Signed concert makes sure that everyone can join in Christmas carols

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IT’S not often you see children use sign language to perform carols.

But pupils from across the city held a Christmas concert to raise awareness of hearing problems at St Edmund’s Catholic School, in Arundel Street, Landport, Portsmouth, last night.

IN UNISON Away in a Manger performed by pupils from Milton Park Junior School. Pictures: Allan Hutchings (123922-494)

IN UNISON Away in a Manger performed by pupils from Milton Park Junior School. Pictures: Allan Hutchings (123922-494)

More than 60 youngsters, made up of those who were deaf and had recently learnt sign language, took to a stage and used sign language to perform the lyrics of songs to backing tracks.

There were also speeches from the city’s Sensory Impairment Service and bible readings carried out in sign language.

The crowd was also encouraged to get up on stage and do sign language with the children.

Refreshments were also served during the evening.

Grace White, 14, who is a pupil at St Edmund’s, wanted to learn sign language so she could communicate with her deaf friend Morgan Hymers, 14.

Grace said: ‘I’ve been doing it for about two months now.

‘It’s quite easy once you get to know what the signs are.

‘I’ve had help from people who are signers already. They are amazing people.

‘It’s like learning another language.

‘It’s amazing to think I can now speak to my friend.’

St Edmund’s student George Elliott, 15, of Milton, said he had been using sign language to communicate with his deaf friends for four years.

‘Some of the signs can be quite challenging,’ he said.

‘I know a couple of people who are deaf so I wanted to do it for them.

‘I felt a bit nervous about performing in the concert because there were people there I didn’t know.

‘I will continue to use sign language and it’s something I can say I can do when I go to job interviews. I want to become a social worker.’

Sensory Impairment Service worker Gemma Cake, who helped to organise the event, said: ‘It’s part of our job to continue raising awareness of hearing problems in schools.

‘This event helped to bring the community together.

‘Portsmouth has a strong deaf community and this was beneficial for them.’

Councillor Rob Wood, who is the council’s cabinet member for children and education, said: ‘This is a wonderful event that is becoming a highlight of the Christmas calendar in Portsmouth.

‘I am very proud of all the children taking part in it. It is an inspirational way to raise awareness of sensory impairment.

‘We are working hard to make sure that every pupil in Portsmouth, including those with a sensory impairment, receive the best opportunities possible.’