When See Hear went Bargain Hunting

Anita Manning demonstrating her new signing skills Bargain Hunt expert Anita Manning uses her new signing skills

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Until last week, See Hear had shared an office with Bargain Hunt in Bristol for nearly two years.

They're a busy and organised team, bustling around with boxes of blue and red fleeces, organising complicated shoots at antiques fairs and auction houses around the country - and creating one of the BBC's most popular daytime shows, watched by millions of viewers each week.

See Hear is a more modest production but has been around a bit longer than Bargain Hunt - since 1981 in fact.

We're now in our 34th series of programmes presented in British Sign Language (BSL) - the world's longest running show for deaf and hard of hearing people.

The idea of collaboration had been in the air for a while - but it never really took hold until we found out that Bargain Hunt was moving from Bristol to Cardiff.

It had to happen now or never, so I took the short walk across the office to ask series producer Julia Foot if she fancied having signing deaf contestants on the programme for the first time.

She said yes straight away, and the audition process began.

Common mistakes

We approached several deaf couples to gauge their interest in taking part - and Bargain Hunt team members went with an interpreter to audition them.

The audition process featured a "mystery item" in a bag, which potential contestants had to look at and discuss the value of.

The outstanding candidates were Clark and Carolyn Denmark, both local to Bristol and secret antiques buffs. They were also well known to See Hear, having featured on the programme before.

Then the production meetings started. How were we going to film Clark and Carolyn so that the signing was clear to deaf viewers, but without disrupting the established Bargain Hunt format?

Interpreter Danny Stubbs and presenter Tim Wonnacott with contestants Carolyn and Clark Denmark Interpreter Danny Stubbs and presenter Tim Wonnacott with contestants Carolyn and Clark

In the past, common mistakes made when a mainstream programme features deaf contributors include that the signing isn't framed clearly on screen, it's badly edited, or - worst of all - the deaf person finds themselves without full access to what's happening on the day due to lack of communication support.

Start Quote

We're no different to anyone else, the only difference is the language used”

End Quote Clark Denmark Bargain Hunt contestant

We had an ace up our sleeve - one of our directors, Caroline O'Neill, had already worked on Bargain Hunt and knew the programme very well.

She knew the filming format, how the presenters were used, and how the shopping sequences worked.

She quickly worked things out with the other directors in terms of where the interpreter would stand, how the eye-lines would work so that the deaf contestants didn't look like they were ignoring our expert, and most importantly, how to put the deaf contestants on an equal footing with their hearing opponents.

Our production management assistant Sophie Johnson also booked two of the best and most experienced interpreters we knew - Joseph Taylor and Danny Stubbs.

One would be supporting Caroline on the shoot, the other providing voiceover and sign translation for Clark and Carolyn on screen.

On the day, both the expert Anita Manning and presenter Tim Wonnacott proved to be up for the challenge, even learning a bit of sign language before meeting Clark and Carolyn.

Interpreter Joseph Taylor and director Caroline O’Neill at an antique fair Interpreter Joseph Taylor and Bargain Hunt director Caroline O'Neill on location

After some hectic shopping, the director Caroline was really happy with how the day went, and both production teams are very proud of the end result.

At the end of filming, Carolyn was really pleased with how it went too, saying: "It's been a privilege for us to be the first deaf contestants on this programme."

Clark added: "We've worked so well with everyone involved in the show. It's because we're no different to anyone else, the only difference is the language used."

But how did Clark and Carolyn do? Did they smash auction records or did they end up completely out of pocket?

You can see both the See Hear behind-the-scenes film on Wednesday 26 November at 10.30am on BBC Two and the Bargain Hunt episode at 12.15 on BBC One.

We've now said a tearful goodbye to the Bargain Hunt team and wish them luck in their new home in Cardiff.

But now See Hear is looking for new collaborations with other BBC programmes. Our researcher Erika Jones is already doing a spot of filming for CBBC's Wild as they feature a deaf surfing instructor. Perhaps a hot lap around the Top Gear test track or a bit of pruning on Gardeners' World could be next?

  • If you are looking to feature deaf contributors in your programmes in future, please contact the See Hear team on seehear@bbc.co.uk for advice and assistance
  • A clip from the Bargain Hunt special can be seen on the See Hear website

See Hear behind-the-scenes on Bargain Hunt, BBC Two Wednesday November 26, 10.30amBargain Hunt, BBC One, Wednesday November 26, 12.15

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