mon 20/05/2024

Music, The Deaf and David Mellor | reviews, news & interviews

Music, The Deaf and David Mellor

Music, The Deaf and David Mellor

The Classic FM presenter and former Culture Minister David Mellor was his usual charming self in his column in this weekend's Mail on Sunday. Reviewing the Sondheim at 80 Prom, he found his enjoyment impaired by activity at the side of the stage. Or as he put it, "that distracting bloke on stage signing the performance". He is referring, of course, to Dr Paul Whittaker OBE, who had been engaged to sign the first ever Prom for the deaf.

The Classic FM presenter and former Culture Minister David Mellor was his usual charming self in his column in this weekend's Mail on Sunday. Reviewing the Sondheim at 80 Prom, he found his enjoyment impaired by activity at the side of the stage. Or as he put it, "that distracting bloke on stage signing the performance". He is referring, of course, to Dr Paul Whittaker OBE, who had been engaged to sign the first ever Prom for the deaf.

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When someone like Mellor makes comments such as these it helps to fuel the arguments of ignorant, unthinking people who say that the arts are elitist. The whole point of signing - a beautiful balletic highly skilled art form in its own right - is to make the arts more accessible and inclusive. If Mellor doesn't understand or respect that then I really do wonder whether he is fit to be a critic. I am, for the record, Education Editor at The Stage.

A lot of deaf people can hear the music and feel the rhythm but they cannot understand the words. It is very common. Having someone signing the words helps deaf people to travel along the same journey as the hearing. It adds to the enjoyment and the feeling of inclusion. What a pity Mr Mellor didn't think this through.

Oh dear, poor Mr Mellor. It's pretty insulting to the people who need signing to enable them to access and enjoy a performance such as this. Obviously he didn't think before he spoke and isn't aware that people with all kinds of hearing loss ranging from slight all the way to the most profoundly deaf are able to get involved with and enjoy music. It just shows how much ignorance there still on this issue. I think he owes an apology to Paul Whittaker and to the people for whom he made the performance accessible.

It was with considerable sadness that I read David Mellor's comments regarding "the distracting bloke on stage signing the performance". I would have expected a music critic to have noticed "the distracting bloke's" impeccable timing and obvious musicality which was apparent to even the most inexperienced Promenader. Clearly Mellor is unaware of the tremendous work which has been done by Music for the Deaf during the last two decades by Dr Paul Whittaker to enable a wide range of deaf people to gain access to the full spectrum of musical theatre. Are we to assume that Mellor is prepared to discriminate against minorities or do we give him the benefit of the doubt and encourage him to broaden his understanding of how music can enrich the lives of all people - even those who are profoundly deaf. An apology by Mellor would be the least we might ask for: a donation to "Music for the Deaf" would reflect the depth of his sincerity.

I think Mr Mellor as an ex-culture minister needs to either experience life at a concert with ah earingloss or distraction such as tinnitus. (which was a project done Classic FM, and the Royal Philharmonic called "Hear Here".) http://www.hearhere.org.uk/ Or even ask the BBC or RAH how many British Sign Language users were accessing the Interpreter. It is dissappointing Mr Mellor felt strongly to condemn accessibility for the Deaf. "If there had been people he be behind it" maybe he only did half the thinking, to half research, and may only be able to recall half the concert? What did the Deaf people there remember? I challenge Mr Mellor to having a propper experience!

Like very much Susan Elkin's response that signing is "a beautiful balletic highly skilled art form in its own right". It's a great shame Mr Mellor has not been able to think outside of his own accessibility range. I have watched whole groups of people signing to music (not quite classical!) and their ability to move with the music was brilliantly executed. One young man in particular held my attention as he gave everything in his performance - for anyone profoundly deaf this would have been inclusivity at its best. Myself, I cannot actually translate sign language into words but that does not mean the experience is lost for me, on the contrary, the above occasions brought the whole experience to life. I have a hearing loss and it is incredibly difficult to try and explain to the majority of people how some noises can hurt without being clear, how listening to speech is extremely tiring simply because you are fighting to make sense out of very little input and more often than not is a form of communication you would rather run away from! Signing gives rhythm, movement and feeling to music - it's a brilliant human gift, which links it most certainly to 'the arts' and so to all those who are deaf or hearing impaired. Mr Mellor, you need educating.

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