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'Magic Hands'new CBeebies show translating poetry into BSL

Tuesday 23 April

CBeebies has commissioned a brand new and groundbreaking series for the channel featuring poetry translated into British Sign Language.

A co-commission with BBC Learning, Magic Hands presents modern and classic poetry for children in a way that has never been seen before. Across the series, the Magic Hands presenting team – Ashley, Donna, Aimee and Simon – perform some of the best children’s poetry entirely in BSL.

From Robert Louis Stephenson to Roger Stevens and Michaela Morgan, the programmes are fun, five-minute packages that mix sign language, the spoken word, music and vibrant animation to bring the poems to life and capture the imaginations of both deaf and hearing children.

The series is made for CBeebies by Remark Ltd, a company that is owned, staffed and run by people who are deaf.

Series producer, Judith Bunting, says: “Translating modern and traditional poems for children into BSL on such a scale is a first. There are deaf poets and deaf theatre companies but no national television company has ever tried translating children’s poetry into BSL.

“It was a mammoth task and our artistic interpreter has done an amazing job, taking the intricacies of verse from the 19th to 21st centuries and transforming them into a terrific series of performances.”

The Magic Hands presenters are all new to television and have been profoundly deaf since birth. On set they worked with professional interpreters along with the series’ artistic director, Jean St Clair, and both deaf and hearing production crew.

Director, Camilla Arnold, explains: “Working on a programme with both hearing and deaf production team members may sound like a huge challenge but in fact it is like any other studio recording - with myself giving instruction and presenters and crew giving their input – the only difference is that everything that happens is also translated from BSL for hearing members of the crew and there is lots of discussion to ensure the presenters hands don’t get in the way of the animation and vice versa.”

Each episode of Magic Hands is based around a single verse, interpreted for children. The selection comes from poets including Christina Rossetti, Kenn Nesbitt, Gareth Lancaster, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Katharine Pyle, Charles Kingsley, James Carter, Sarah Coleridge, Maya Angelou, Rabindranath Tagore and Grace Andreacchi as well as Shakespeare.

Controller of CBeebies, Kay Benbow, says: “We are delighted to bring Magic Hands to CBeebies. The mix of sign language, music and lively animation creates spellbinding poetry that we are sure all our young viewers will enjoy.”

The show is on the cbeebies channel daily at 13:15.

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