ADDINGHAM filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne has made what may be a world first - a television sketch show performed in sign language.
Deaf Funny stars a cast of deaf actors and comedians, with the sketches drawing on deaf people's experiences. The characters include a deaf man who loves going to Wetherspoons, a deaf spy with unusual gadgets, and an officious policewoman.
Charlie, who is partially deaf himself, grew up with deaf parents, and has always used sign language. "Making this programme was a lifelong dream for me," he said. "I grew up watching sketch shows like The Fast Show and Goodness Gracious Me and having made short comedy films in BSL, I wanted to take the next step and make a programme featuring lots of short sketches."
Following rehearsals at Ilkley's Cornmill Arts Space in January, filming took place in the Hornbeam Park area of Harrogate in February. "The biggest challenge of filming was that the cast communicated in sign language, while the crew communicated through speech. Over the two weeks both sets of people came together, which was lovely to see."
Over the last few years, Swinbourne has made documentaries, dramas and comedies with deaf contributors and actors. "I always knew deaf people from a young age and knew how funny and interesting they were. With it being such a hidden community, I'm interested in telling deaf people's stories in a way that hopefully appeals to deaf and non-deaf people alike."
When he first developed the project, Charlie met Ilkley writer Jeremy Dyson, who gave him tips on making a sketch show, and also had advice on making a comedy reflecting minority communities from Sanjeev Bhaskar. The programmes were produced by Juggle Productions, who are based in Harrogate, and funded by the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust.
Deaf Funny episode one will be broadcast on the Community Channel this evening, Thursday, May 18 at 7.30pm, and episode two on Thursday, May 25 at 7.30pm. Both programmes will be available to watch straight after broadcast at http://bslzone.co.uk.