Sign Of The Times
Derbyshire Life|March 2017

Sarah Newton meets Derby’s CBeebies presenter and Breakthrough Brit Ashley Kendall.

NEWSROUND, the BBC’s current affairs programme for children, has come a long way since the days of John Craven sitting behind a desk.

But Derby’s own Ashley Kendall still had to pinch himself when he was invited to be a guest presenter last year – making history by delivering the news in British Sign Language for the very first time.

Ashley, who attended the Royal School for the Deaf Derby in Ashbourne Road from 2007 until 2012, is a familiar face on the children’s TV channel CBeebies, presenting Magic Hands, a poetry programme for deaf and hearing youngsters.

But even though 22-year-old Ashley is a regular on our TV screens, stepping onto the Newsround set was still a surreal experience.

‘A week before the programme, I went to Media City in Salford to meet the Newsround team and rehearse before the actual filming took place,’ he explained. ‘There were quite a lot of set alterations required to meet the needs of a sign language user, for example the camera needed to be wider so that viewers could see my hands clearly.

‘On the big day itself the filming went really well and I had fun. I really admire the Newsround team for their enthusiasm and belief in sign language. I just hope we will see more of it on mainstream television in the future.

‘BSL is a British language and it is so important for all children, deaf and hearing, to grow up knowing that. It’s a true breakthrough to see such a popular programme presented entirely in sign language, because it gets kids asking questions and opening their minds.

‘Hearing children will learn about sign language and hopefully feel more confident around deaf children they might meet. For deaf children the benefits are obvious. A mainstream show presented in their own language increases their confidence and feeling of identity. It also had English captions so they could see how the words became signs.’

Born into a deaf family – his parents, step parents, sister Sara and non-identical twin brother James are all profoundly deaf, although his two youngest siblings are not – Ashley never felt that his disability would hold him back.

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