This Sunday, Under Canvas audiences will be treated to Fàilte Gu BSL (Welcome to BSL), a show created by Evie Waddell, a talented Gaelic speaker, dancer and musician who also happens to be deaf in one ear.
My artistic journey began in Stirling, where I delved into traditional music at the Riverside Music Project under the guidance of the fantastic Jo Miller. Additionally, I attended trad classes at the Tolbooth and had wonderful opportunities with Fèis Fhoirt, including teaching and touring with Ceilidh Trails.
My path through Gaelic Medium Education led me to discover the beauty of Gaelic song. Though I faced challenges when I went deaf at the age of 11, I now see it as 'deaf gain' rather than 'hearing loss.' Over the past six years, I've been dedicated to learning British Sign Language (BSL).
In my performances, I love combining singing and signing. Being a deaf musician does come with barriers, but it also opens up new possibilities and perspectives that I cherish. I hope to raise awareness of the many talented hard of hearing and deaf musicians out there and look forward to connecting with and playing alongside more of them.
My current show Fàilte Gu BSL was largely inspired by my collaboration with Theatre Gu Leòr - a Gaelic theatre company - during the production of MAIM back in 2019/20. Working with them boosted my confidence in BSL and Gaelic and, for the first time, I felt proud of intertwining both languages in my work. Through this project, I became part of the deaf community, meeting other deaf artists and audience members, which was a profoundly emotional experience since I hadn't met many deaf people before then.
The show is deeply personal to me, and I made sure it is inclusive for both d/Deaf and hearing audiences, as well as for Gaelic-speaking or non-Gaelic-speaking audiences. Throughout the performance, I incorporate BSL signing to be inclusive of people with specific minority languages.
Fàilte Gu BSL explores the experiences of creative and political connection across isolation – as communities, as individuals, and as diverse cultural Scots. It's like a visual music gig that integrates cultural heritage, traditional percussive, and contemporary dance forms. The songs I include share a range of Gaelic stories, both old and new, and I've also woven in some of my personal pieces.
I invite everyone to join me in the show, encouraging you not to fear language barriers but to participate in any way you can or want – it's a joyful ceilidh!
This blog was written by Evie Waddell.