RCS graduates return to the capital for Edinburgh Deaf Festival

Edinburgh Deaf Festival returns to the capital this week … with Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumni taking centre stage.

Graduates of the pioneering BA Performance in British Sign Language programme – the first and only degree programme of its kind in Europe – are at the heart of the festival, from producing to performing.

Taking place from 11-20 August, the second annual Edinburgh Deaf Festival is run by Scotland-based charity Deaf Action, the world’s oldest deaf charity.

Jamie Rea, who graduated from the first cohort of the BA Performance programme in 2018, is producer of this year’s festival, which features more than sixty events including drama, comedy, film, exhibitions, workshops and entertainment for children and young people. Among the performers are fellow BA Performance 2018 graduate Petre Dobre and 2021 alumna Amy Murray, who appeared in the Netflix fantasy series The Witcher: Blood Origin.

Jamie Rea © Colin Hattersley

Jamie’s aim is for the festival to act as a bridge, helping generate more opportunities for deaf talent to be picked up by the performing arts mainstream and enabling hearing audiences to discover the richness of deaf heritage and culture.

Jamie, a multidisciplinary artist raised in Northern Ireland and who has been based in Scotland since 2015, works as a performer, producer, access officer curator, presenter, theatre-maker and BSL consultant in Scotland and across the UK.

“As a deaf producer, I am thrilled to be bringing Edinburgh Deaf Festival back for another spectacular year. I’m proud to have curated a programme that celebrates the vibrancy of my own deaf culture, right here in Edinburgh,” said Jamie.

“We have collaborated with talented local and international deaf artists, proving that deafness is not a limitation but a reason for celebration. We’re breaking down barriers, creating an inclusive space for the deaf community, and extending a warm welcome to hearing audiences who we would love to try something different by discovering deaf culture, language and heritage.”

And Jamie is determined to use his skills to make the the world of performing arts open to all: “As a young, deaf and gay theatre-maker, I’m strongly committed to ensuring that the performing arts are fully welcoming and accessible to all.

“If they are, they benefit from the full variety and richness of human experience and can harness the astonishing range of perspectives and breadth of talent that exists throughout Scotland and the UK. And that will ensure they are more innovative and exciting than ever.

“Similarly, inclusivity is vital to ensure that everyone – no matter who they are – can access the arts, and that the arts are relevant to them. This also makes enormous practical sense for the performing arts as there is a clear need to attract new audiences to ensure their future strength.”

Amy Murray’s show, Red Aphrodite, is inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, and offers a funny and relatable exploration of sex, passion, female empowerment and the awkward side of femininity.

Amy said: “I’m really looking forward to the festival and would love to see lots of hearing people in the audience, so they can find out more about deaf identity and language. 

“The festival is also great for deaf performers as it provides a platform for our work, a chance to build connections and an opportunity to get together and have fun.”

Petre Dobre, who graduated alongside Jamie in the 2018 cohort, features in the short films Mask of the Cowboy and Balmaha, as well as presenting his children’s show Visual Fun with Sports.

Another 2018 graduate, Craig McCulloch, brings improv comedy to the festival.

Performances also include Faslane from BA Performance 2021 graduate Amy Helena, who presents her adaptation of a Fringe First-winning show that dissects Scotland’s nuclear debate. Adapted to British Sign Language (BSL) it’s inspired by interviews with those close to the issue, including activists and MoD personnel.

Fàilte gu BSL (Welcome to BSL) from RCS Traditional Music graduate – and Gaelic and Scots singer and step dancer – Evie Waddell, this new show explores her two linguistic identities: Gaelic and deafness. It’s a welcome for deaf people to Scottish Gaelic culture, which often hasn’t been accessible, and an invitation for hearing people to engage in BSL.

View the full programme of events and book tickets at Edinburgh Deaf Festival

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