Deaf actress is named as ‘BSL Ambassador’ for Doncaster Deaf Trust

Charlotte Arrowsmith, a deaf actor, director, BSL bi-lingual creative consultant and drama workshop leader/faciliator, has been named as the first British Sign Language (BSL) Ambassador for Doncaster Deaf Trust.

Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 1:34 pm

Charlotte, a former student at Deaf Trust run Communication Specialist College Doncaster (previously known as Doncaster College for the Deaf), will work with the Trust to help to promote the use of BSL as a communication tool.

The Trust, who have been providing deaf education from the Doncaster site since 1829, manage Little Learners Day Nursery, Doncaster School for the Deaf, Dickson House care home, Communication Specialist College Doncaster (for Deaf students and those with communication difficulties including autism) and Aspire to be – employability services.

Alexis Johnson, executive principal of the Trust said: “We are so pleased to have Charlotte on board as our first ambassador for BSL and it is great to announce this news during Deaf Awareness Week 2022.

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Charlotte Arrowsmith

“She is a real inspiration to our students and pupils, and we are looking forward to working with her to help to promote the use of BSL to the wider community.

“Our aim is to have four ambassadors from the deaf community who will help our students and pupils to see what they can achieve and will be at the forefront of our campaign to get more people signing.”

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The Trust launched a free online BSL course in 2020, thanks to National Lottery funding, and already more than 17,000 have registered to learn to sign.

Charlotte said: “I am proud to be a BSL Ambassador for the Trust. I had a great time at the college, being free to explore my deaf identity and use BSL with many other deaf students.

"It was an exciting place to grow up in, with likeminded young people. I studied sports with the intention of being a professional sports coach. However, I have always loved performing and acting, but in those days for young deaf people opportunities in that industry were few and far between.

"Fortunately, the passion for the performing arts led me to study theatre, arts, education and deaf studies at Reading University.

“I know just how important BSL is for our deaf community and the difficulties that we face on a daily basis when we struggle to communicate, especially in a hearing/able environment where society disable us.

"Everything from getting on a bus to buying a drink can be a challenge and then some! If everyone learnt and understood BSL, we would therefore become a united community than ever before.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Trust to help them to promote the use of BSL to the wider community. The more people who can communicate via British Sign Language, the better.”

Charlotte was the first BSL deaf actor in 2018 to grace the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Company of Greg Doran’s production ‘Troilus and Cressida’ as Cassandra.

She is an RSC Associate Artist and Associate Learning Practitioner in the Education Department.

She was also part of the RSC’s 2019/20 season of ‘As You Like It’ as Audrey and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ as the servant Curtis, both of which played in Stratford-Upon-Avon, in London and on tour across England.

She then went on to be the first deaf BSL understudy to take on the primary role of ‘Vincentia’ in ‘Taming of the Shrew’.

She added: “It was an immense joy to show what I could do as an understudy, and turning the role into a character who ‘happens’ to be deaf and uses BSL.

"Everyone in the cast adapted within just a day or two rehearsals to cover all bases.

"Goes to show how much can be achieved when BSL is shared and more people learning our language benefits them too.”

She was recently in ‘Macbeth’ at Leeds Playhouse as one of the Witches and Lady McDuff. The McDuff family were Deaf with 2 CODAs and Amy Leach, the director, adapted the play to make more of the McDuffs and the cast embraced BSL as a whole. A very integrated show with audio description and BSL woven into the production.

Charlotte concluded: “If more people learnt and communicated with BSL, it therefore makes life equal to all. It would mean everyone would be able to contribute to a community, wherever they are. If you want to learn BSL, don’t just say so, do it.”

To learn the basics of the British Sign Language level one course visit www.doncasterdeafsign.org.uk

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