Rachel. First, could you please introduce yourself to our Signature readers?

Hello, I am Rachel Shenton, I am an actor and writer, and I am also a level 6 signer.

  1. When did you first begin to learn British Sign Language and why?

I was a teenager when I started to sign. Deafness came on my radar when I was 12 and my lovely dad lost his hearing very suddenly and lived the last two years of his life as a deaf man. Things we had taken for granted before suddenly became difficult or simply just couldn’t happen anymore. Talking to him on the phone, going to the cinema, watching my school plays etc. Until then I had never considered it. My dad sadly passed away, but the impact stayed with me, so I decided to learn sign language and I fell in love with the language.

  1. Could you share some of the challenges that you have encountered while learning BSL and how you overcame them?

As they say, If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s very true. So, it was a case of continually immersing myself in the deaf community, so I was able to practise. I would regularly attend a none profit in Stoke-on-Trent called Deaflinks.

  1. What sparked your initial interest/idea to write “The Silent Child”?

I had been an ambassador for the NDCS and Deafkidz International for years and was always involved in campaigning for access to education for deaf children. I knew the power of film, it really is the most powerful medium to portray a message, so I wrote The Silent Child to better understand the barriers through the character of Libby and her parents.

  1. How do you think the film has contributed to raising awareness about the challenges faced by deaf children and their families?

I am extremely proud of the life that The Silent Child continues to have. We have now screened in Parliament, The United Nations conference in Geneva, the first ever global disability summit as well as hundreds of schools around the world and just last week I had a call saying it was being used in some UK hospitals as part of the training.

  1. Can you share some of your favourite filming memories with us?

Building a relationship with Maisie was a complete highlight, it needed to be authentic, so we hung out together for months before the shooting started. She is extremely special.

There are honestly many moments, but one would be the silent scene in the kitchen. Chris (the director) just let the cameras roll and Maisie watched the mouths of the other actors talking. It was exactly what we wanted to show, and it happened organically.

  1. Here at Signature, we are incredibly excited by the news of a BSL GCSE! Can you explain to us your thoughts on this new qualification and its overall importance for all of those in society?

I was also very excited! I learn and fell in love with the deaf culture and the language, so it is incredible that others will get to do that too. Susan Daniels, who’s the chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, communicated it brilliantly when she said, “A GCSE in BSL is vital as it will break down barriers and celebrate the rich culture and history of British Sign Language”.

  1. Finally, do you have any future goals or aspirations that you are hoping to achieve, either within acting, producing or your BSL journey?

Yes! We have a few projects in development at the moment and there are deaf characters in all of them. I will also personally, make sure I keep signing and keep being an alley wherever I can help.

Here at Signature, we would like to thank Rachel for highlighting her passion for BSL and the important message behind the award-winning film, The Silent Child. It has been great to learn more about the filming process and how some of the filming was most naturally captured. We look forward to seeing some of the exciting projects that Rachel has mentioned in the upcoming months.

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