This blog will document my research & development that will involve:

• Reviewing online videos of Mister Tumble a world leader in accessible performance for children’s television/theatre & study his performance with integrated Makaton. Visit a Makaton signed theatre performance in the UK.

• Work with Makaton regional trainer Helen Adams to explore interpreting an extract from my performance. Meet choreographer & co-director of Company Chameleon Kevin Edward Turner to share research & ideas behind the work. Work collaboratively with the performer, choreographer & Makaton trainer in studio rehearsals.


This week I had my first meeting at The Orchards specialist school in Flixton, Trafford to talk about how to introduce and adapt Statue performance/workshop for the school setting. I specifically wanted to work with this school as it believes in person-centred planning and I have developed a working relationship with Sarah Cattell, we had previously worked together with Manchester Art Gallery and Grange School on a collaborative performance titled, ‘Spinning‘. I met with Sarah and the deputy head, Miss Helen Walker who are really excited to bring in some performance work on site as it can be challenging for families to visit venues and how we can customise sessions to the children’s needs. I was informed that Trafford schools have made a commitment to the communication system Sign Along which is very similar to Makaton language although this was still at the early stages of being integrated into the school. I plan to work with the speech and language therapist at the school to adapt some of the signs and symbols to keep consistency with what is being taught in the classroom.

I plan on delivering three micro touch tours for small groups which will take the structure of a relaxed rehearsal in a classroom setting where the children can look and touch the performance set materials and experience some of the content. I like informal settings and the warm up at the start of my workshop starts by sitting on the floor and depending on the individuals needs I am happy to do a full session at this level. I visited the hall which has quite a lot of visual distractions and I am thinking about how to simplify the space. When I performed Statue at Z-arts the set was across the width of the space which I will explore at the school as this way can create a more focussed performance area and will keep the intimacy of the workshop. I have been experimenting in the studio with performance set sketches and visual sets. I have been enjoying using illuminous orange tape and reflective materials. Working with existing materials I have been exploring periphery props and sensory objects for children to interact with.

I feel that it is best practice to experience observing a creative session at the Orchards school and to get to meet some of the children who I will be working with. What does a classroom look like in this particular school? I am interested to see and hear the children’s reactions to statue, how might they describe what this thing is in the world in their own way? I will research existing resources that I can use to support my sessions in terms of lighting, overhead projectors, floor matts to create a sensory, transformational experience in the hall. Statue was originally intended to be shown outdoors and I wonder whether there could be a potential site on the school grounds to explore staging this as an intervention piece? Lots to reflect on and to negotiate with the school.



Bursary schedule
The aim of my proposed bursary activity was to research and develop making my work accessible to children by integrating Makaton language to communicate signs within the work. There were some changes to my original schedule due to gaining some knowledge of Makaton and learning the early stages of dance movement shortly after submitting my application for the bursary. I intended to work with choreographer Kevin Turner however, due to his work commitments and the development of my dance vocabulary this mentoring wasn’t essential to realising my original proposed activity. I found using Skype technology a much more cost-effective way of working 1-2-1 with Helen Adams, Makaton Trainer to maximize my time with her. Through a combination of Skype and email correspondence, I had bespoke Makaton sign and symbol support which was essential to interpreting my performance and workshop. Learning Makaton is a life long practice and I felt that I was ready to step up a level and used the remainder of the funds to complete the 3 day Makaton Enhancement course in July.

Go see
As part of my weekly practice, I have been researching online videos of Mr Tumble which I found incredibly important to see how to deliver information using Makaton in a fun, clear way without overloading the audience with too many words. The actor Justin Fletcher plays two characters and I found this really useful to see how he changed his rhythm of delivery in particular when giving more information and how he used mime, pointing and directional movement when he plays the clown character with only the key signs used. This gave me a good guide and a way of changing my delivery when being the host and being a performing statue.

I wanted to go and see a Makaton signed theatre show in the North West however there wasn’t anything available, in fact, I could only find two shows in the UK mainly touring in London. I went to see Ribbet Ribbet Croak Croak by Moulded Theatre at the Cockpit and was lucky enough to meet the director before the show. The production was fully signed by two performers and was over an hour-long which I felt for families with young children and neurodiverse audiences was too long. This re-affirmed for me the advantage of shorter pop up events. The use of supporting symbols where minimal in comparison to the fully signed narrative and I could see missed opportunities of spreading the word of Makaton through distributed marketing and learning material for the audience.

R&D showing & creative evaluation
To test out the now retitled ‘Statue’ performance and workshop with Makaton I was selected to present my work at Haphazard, live art event for families at Z-arts in Manchester shortly after receiving the bursary which meant that I went into an intense period of research working with Helen Adams, Makaton Tutor. I learned Makaton through interpreting with Helen the content of the micro performance, workshop and overall hosting of the activity signing the keywords throughout supported by the words and symbols to make it as inclusive as possible for children. Being a statue offered more creative interpretation when signing by holding the end sign position until the next keyword that presented clear communication whilst holding body shapes making this performance and workshop unique, creative and fun.

I worked with filmmaker Sophie Broadgate who documented Statue at Haphazard which I have reflected on to identify any areas of development which were the speed of delivery and emphasising that with Makaton you speak and sign at the same time which is a distinct difference to BSL. To gain feedback from the audience an interviewer spoke to 10 families to find out what they liked and what could be developed further. Generally, the feedback was very positive and the only development was the timings of the event that needed to be slightly shorter which I have adapted. The space rocket image which is the Makaton symbol for the word was a huge success and really captured the children’s imagination with the songs sound effects whilst linking it to the word.

Through my training, I have learned the importance of presenting Makaton supported work to everyone which means engaging children and their families is an important part of continuing learning after the event. People like to learn in different ways and alongside the signing, I created a symbol and word slideshow which mirrored my signing to the song ‘Digital Love’, Daft Punk. This work was supported by Arts Council England, although the first draft stages of this symbol translation were made possible through my work with Helen Adams, a-n Artist Bursary.

Impact on practice
This bursary has had a significant impact on my practice and funded specialised training and going to see a Makaton signed theatre show outside of the North West. I have quickly reached a competent standard in Makaton signing and I submitted an application to the Makaton Charity to go for Makaton Friendly status which I can proudly say that I have achieved and I am now a Makaton Friendly Performance Artist. With gaining interest in my work and building confidence in myself I felt it was the right time to go for additional support and applied to Arts Council England to continue this work and I was successful at achieving a Project Grant. I would not have been able to apply for this without the confirmed support from the a-n Artist Bursary. I am excited about the future of my practice and will be touring this work to the Orchards Specialist School in Trafford later this year.


I have been researching online guides on how to produce accessible performance and I found this clearly explained working document by ‘unlimited’ arts commissioning program for disabled artists, titled Demystifying Access. The guide opens with a statement: ‘If you care about reaching a wide and diverse audience with your work it is essential to consider questions of access – there are 11 million disabled people in the UK alone; that’s almost 1 in 6 people (Source: The law requires that no one is excluded from accessing public services and demands reasonable adjustments to be made in order to ensure this – so it is our job as performance makers to think ahead and not discriminate!’

As an audience interviewer in the cultural sector and with my experience of and working with neurodiverse people I have a feeling that this 1 in 6 statistic is actually higher. Part of my frustration with the world is how slow we are to change and implement access from the start of things which is why I am passionate about developing this over a period of time into my work. I want to develop a Touch Tour for my next showing of Statue and I have struggled to find this activity in the real world to experience first hand which is how I like to learn. However, this online access document to Touch Tours will support my planning as it includes references to performance companies that offer this activity.

What is a Touch Tour? A Touch Tour is an opportunity for the audience to explore the performance set through touch and an opportunity to ask questions before the event starts. I like how this offers another way into the work, its a quieter introduction with additional sensory opportunities to interact with the work. My costume and make-up are visually and texturally really interesting to look at and to touch. I can imagine questions being asked about how the costume is made and how the makeup is applied. Could I take this a little bit further where people could apply a small amount of makeup onto me? This is a really exciting way of thinking about how children engage with the set when I present this at The Orchards specialist school, Trafford where there will be individual needs for 1-2-1 or smaller group interaction. We know that offering different ways of engaging with work can only be of benefit to everybody.

As part of my a-n bursary and Arts Council England project grant, I visited a Makaton integrated family theatre show titled Ribbet Ribbet Croak by Moulded Theatre at The Cockpit in London this was a bit further than I wanted to travel however there was nothing else available for me to see in the North West. My initial research into this area really did surprise me at how little Makaton friendly performances are out there and how some of the Makaton friendly theatre venues do not provide this in there programming. It was worth traveling to London to see Moulded Theatre, Makaton friendly show where I got to meet the director and the cast, they also let me have a look at their performance set before the show started. In the show, the two performers dressed as frogs signed through the entire set with symbols used in a 2D format that were hung on a washing line.

The show was very interactive with lots of opportunities for the children to get up and play and touch different materials. One of my favourite parts of the show was how they used some basic materials to mime bringing to life through live action the Makaton symbol for a rollercoaster. The cast were really engaging and kept really calm even when children started wondering into the performance set, I left feeling like I had seen a theatre show for families that was fully signed in Makaton. I feel that what I am developing is a different kind of structure using both the workshop format with a micro performance and I want the audience to go away with some knowledge of Makaton with additional resources to continue there learning at home. I want my work to go beyond performance and encourage people to actively explore and do Makaton in the world.


My aim with this work was to make my Unknown Statue workshop & performance Makaton friendly which I feel was a success. I started with a relaxed performance of a maximum of 25 people and in the second session 75 and surprisingly I felt that I could hold the rooms attention with the work and the slideshow so this was a good experiment to try a limited capacity and then opening it up to see what could be the maximum audience in the space. I was unsure about the timings, and the lengths of some of the elements within the show but I think with a little tweaking this could be improved, however, the structure was right with a short warm up, talk and sign through the slides, performance and collaborative performance at the end. The space rocket symbol graphic used in the sound effect sections of the song that the participants had were a real success I could see how excited the children were holding an object to zoom into the sky.

I set the tone at the start by just being myself, meeting and greeting everyone was important for me to feel comfortable and to make people feel welcome. I did consider being statue still at the beginning as the audience entered but physically I just felt that would be too much for me and that it could be quite scary for some of the children. A surprising thing that happened at the end of session two was when my son approached me on the plinth and high fived me which then led to a stream of children wanting to repeat this interaction with me. This got me thinking about more interactivity at the beginning and at the end of the performance. I want to include a touch tour element to the work as the make-up and wardrobe are fascinating to look at and to touch. The song choice was perfect and I am passionate about using contemporary music rather than nursery rhymes or children’s books which are the usual references in Makaton signed performances. I produced a printed sign/symbol/lyric sheet for participants to take away at the end of the show and from the feedback, I had received people appreciated the opportunity to be able to continue there learning at home.

To gather audience reactions I had an interviewer gather feedback from families to find out what they liked and what they would change in the show? The reaction that resonated with me was a mother of two children, one child has down syndrome and she commented that: “I liked that it was something for all ages. My daughter doesn’t often participate in things from start to finish she usually loses focus but that had her gripped and I feel like I’ve come away and learned something that I can continue to learn with the girls.” I observed a child and his mother who looked quite disengaged in the second session however when it came to signing together the child knew all of the signs and completed the entire song. I am careful not to assume what participation looks like as I understand that this can be achieved by simply looking or being in a room with other people, the additional signing for some people is a bonus. However, this did confirm for me the importance of the symbol and word slideshow as another visual medium for the audience to read from which I noticed that the child had followed.

As part of my a-n and arts council project grant, I have two research visits firstly a show that has integrated Makaton and I will attend a second show that is a relaxed performance. I wonder if there are shows that are produced solely as a relaxed performance? What are the seating layouts and capacity for this type of show? I want to experience different types of touch tours, for example, a taster/teaser of a show and to experience being physically guided by my hands to explore sculptural figures. Overall my show needs editing down and I will trim down the music and the number of symbols taught in the sign/symbol/word slideshow section. Could there be some background music playing as people entered the space? Could the performance space be more colourful or include some sensory elements for younger children. Lots to reflect on…


I had my first 1-2-1 rehearsal with Helen Adams through a Skype link which was my first time performing to someone in this way. Originally I wanted to be in a physical space but actually working like this is a much better use of our time and we have quickly got into one hour sessions where I can get the technical support I need to develop the work. What came out of my first rehearsal with Helen was how I have integrated the Makaton signs really well and there where just a few signs that needed to be made more explicit such as ‘cuddle’ and ‘dream’. I edited out some of the signs that where originally given as I want stillness within the performance which artistically is an important element to being viewed as a statue. This editing is what is making this work different to simply learning a song we are also moving like statues together. What I had been struggling with was how to incorporate symbols without overwhelming the audience with too much information.

To support the Makaton sign and speech in the workshop/performance it is essential to integrate the symbols to give another visual reference that represents some of the lyrics in the song. ‘The advantages of using symbols can increase understanding and provides another means of expression. Symbols are motivating, attractive and can hold a person’s interest they illustrate that speech and writing is made up of words and sounds’ (The Makaton Charity). With a bit more thought and experimenting in the studio I have been trying out using larger symbols such as the ‘guitar’ and ‘space rocket’ as a performative prop to illustrate some of the sound effects in the song Digital Love, Daft Punk. As part of the performance set I will have a TV monitor behind me playing the symbol slideshow that will mirror my signing and I am in the process of producing this in iMovie.

I received good news last week and the development of this work over the next 6 months will be supported by Arts Council England. This support together with the a-n professional development bursary is really allowing me the time I need to research and develop integrating Makaton into my work. With my upcoming Unknown Statue, workshop & performance happening on Saturday at Haphazard, Z-arts I am producing a short promotional video that has taken careful planning and interpreting into a short and clear makaton friendly sign & symbol advert. I am used to working in print or digitally and this is a new way of promoting my work by signing in a selfie video format to audiences. Follow me on instagram to see the advert and please share @artist_worker_mother