Making a Signbank Withdrawal

Join Jordan Fenlon and Andy Carmichael at 1.50pm, Friday 4th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to take a tour of UCL’s British Sign Language Signbank. 


Tell us a bit about yourselves

Jordan Fenlon: Assistant Professor of British Sign Language at Heriot Watt University

Andy Carmichael: – BSL interpreter based at Heriot-Watt University

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

Jordan: Before coming to Heriot-Watt, I was based at UCL as a sign language researcher and was part of the team that developed BSL Signbank. Signs that were added to Signbank were signs that we had seen in use in the British Sign Language Corpus. This meant that Signbank reflects the signs that the wider deaf community are using today. In compiling this dictionary, however, issues that are hotly debated come up all the time.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

Jordan: Our topic is dangerous for a number of reasons. We’re going to try and touch on a few in the show. For example, within the deaf community, not everyone agrees with the signs in Signbank. There are some signs that younger people are using which others don’t like (and I don’t necessarily mean rude ones!) and would rather not see in a dictionary. For the new signer, however, the dictionary can be rather confusing as we try to document all the variation we see in a sign (there are 11 signs for the colour ‘grey’ for instance) – should we only pick one? How do we get round this ‘problem’?

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

Topics related to language always stir up a lot of controversy. People get so worked up about English and how it’s changing (e.g., ‘don’t call it a train station, it’s a railway station’) and BSL is no exception.

Why is the topic important to you?

We’re both native signers and grew up in the deaf community. BSL has been and will always be a huge part of our lives.

Describe your show in 3 words

irreverent, information, illuminating

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

We’re also going to look at some fun signs in the dictionary. Sometimes, new learners think it’s easy to pick up BSL because it’s iconic (another dangerous idea) – that is, signs look like the thing they represent. We have some fun examples to show that it can be true, but not always. New learners can expect to leave the theatre with a fresh perspective on what learning a sign language involves!


Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe