CBeebies announces TV first with new poetry series for children performed in sign language

We are delighted to bring Magic Hands to CBeebies. The mix of sign language, music and lively animation creates spellbinding poetry that we are sure all our young viewers will enjoy."Kay Benbow, Controller of CBeebies
Date: 26.02.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.59
Category: CBeebies; Learning
CBeebies has commissioned a brand new and groundbreaking series for the channel featuring poetry translated into British Sign Language, it was announced today.

A co-commission with BBC Learning, Magic Hands (30x5) presents modern and classic poetry for children in a way that has never been seen before. Across the series, the Magic Hands presenting team – Ashley, Donna, Aimee and Simon – perform some of the best children’s poetry entirely in British Sign Language (BSL).

From Robert Louis Stephenson to Roger Stevens and Michaela Morgan, the programmes are fun, five-minute packages that mix sign language, the spoken word, music and vibrant animation to bring the poems to life and capture the imaginations of both deaf and hearing children.

The series is made for CBeebies by Remark Ltd, a company that is owned, staffed and run by people who are deaf.

Series producer, Judith Bunting, says: “Translating modern and traditional poems for children into BSL on such a scale is a first. There are deaf poets and deaf theatre companies but no national television company has ever tried translating children’s poetry into BSL.

“It was a mammoth task and our artistic interpreter has done an amazing job, taking the intricacies of verse from the 19th to 21st centuries and transforming them into a terrific series of performances.”

The Magic Hands presenters are all new to television and have been profoundly deaf since birth. On set they worked with professional interpreters along with the series’ artistic director, Jean St Clair, and both deaf and hearing production crew.

Director, Camilla Arnold, explains: “Working on a programme with both hearing and deaf production team members may sound like a huge challenge but in fact it is like any other studio recording - with myself giving instruction and presenters and crew giving their input – the only difference is that everything that happens is also translated from BSL for hearing members of the crew and there is lots of discussion to ensure the presenters hands don’t get in the way of the animation and vice versa.”

Each episode of Magic Hands is based around a single verse, interpreted for children. The selection comes from poets including Christina Rossetti, Kenn Nesbitt, Gareth Lancaster, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Katharine Pyle, Charles Kingsley, James Carter, Sarah Coleridge, Maya Angelou, Rabindranath Tagore and Grace Andreacchi as well as Shakespeare.

Controller of CBeebies, Kay Benbow, says: “We are delighted to bring Magic Hands to CBeebies. The mix of sign language, music and lively animation creates spellbinding poetry that we are sure all our young viewers will enjoy.”

Magic Hands will be broadcast in the Spring.

Notes to editors

CBeebies is dedicated to delighting and surprising its young audience and it remains the UK's most watched and most loved channel for the under-sixes. Just under half of the target audience tune in every week (parents and carers with children aged 0-3 and four-to-six-year-olds in digital homes). Our reach is over double that of our nearest competitor. Our most popular shows include In The Night Garden, Something Special, Octonauts, Justin’s House, Tree Fu Tom and Waybuloo. New shows in 2012/2013 include Get Well Soon and Old Jack’s Boat, together with new episodes of the popular series’ Mr Bloom’s Nursery and Rastamouse. The CBeebies website is also hugely popular with our young audience and their parents and helps extend the ‘learning through play’ philosophy. Last year it averaged over 824k unique users per week. CBeebies was Freesat’s Channel of the Year 2012 and was previously crowned BAFTA’s Children’s Channel of the Year in 2010 and 2011.

  • BBC Learning plays a central part in meeting the BBC's purpose of promoting education and learning. Utilising the power of the BBC’s big brands and key talent, the department puts learning right at the heart of the BBC and provides a variety of resources and learning opportunities for children, teachers, parents and adult learners. Working with partners and in local communities, BBC Learning aims to stimulate interests and encourage engagement through a variety of campaigns across all BBC genres and platforms.
  • Remark! Media is a division of Remark! Ltd, the largest deaf-run company in the UK. It specialies in all aspects of television/video production, British Sign Language (BSL) interpreting, training and translation – including subtitling, In-Vision and audio description. Managing Director Mark Nelson, profoundly deaf since birth, set up the company to support and enhance the lives of deaf, hard-of-hearing and blind individuals. To achieve this, company profits are re-invested in its charitable arm, Remark! Community, which offers support via a broad range of events and initiatives, as well as the sponsorship of individuals and clubs. For further information please visit www.remark.uk.com

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