‘Calypso’ will bring together deaf and hearing musicians, artists, film makers, and writers from across the UK, USA, and Barbados. Music is a powerful expressive tool in society and, in our digital age, often attracts and inspires people from all corners of the world.

Audiovisability will draw on the vibrant history of Calypso music on the island of Barbados, blending it with Hip-Hop and digital music, to emphasise the island’s culture as well as looking at deafness and the world at large.

 

Steel pan players at Community College, Barbados

Why?

Deafness is not often seen as a positive thing in this world. A local, professional Barbadian Sign Language interpreter Bonnie Leonce expresses her concern by reporting in the Barbadian press:

“Deaf people in Barbados leave school and are in a world of their own unless they go out and find a job which pays them very little since they have nothing in terms of certificates to prove they are capable of carrying out certain duties.  The sad thing about this is that (…) when you ask them what their dreams are or what they want for themselves in the future, the answer is simply: nothing!  Why? Because as they see it, their future is a dead end.”

There is a lack of further education opportunities and career options for deaf people on the island. This community is neglected and rarely (if ever) at the forefront or attention of society. Job opportunities for deaf people are less than mediocre and poorly paid, and the deaf community suffers from low morale.

Deaf Barbadian Maude says:

“Equality – for deaf people to be equal.  I know we have a long way to go, but equality can happen and we want to be valued equally to everyone else.  But we need to work together. The problem is there are too many divisions and we won’t improve things unless we work together.” 

Equality video by Barbados Deaf Association

Meeting at Barbados Deaf Association

We want to respond to their concerns by showing both the deaf and hearing communities what deaf people can achieve with the right opportunities and support.

We will achieve this in two main ways:

1.    By working with the deaf and hearing communities on the island on collaborative workshops and projects, improving the infrastructure of deaf education and creating new opportunities for deaf people in Barbados.

2.    By working with deaf and hearing musicians and film makers from the UK, USA, and Barbados to compose, produce, and record three new songs to emphasise the island’s culture as well as looking at deafness and the world at large. These songs will be performed at Frank Collymore Hall and reach a global audience via the internet.

The plan:

The musicians and artists will visit Barbados twice – the first time will be to conduct research, strengthen networks, and begin the creative process of song writing and music making.  The second time will focus on community workshops and performances.

Deaf musician Eloise Garland playing the violin to Barbadian deaf children

The Impact:

‘Calypso’ is a very real, exciting and ground-breaking opportunity for the deaf community of Barbados to be brought to the forefront of attention, building self-confidence, language development, and pride. It will promote engagement with the hearing world and the opportunity for the deaf community to begin harnessing their talents and using new skills to establish community projects and businesses of their own.

Whilst this isn’t a quick fix for the wider problem, we hope to provide a voice for the Barbadian deaf community forward to turn a corner in their lives after the impact of this project. We intend to build future leaders and continue with the networks after the project.

“When we treat all our citizens as ‘whole’, then we become a better functioning society.”

~ Bonnie Leonce.

Project dates: Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020.

Ruth Montgomery Artistic Director at a meeting with Chris Harper, a highly regarded specialist Barbadian musician on board for Audiovisability.

‘Calypso’ is a collaboration between Decibels, Audiovisability, Barbados Council for the Disabled, SpecialKidz International, The Peter Boos Foundation and other partners.