Joe Collins: Tribute to pioneering Deaf filmmaker Stephen Pink

Posted on August 30, 2013

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When I found out yesterday morning that Stephen Pink had passed away over the Bank Holiday weekend, I was shocked and saddened. This is a tragedy for anyone involved in Deaf media in the UK.

I remember the first time I met Stephen. It was in 1995 and I was standing on his doorstep waiting for him to open the door and I looked up and just kept on going! He was a giant of a man!

He welcomed me in to his home where he told me all about the feature film that he had made in the late 1960s. I was working as a Researcher for the Deaf TV programme ‘Sign On’ (made by Tyne Tees TV) at the time, and we wanted to make an item about Stephen and his media achievements.

From 1965-1967, he made a full-length film in BSL called ‘The Return of Dracula’ in which he starred as Dracula, directed, made the props, built the set and did just about any other job involved in the film.

It took him 2 years to complete and was shot on 8mm film. He waited for a foggy night to rush out and film the real fog to create the eerie atmosphere of Dracula! Amazing.

Nowadays, we’d just hire a wind machine or use computers to add it all in, but Stephen did it all himself – and without the luxury of technology that we have today. It was a fantastic achievement for himself and for the Deaf community.

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He then took the film on tour around the UK to many different Deaf Clubs where they’d set up a Cinefilm projector and sit down together to watch the FIRST EVER BSL feature length film. At Coventry Deaf Club, over 300 people came to watch. His heart and passion was with the Deaf community.

I know his achievements have inspired me, and I’m sure many others who work within Deaf media in the UK. Stephen Pink was a man ahead of his time in the media world, he was a trail-blazer and we all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He was an unsung hero.

His achievements were acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award given at the Remark! Film & TV Awards in 2009. I can remember the entire room full of spectators got to their feet to give a standing ovation to Stephen Pink and his fantastic achievements. To see that public recognition of his work was amazing and a night I shall never forget.

I know that the sad passing of his wife Edna, twelve years ago left Stephen alone and heartbroken, but his heart always stayed with his local Deaf community, even with his deteriorating health.

He was featured in the recent BSL Zone documentary ‘Who Cares?‘ – where he talked about not wanting to move away from his home and the Deaf community by going in to a care home. He would miss his friends and Deaf people too much. He would miss signing too much.

Stephen Pink was a Deaf man, with a proud Deaf heart and strong roots within the Deaf community. I am sad at his passing on 24th August 2013.

The UK Deaf community have lost a pioneer and someone who’s achievements should never be forgotten.

RIP Stephen Pink and thank you for everything.

By Joe Collins.

Joe Collins runs 121 BSL Coaching and recently wrote a book called Cut! about the years he spent working in Deaf television, and the history of Deaf programme-making. Find out out more here.

As well as being featured in Who Cares?, Stephen Pink was profiled in the first series of Wicked, on the BSL Zone. To see that programme, click here - his profile begins after 7 mins 30 secs. 

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