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BSL kids’ show coming to CBeebies

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This spring will see a new children's programme air on the BBC channel CBeebies that puts British Sign Language centre stage.

Magic Hands has been commissioned by CBeebies, which shows programmes for young children, and BBC Learning. It focuses on poems which are performed in sign language on screen.

The show's four presenters and some of its crew are deaf and the company that made the series, Remark Ltd, is staffed, run and owned by deaf people.

"Translating modern and traditional poems for children into BSL on such a scale is a first," said Judith Bunting, the producer of the series.

"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 show takes the form of 30 instalments, each five minutes in length, with works by poets like Treasure Island and A Child's Garden of Verses scribe Robert Louis Stephenson, Shakespeare and Grace Andreacchi among those covered.

Every episode takes on one poem, which is interpreted to be accessible to a child audience. Animation, speech and music all also play a part in the show, alongside sign language, with the show aimed at both hearing and deaf viewers.

Camilla Arnold directed the exciting new show and has been talking about the experience of the experience.

"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," she said.

She added that what made work on Magic Hands different was the fact that things needed to be translated from British Sign Language into English for the benefit of hearing crew members. Much discussion had gone into making sure presenters' hands weren't obscuring animation while they were signing, she added.

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