James Vickery, deaf sign performance group Unify and signing choir Hands 4 Voices, took to the pitch at Stamford Bridge during Chelsea FC’s home match against Brentford today to deliver an emotive BSL performance of Blue is The Colour – Chelsea’s club anthem of 51 years.
Led by head chorister, Carol Cook, with partially deaf singer James Vickery supporting on vocals, the uplifting moment saw 40,000 Chelsea FC fans brought together in a shared moment to sing and sign the famous lyrics ‘We’re all together, and winning is our aim’, garnering a roaring reception from the crowd.
The on-pitch activities marked the ongoing commitment between Cadbury Fingers, the National Deaf Children’s Society and Chelsea FC, at fostering better inclusivity within football and supporting the 46% of deaf people who feel the majority of sporting culture and match day experiences are only suitable for hearing people and not inclusive for all.
Carol Cook from Hands 4 Voices says: ‘It was such an honour for us all to perform Chelsea’s iconic anthem at Stamford Bridge – everyone in the choir was a bit daunted by the size of the stadium and doing justice to the song we know means so much to fans, but the atmosphere was electric and the crowd were so supportive. It was a really special moment and hopefully just the start of more inclusivity within football both on and off the pitch’.
In research released today, football is cited as the most popular sport amongst deaf people, with 93% agreeing you can’t beat the thrill of watching a sporting event live in a stadium. However, more than half of deaf fans (55%) believe their experiences at live sporting events are restricted due to a lack of deaf awareness, with 34% saying they often feel lonely or left out as it’s hard to interact with other fans and a further 30% saying they regularly struggle to understand on-pitch activity.
The partnership between Cadbury Fingers, the National Deaf Children’s Society and Chelsea FC forms part of Cadbury Fingers’ wider ‘Sign with Fingers Big & Small’ campaign, which aims to encourage Brits to learn a little British Sign Language to help break down barriers between hearing and deaf people.
As part of the initiative, Chelsea FC has begun training all staff members in BSL, with Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja, Lauren James and Hannah Hampton getting in on the action by learning phrases including ‘What’s the score?, ‘What a goal’ and ‘Nice to meet you’. This comes in response to the finding that 47% of deaf people would like to see more widespread use of BSL within the sports industry.
54% of deaf people said they think hearing people find it difficult to start a conversation with a deaf person due to a lack of confidence or knowledge but those surveyed admitted they would feel happier (43%), more respected (37%) and more included in everyday conversations (36%) if more hearing people learned a little BSL.
In addition to providing deaf awareness training and introducing BSL for beginners throughout the organisation, Chelsea FC has also introduced quarterly club tours with a BSL interpreter to address the feedback of 30% of deaf Brits who would like to see a better offer of inclusive experiences incorporating BSL.
Susanne Nowak, Senior Brand Manager Cadbury Biscuits UK & Ireland, from Cadbury Fingers, comments, “Our goal – excuse the pun – is to bring more people together over the nation’s favourite game. This is the second year of our ‘Sign with Fingers Big & Small’ campaign and we know there is still a lot of work to be done to improve inclusivity. We felt football was the perfect medium for driving better awareness and emotional connection over shared moments between deaf and hearing people given how integral it is to British culture. By teaming up with Chelsea FC and our long term partners the National Deaf Children’s Society, we are excited to enter a new era of inclusivity both on and off the pitch, and urge everyone to learn some British Sign Language they could use as a conversation starter to facilitate more shared moments of connection.”
Susan Daniels, Chief Executive at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with Cadbury and Chelsea FC on the ‘Sign with Fingers Big & Small’ campaign. Together, we aim to raise awareness about the communication barriers deaf children and young people face and encourage more hearing people to learn some basic signs. We want to see a more inclusive world so that every deaf person can be part of the conversation.
“We were thrilled to see Chelsea fans joining in with the choirs to sign and sing their beloved anthem. Occasions like this really bring home the message that, with a little bit of effort, everyone can become more deaf-aware.”
To find out more about how to include more deaf people by learning some British Sign Language, visit https://signwithfingers.cadbury.co.uk/ to learn a phrase or two.