Jayne Fletcher, aka Fletch@ is possibly the UK’s best known sign song performer.
The 30-year-old from Wolverhampton has performed on some big stages and met royalty. Andy Palmer caught up with her this week to find out more about her signed-song career.
So, you’re the UK’s No.1 signed songstress. How did you get into it?
I started signing to songs at age nine to the music playing by Celine Dion called Think Twice. I heard that the voice was really powerful but I really wanted to know what she was saying; so my mother showed me the lyrics in the booklet from the CD case and I followed her finger to the words as Celine was singing.
It’s was like a miracle to me. This was my first experience of understanding a song. I felt like it had started a flame in my heart for music that turned into a blazing fire and that has carried on burning throughout my life filling me with my passion for SignSong! I was able to turn my ‘disability’ into my ability.
What does it feel like when you perform? Can it get emotional?
Most of songs I perform are linked to previously experiences in my life, and so every time I perform the songs it brings back the emotions that I felt at that time, such as anger or sadness. It’s quite like therapy for me, it gives me the opportunity to express those feelings and thoughts to get it all out. I feel so much better afterwards.
Most of time I just switch off from everyday life when I perform. I forget the audiences are watching and I just get lost into the music, signing away!
What’s the biggest audience you’ve performed in front of?
The was at Wembley Arena with Ronan Keating from Boyzone in 1999. I was 16-years-old.
Ronan has been my idol ever since Boyzone started 20 years ago. I used to have dreams that I would perform with him on stage. It was something that I had always wanted, and luckily for me, it came true!
I was only sixteen years old in 1999 when it happened at a Boyzone concert with 12,500 people there. Ronan got in touch with my school to ask find someone to interpret a song. I was over the moon when I was selected.
I remember at the end of the performance he gave me a really BIG hug for a very long time and all the fans were screaming. That, I will never forget.
While I was holding Ronan, his body close to mine, I could feel his heart beating; I could feel his long white coat which was very soft; I could feel Ronan’s arms around me and he was HOT!
Not just a performer, but a SignSong teacher too now?
I teach SignSong at schools, universities, charity events, deaf awareness workshops, open days and team building days.
I introduce myself and perform a song to show what SignSong is. Normally this is the first time that most people have experienced music in this way and they are excited to learn more.
I teach everyone the whole chorus and then into groups, within 45 minutes they have learnt the whole song in sign!
I have been told that I’ve inspired many people to go on and learn sign language and that this has opened up a new world for them. I get lots of positive feedback and I enjoy performing and educating people.
Do you think the general public ‘get it’ when it comes to your work?
I think most hearing people’s misconception is this: Deaf people can’t enjoy or perform to music. When I contact venues about performing at their events, often they presume that I am an interpreter and brush me off. They do not see me as a performer in my own right. This has happened many, many, times especially for TV show auditions such as X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.
Are there any songs that you think are particularly beautiful to sign or make you particularly emotional ?
At the moment it’s Christina Aguilera’s Hurt. I have recently made a music video for dedicated to my Nanny Fletcher. It meant a lot to me.
Pink’s Perfect lyrics mean a lot to me too because I can connect the lyrics to a time in my life when I went through depression.
At that time people didn’t understand what I was going through, I felt that they were judging me and left me for no reason. So, when I came across this song really touched me and I felt a deep powerful connection with it.
On my journey coming out of depression, when I performed this song, it gave me a feeling of satisfaction to just want to stuff it to their faces and say, “look at me, I’m still around and I’m better now!”
At the same time though, I have moved on and forgiven them for leaving me when I felt I needed them the most, for not being there and for not understanding me.
I’ve seen pictures of you shaking Prince Charles’ hand. Is he a fan of yours?
Well, I won the Princes’ Trust Celebrate Success Award for the West Midlands in 2012 and was invited to attend the panel interview when they would pick the final four people from across the UK to go to London and meet Prince Charles. Luckily, I was chosen as a UK finalist.
When I found out that I was in the final and going to meet Princes Charles with the whole red carpet experience and surrounded by famous people, I collapsed and cried for hours! I was over the moon! I could not believe it. That was another dream come true.
It would be nice if he is a fan of me (giggles). After that, I was in the final 5 out of 55,000 people for a Pride of Britain Award in 2013.
It’s been a pleasure, Fletch@. Finally, what’s your message for young deaf people today?
Whatever your dreams and goals are, whatever it is that you want to do, do not give up. It could happen to you one day, just like it has to me!
You can find out more about Fletch@ on her website. Questions by Andy Palmer.
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