I am a Makaton Regional Tutor and deliver training throughout Cumbria and South Lakes. It had always been my dream though to set up a signing Choir, so that people could see the benefits of sign in a fun and light-hearted way. Unfortunately because of work commitments and the time it takes to translate songs, I never really had the opportunity. Then I was made redundant!
At last I had time... time to spare, time to spend doing the things I loved! So I contacted the local Day Services who run a club every Tuesday for adults with learning disabilities, many of whom I knew already from my previous work. They were very interested in my idea, so over the following weeks I translated many current songs and started a signing session at the club.
Within a few weeks it was evident that the session was a success and that a core of people were turning up each week to practise, and were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Friendships were flourishing where they hadn't been before, non-verbal members were actively starting to engage with their verbal peers, and the group were using signs with each other spontaneously. It was amazing! And so Riversigners were born.
We still practise each week, and have been fortunate enough to be asked to perform at several events, most recently at the NHS Expo in Manchester, which was very exciting for everyone. We performed several songs and the feedback we had was very uplifting, encouraging and truly positive!
The purpose of the choir though is not just to sing, sign and perform, it is to promote Makaton and show what a difference being able to communicate effectively makes to the self-confidence and self-esteem of users and their relationships with others, which is clearly evident with this group of inspiring and committed young people. Our aim is to raise awareness and have fun at the same time!