Sheffield cinema showing landmark documentary on deaf history

Still from a film Power In Our Hands, showing residents at a West Yorkshire care home for deaf people in the 1950s
Still from a film Power In Our Hands, showing residents at a West Yorkshire care home for deaf people in the 1950s

A landmark documentary exploring the secret history and heritage of the deaf community in the UK is showing in Sheffield later this month.

Power in Our Hands includes rare footage taken of Yorkshire in the 1930s from the British Deaf Association (BDA) archives that is being seen by the public for the first time.

Following the screening, representatives from the association will take part in a special Q&A session with the audience, allowing further discussion of issues raised by the film and the experiences of deaf people in the UK, past and present.

The idea for the film began in 2004 when a group of builders accidently stumbled across the long-lost film from the BDA, dating from the 1930s.

The new digitised footage was then carefully compiled into an uplifting 70-minute documentary.

Combining social history and archive film with contemporary interviews, and released in the 125th anniversary year of BDA, Power in Our Hands explores the recognition of British Sign Language (BSL) and deaf rights in the UK.

The BDA said: “At the heart of the Deaf world is British Sign Language (BSL), the first language of many Deaf people.

“The Deaf community does not see deafness as a disability; instead positioning itself as a significant cultural and linguistic group with a rich and exciting history stretching back hundreds of years and with the word ‘Deaf’ (with a capitalised ‘D’) an expression of cultural identity.”

BDA chair Dr Terry Riley said: “To see this old film footage is an emotional occasion for me.

“For many years, I never really knew or saw my language on screen. So to be able to sit down and see BSL on a par with any other language is a wonderful thing.

“To watch a bygone era – one I thought was lost forever to the world – is just magical.”

The film is at the Showroom cinema at 6.15pm on Monday, March 14. For more information, go to www.showroomworkstation.org.uk