Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust (HPFT) recently hosted a sharing good practice conference in Newmarket, Suffolk. During the conference we gave a one-off performance of a Makaton version of Queen's ‘We are the champions‘.
The performance was made accessible for everyone who attended the conference by 11 wonderful conference makers, who learnt the Makaton signs for the whole of the song in the weeks leading up to the conference. Our conference makers were made up of people with learning disabilities who volunteered to help run the conference and ensure the day went smoothly.
The conference makers attended a session to learn to sign the words two weeks before the big day. This was videoed so that the conference makers could watch it at home and practice as much as they wanted to. A copy of the video was also sent to MiXiT, who performed with us. MiXiT are the world's first inclusive pop group. Performing classic pop songs and new and original material. MiXiT have begun to attract audiences from not only the UK but from all over the world. (Visit www.mixitmusic.co.uk for more about MiXiT.)
A workshop for MiXiT and the conference makers was scheduled for the hour before the performance, to practise the song. We had a few practices of the song and perfected the performance. Then it was time to perform the song with the 200 people attending the conference.
Once everyone had gathered in the hall I taught the audience to sign the chorus of the song. The audience were fantastic and picked up the signs very quickly. Then it was time for the performance.
The conference makers and MiXiT performed the song perfectly and it was amazing to see over 200 people signing the chorus to 'We are the champions' and signing along. It was a fantastic way to bring people with such varied communication skills together.
We had some great feedback from the audience after the performance. Many admitted to not wanting to participate and thinking it would be too difficult to learn and were pleasantly surprised at how easily they picked up the signs. They all reported how much fun they had and how they would be less worried about learning Makaton in the future.
It was such a great success we are planning a similar performance at the next conference.