Charlie Swinbourne: “Even on the earliest footage, you can see what they’re signing.” The BDA’s incredible archive films of the Deaf community through the years

Posted on September 30, 2014

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of spending several hours in a Church in central Leeds watching the BDA’s archive films of the Deaf community through the years.

Many of the films showed Deaf people looking posh and dressed up (far smarter than I’ve ever looked!) at official functions. There was also footage from days out and conferences.


The earliest footage dated back to the 1930s, with more recent footage from around 20 years ago showing a visit to the BDA conference from Princess Diana.

The beauty of a lot of this footage is that even in the earliest clips, you can see what people are signing to one another and can even sometimes follow conversations in the background!

In clips of hearing people, the fact there’s no sound means this wouldn’t be possible – and it makes this collection of films even more valuable.

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The BDA is organising screenings around the country and is hoping that people will help spot and point out who is in the clips. At the Leeds screening, one woman spotted her grandfather, another spotted her father, while some of the older members of the audience pointed out their friends.

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In one clip, four Deaf men teased each other in front of the cameras, and managed to make us all laugh. There are a host of other screenings in Yorkshire alone, organised by Samantha Allen.

If you’re in or near Yorkshire, make sure you go along, or go to to find out about other screenings elsewhere.

Here’s a list of the Yorkshire screenings below:

Venue: Calderdale Deaf Association, 4 St James Road, Halifax
Date: Thursday 2nd October 2014
Time: 1.00pm – 3.00 pm

Venue: Bradford Deaf Club, 25 Hallfield Road, Bradford, BD1 3RP
Date: Friday 3rd October 2014
Time: 7.30pm – 10.00 pm

Venue: Richmond Hill Social Club, Railway Street, Saxton Gardens, LS9.
Date: Tuesday 7th October 2014
Time: 11.30pm – 1.00 pm

Venue: Leeds Involving People, Ground Floor Unit 8, Gemini Park, Sheepscar Way, Leeds, LS7 3JB
Date: Wednesday 8th October 2014
Time: 11am

Venue: Hull Deaf Centre, 63 Spring Bank, Kingston-upon-Hull, HU3 1AG
Date: Tuesday 14th October 2014
Time: 3.30 – 8.00 pm

Venue: Over 55 Club at Bradford Deaf Club, 25 Hallfield Road, Bradford, BD1 3RP
Date: Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Time: 11.00am – 12.00 pm

Venue: Darlington
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014
Time: 6 – 8pm.

For further information or want to be kept up to date check the BDA website on:

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