A deaf and signing choir has wowed Chelsea fans with a heart-warming rendition of club anthem ‘Blue is the Colour’ during the side’s home game against Brentford.
Deaf performance group Unify, and signing choir Hands 4 Voices, took to the pitch in front of thousands of spectators at Stamford Bridge, to perform the song in British Sign Language (BSL) during half-time.
Led by head chorister, Carol Cook, and with partially deaf singer James Vickery supporting on vocals, the home fans were encouraged to sing and sign the famous lyrics of the club’s anthem of 51 years.
The performance was a celebration of the long-term partnership between the club, Cadbury Fingers and the National Deaf Children’s Society encouraging adults to learn some BSL to help make more deaf people feel included in everyday moments like football.
Chelsea stars Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja, Lauren James, and Hannah Hampton have also learnt a little BSL, and were taught football-inspired BSL phrases, including ‘what’s the score?’ and ‘what a goal’.
Susanne Nowak, from Cadbury Fingers, which has launched the Sign with Fingers website, so fans can emulate their heroes by learning some BSL, said: “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 we urge everyone to learn some British Sign Language they could use as a conversation starter to facilitate more shared moments of connection.”
It comes after research, commissioned by the chocolate biscuit brand, found 58 percent of deaf sports fans rate football as their favourite.
But 55 percent feel left out of the club culture on match days – due to lack of deaf awareness.
The poll of 250 deaf sports fans also revealed 46 percent feel the majority of sports and fan culture is only suitable for hearing people and not inclusive for all.
And 34 percent often wish more was done to help those with the disability feel more included within the stadium.
More than a third (34 percent) often feel lonely or left out as they find it hard to interact with other fans, with 30 percent are regularly struggling during half time to understand the on-pitch activity.
Despite this, 93 percent of those polled, via OnePoll.com, believe you can’t beat the thrill of watching a sporting event live in a stadium.
It also emerged 52 percent think hearing people find it difficult to start a conversation with a deaf person, and 54 percent believe this due to a lack of confidence or knowledge.
However, they would feel happier (43 percent), more respected (37 percent) and more included in everyday conversations (36 percent) if a greater number of hearing people learned some BSL.
Therefore, 47 percent would like to see a more widespread use of British Sign Language within the sporting industry.
And three in 10 want a better offering of inclusive experiences incorporating British Sign Language.
This would leave 43 percent feeling happier, 37 percent feeling more respected and 36 percent more included in everyday conversations.
As part of the long-term partnership, Chelsea FC has introduced quarterly club tours with a BSL interpreter, while providing deaf awareness training and introducing BSL for beginners throughout the organisation.
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.”