Dudley’s Black Country Living Museum introduces new Deaf character

Its newest historical character ‘David Smith’ will share his Deaf experience and in the 1960s, developed through Screen South’s Accentuate Programme.

Dudley’s Black Country Living Museum has announced the introduction of a new character to the roster of its living museum cast.

‘David Smith’ will be introduced during May half term, a new historic character informed by and representing real people’s memories who will share the importance of the Deaf community and how Deaf clubs flourished during the 1960s, as well as the barriers in society that Deaf people have historically faced.

David has been developed as part of Curating for Change, a National Lottery Heritage Fund-backed project delivered by Screen South through the Accentuate Programme. Its aim is to create career pathways for Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent curators, who are currently under-represented in museums.

Visitors will find out more about David’s life and education in the Black Country in the 1960s, as well as his childhood memories of growing up Deaf in the 1960s Black Country.

David will be portrayed by Deaf actors and use a combination of British Sign Language (BSL) and ‘home signs’ to communicate with a hearing family member, who will be played by interpreters from Birmingham-based TheSignLife.

Robert Buckley, who will be one of the Deaf actors portraying David, said: “The Deaf community is full, rich and diverse, and it’s OK to strike up a conversation with us. It means a lot to illustrate this to the public, as normally it’s the Deaf person’s responsibility to make the first move, which can be hard work.”

Nina Thomas, a Deaf artist and curator, was one of the Museum’s Curating for Change Fellows who led this project.

Thomas developed David in collaboration with a co-production group. “Working with the co-production group and TheSignLife to develop this character, I felt part of a wonderful Deaf community with a deep, vibrant and complex history”, she explained.

“We want the audience to learn how Deafness is not something to be cured or fixed, but a diverse multi-layered experience and an important part of the Black Country’s cultural history.”