Our students collaborated with Deaf illustrator, Lucy Rogers and Paddleboat, a local theatre company to create a beautifully illustrated book – The Amazing History of the Deaf Academy – which tells the story of deaf education in the United Kingdom from its origins in the 19th century to today.
A film, directed by Deaf actor and director David Ellington was created alongside the project, which has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It was launched at the Academy, where students presented a powerful dramatic performance about their experiences.
Deaf Academy principal, Sylvan Dewing, said: “This book, film and drama production tell the story of the Deaf community, the history of deaf education and of the Deaf Academy itself. Our students first began working with Paddleboat Theatre on this project in 2019, so it is wonderful to see it all come together in this way. It began at a time when we were in the process of moving to our new campus in Exmouth and this project felt like a fantastic way to document the history of our Academy, as well as being an incredible experience for our students.
“We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project and worked so hard to make it a reality, particularly the team from Paddleboat Theatre, illustrator Lucy Rogers and film director David Ellington. It’s so important that our young Deaf people are given a voice in this way, and as their drama performance showed, without access to appropriate education they are not heard.”
Hattie Brown, from Paddleboat Theatre, said: “PaddleBoat have worked with the students from the Deaf Academy for seven years. The students were involved at every stage of this project and we’re really proud of everything they’ve created – from the book and film to the drama performance about their own Deaf identity.”
The fully-accessible book records the origins of deaf education, from the establishment of the first deaf school in Edinburgh in 1760, to the creation of the first deaf school in Exeter in 1826 and the invention of the hearing aid in 1898. It plots the course of historic occasions in the life of deaf people, including the culmination of the campaign to have British Sign Language recognised by the UK government in its own right.
Devon’s first deaf school, which went on to become the Deaf Academy, opened in Exeter in 1826. It was established by Charlotte Hippisley Tuckfield who was involved in teaching and education and took great interest in a local deaf child who lived in her village near Crediton. She visited a school for the deaf in Paris to find out more and came back to Devon where she approached some rich local men who agreed to fund the school which opened in 1826 with just six students.
The Deaf Academy moved to its new campus in Exmouth in 2020 and caters for 63 students, many of whom have additional needs, from across the UK.
An exhibition about our history with the book as a central focus is currently on display at Exmouth Museum.
Thanks to National Lottery Players
This project would not have been possible without Paddleboat Theatre Company, the Heritage Fund and students at the Deaf Academy.