Singing and signing to raise choir funds

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The Liverpool Signing Choir performing during the sign-a-thon. Pic © Oli Fell / JMU Journalism

The Liverpool Signing Choir completed a 12-hour ‘sign-a-thon’ on Tuesday, raising money for future projects.

The choir, founded in 2001 by Catherine Hegarty MBE, aims to translate popular songs into sign language for deaf children to understand.

Although it started out as an after-school activity at Knotty Ash Primary, it became a more ambitious endeavour when it transformed to a full-time choir in 2009.

In 2012, they performed John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics alongside the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir.

Ms Hegarty said: “It spread through word of mouth and popularity really. The children themselves want to learn a new skill. Lots of them go to school with deaf children and they want to know how to communicate with them.

“Once all the primary school children left, word of mouth got out and we fought for five years to get to the Olympics. The committee and Borough of London didn’t want to know at first. Every time they said no, we said ‘why?'”

In 2013, the charity was given the Queens Award for Voluntary Services, a prestigious honour presented for breaking down barriers to develop mutual understanding and respect between deaf and hearing communities.

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Malcolm Kennedy, was also in attendance at Tuesday’s event at Holy Spirit Church in Dovecot. He and the lady Mayoress, Liliana Kennedy, had a go at interpreting some of the songs.

YouTube: Oliver Fell

He said: “It’s about raising money and awareness but the important thing is to maintain a choir like this where everyone can participate. I’m just thrilled by what they do.

“I’ve been with them on a number of occasions. When I’m signing with them, I’m just copying the person at the front! I think signing should be taught to everybody, to be honest. I’ve learnt a few words today myself.”

In June, the group will head off to Wales to take part in the Abergavenny Arts Festival where they will be the only signing choir performing.

Heather Fleming, who was in the choir and now its co-director, said: “We’re going down there to promote deaf awareness. When we go to places, even in Liverpool city centre, we go to show how inclusive our choir can be.”

About Oli Fell, JMU Journalism