Schoolchildren are in training for a mass singalong with a difference.
Pupils from Lowerhouses Primary School are some of the 800 currently being taught how to sing with sign language by inspirational Huddersfield man Paul Whittaker OBE, ahead of a massive Huddersfield Town Hall event.
Paul, the founder of Huddersfield’s Music and the Deaf, got everyone moving at a lively full day rehearsal ahead of the event on February 25, which they will star in alongside other Kirklees children as part of Huddersfield’s inaugural Mrs Sunderland Festival.
It is the latest big project for Paul, who has been recently granted an honorary degree.
“We had a great time, each group learning a particular song, the whole school learning Hey, Mister Miller and the school signing choir also working on Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and “Chattanooga Choo-choo”, said Paul.
“I believe such events like this are important as the children learn British Sign Language.
“It raises deaf awareness, it’s wonderful for the deaf children themselves to have a deaf adult coming to the school and we have lots of fun.
“Both the pupils and staff really enjoyed the day and it might even encourage some to go on and learn more BSL.
“It’s an incredibly useful skill and a highly expressive language.
“BSL is in decline. Many parents don’t want their deaf child to sign; there is a growing feeling that they don’t need to sign because they have a cochlear implant, so they can learn to speak and to listen.
“I think this is rubbish - you can never make a deaf person into a hearing one and why would you want to? It’s a way of life, not a medical condition to be cured.”
Paul left Music and the Deaf, which help deaf people make music, last year.He is now involved in many other projects and is developing a career as a motivational speaker as well as starting his own adult signing choir in Elland.
He received his degree from the Open University last November for his services to music.
“The degree was a huge surprise but a great honour. I’m very proud to receive it and be linked with a University that has done so much to promote access and equality, and inspired so many people to aim for a degree.
“I’m currently trying to develop a career as a motivational speaker. A couple of agencies have recently accepted me, which is encouraging.
“I’m doing a few music or signed song workshops occasionally, and continuing to work abroad with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, which has projects in Katowice and Dortmund scheduled for this year.
“I’ve also been asked to develop an opera project for deaf people in Gothenburg (Sweden), set up a signing choir in Hull, and trying very hard to persuade concert venues and promoters to improve their access for deaf people.”