25 Days of CoDI: Day 10

On the tenth day of CoDI, I wondered if you can communicate with me?

Jemina Napier, Stacey Webb, Gary Quinn and Mark MacQueen: The Myth of Universal Sign Language

BSL researchers
(L to R) Mark, Stacey, Jemina and Gary

So what’s the basic idea of this show, then?

There are a lot of myths about sign language: all deaf people use it; it’s just a straight translation of English; it just involves the hands. In this show, our performers challenge the misconception that sign language is the same the world over.

Is the show only for deaf people?

Absolutely not! One of the main reasons our performers are doing this show is to raise awareness among the general population about the realities of sign language. The show will be interpreted in British Sign Language (BSL) and English.

Who are the performers?

All of our performers are researchers from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. The University has a fantastic reputation for its sign language expertise. It was the first in Scotland to offer a sign language degree, and its sign language researchers have given evidence to Parliament and appear regularly in deaf media like the The Limping Chicken.

Jemina Napier is ‘head honcho’ of the show. She is a professor (so rather successful in the academic world) and spent 15 years working in Australia before returning to the UK, where she had grown up in the British Deaf Community. Jemina has been a sign language interpreter since 1988.

Gary Quinn teaches and researches sign language. He is a big advocate of sharing his work with the wider world, as he tells you here:

One of our favourite projects that Gary’s done is coming up with signs for obscure scientific terms so that signing school children can be better taught science.

Stacey Webb is a dark horse. Prior to her academic career, she was a phone-up interpreter and dealt with quite a few risque situations!

Last but not least, Mark MacQueen. In addition to teaching sign at Heriot-Watt, Mark is an accomplished, award-winning storyteller who has worked with the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Is this the first time you’ve had a sign language show at CoDI?

Nope, quite the opposite. Heriot-Watt’s sign language team have been with CoDI from its very beginning. They have always attracted one of the biggest audiences and had great fun with their audiences. It’s from them that we’ve learned that Scotland’s deaf community are party-goers – you’ll see signing in the St Andrew Square beer garden for many hours…


Jemina, Stacey, Gary and Mark’s show takes place on Saturday 13th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/108/performance/1543/book-tickets