Caroline Parker: What it was like talking about Signed Songs for TEDxEastEnd

Posted on February 26, 2017

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TED talks are available through a free app. They are just random people giving random talks about whatever they are passionate about.

Most of the talks are captioned and last from 10 to 20 minutes. The subjects range from personal experiences to scientific discoveries.

Watch Caroline’s talk here:

So when I was approached by a branch of TED talks called TEDx Eastend being held in Hackney Empire Theatre I was totally over the moon!

I had to hand in my ideas of what I would talk about regarding Signed Song. So I wrote a couple of versions and they opted for a personal story of how I got into sign songs.

They asked for a 10 minute talk, advised me to learn it off by heart and practise the speech.

The two songs I chose to demonstrate my approach to translating and performing were ‘ First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ sung by Roberta Flack and ‘Wuthering Heights’ sung by Kate Bush, these songs are so different one with an emotional journey, the other comedic storytelling.

I wanted to show that sign language has a wide range of expression used in communicating e.g. Not just words off a page.

There was a clock downstage but I didn’t see it as wasn’t wearing my spectacles hence the 10 minute speech turning into a 13 minute long one!

As I was working on a show in Derby I had to have my rehearsal/tech on the actual day of the talk. Other people giving talks had been there over the last couple of days leading up to the event.

People came to talk from all over the world. The theme was Without Borders. There were amazing people giving fantastic talks.

One woman was on holiday on her boat when she came across people in the water fleeing war in their country, so she rescued them, her husband and she bought a boat specifically for rescuing refugees and they go out every weekend saving people.

A woman who was a former sex worker (now therapist) talked about women choosing to work the sex trade and wanting safety measures to be taken which will only happen if the profession is legalised.

A man went around the world taking picture of people who had been thrown out of their country due to wars or political conflict. Their eyes were so sad, the photos were haunting.

The TED talks were not usually signed interpreted but Hackney Empire Theatre arranged for me to have two interpreters for the day and did everything they could and more to make sure I had the best access to the event, so Vikki Gee Dare and Stephen Hudson joined me for the day.

We were given an enclosed viewing area, with extra lighting provided so I could see them signing the speeches! The whole theatre was taken over with stalls and demonstrations of technology.

We got to have a go with virtual reality head set, where I was convinced I was at places all over the world from a mountain top to a rock concert.

We saw a four dimensional printing machine that would take an impression of your head and make a chocolate lolly of your head!

Anyway, I got to give my talk with two songs and was so nervous, the theatre audience was packed and they were lovely give me warm applause at the end. It was all a bit of a blur.

It was an experience I will treasure – thanks to TEDx Eastenders and Hackney Empire Theatre for giving me the opportunity and amazing experience.

If you would like to see my talk, check out

Caroline Parker is a deaf actress, stand up comedienne, cabaret performer.  If you remember See Hear’s drama series Switch, you may have seen Caroline playing the role of Sue, Michael’s (played by Hal Draper) wife.  She has also won awards for her role as Mabel Morgan in Jean St Clair’s film ‘If I Don’t Lose, I’ll Lose’. At the Paralympic 2012 Opening Ceremony Caroline signed a song by Beverly Knight.

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