Meet: Sarah Gatford, who is producing the WISE internet safety project in Derby

Posted on October 23, 2017

Interview by Emily Howlett.

Hello Sarah! Shall we dive right in? Tell us more about the WISE project.

The WISE (Working for Internet Safety for Everyone) Project has been running for a few years now.

It was originally commissioned by Derbyshire Police, who wanted to educate d/Deaf young people about staying safe online. PAD (Positive About Deafness) Productions worked alongside myself to create two visual theatre shows which highlight the dangers of online life, and how to stay safe, using non-verbal, visual storytelling.

The performances were showcased at RSD (Royal School for the Deaf, Derby), and a year later were previewed at Derby LIVE.

Audiences have responded extremely positively to our shows. Young people have said it’s made an impact and they have changed the way they use social media.

Professionals have asked us to share the shows as widely as possible. National awareness about our approach of using visual theatre to enable young people to access such vital information in a way they can understand is something I am striving to achieve with the support of the whole WISE 2017 team.

So, this is actually the third phase of the Project?

Yes. The performances were originally developed due to the concern that Deaf and autistic young people, who are particularly vulnerable, have very limited access to mainstream information about staying safe online and the risks they could be naively taking.

This isn’t something that will go away, and it’s important to keep educating and raising awareness across each age group. This time, The WISE Project will be touring to several Midlands venues, and include a ‘professionals day’, where those working in educational or child protection industries can view and book the performances.

Why do you feel that d/Deaf and autistic young people need this project?

I don’t believe this is actually just for those minorities. There’s so much information out there and it’s excellent but it’s not easy for young people and children to develop an understanding if it’s not presented in a way that is easy for them to access.

You mention that the Project is made of two different shows?

Yes. “Are We Still Playing?” is aimed at Primary age pupils and shows how easy it is to get drawn into believing that people are your friends when chatting via a game on a computer.

“Reality Bytes” is aimed at Secondary age students and is more hard hitting focusing on how what at first appears to be an innocent chat on line can develop into something quite different.

Where will The WISE Project be touring in 2017?

We received Arts Council Funding to take WISE 2017 on a small Midlands tour:

Oct 31st Bilborough College, Nottingham

Nov 1st Wolverhampton Arena

Nov 20/21/22 Derby Live, Guildhall Theatre

On Wednesday 22nd November, professionals working with young people and theatre makers are invited to see both shows and join us in discussions about getting the safer internet message across through visual theatre.

And can you tell us who will be starring in the performances this time?

The WISE 2017 cast are:

Donna Mullings is an extremely versatile Deaf actress whose most recent role was Mrs Walker in the highly acclaimed Tommy (a co-production between the New Wolsey Theatre and Ramps on the Moon). She has also been a regular presenter on CBeebies Magic Hands. She says, “The WISE project allows us to be positive role models for young deaf people, because we are using our visual body language and facial expression without having to use British Sign Language or Spoken Language. It is this integration that means the project works well with both Deaf/hard of hearing and hearing audiences.”

Rebecca-Anne Withey is a professional Deaf actress whose career began on the BBC1 show Grange Hill. Since then she has starred in numerous television, short film and theatre productions. She is thrilled to be part of WISE, which sends out a valuable message out to the youth of today regarding internet safety & is an innovative visual production.

Stephanie Back graduated in summer 2016 with a first-class degree in Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies. Since graduating she has performed two fully accessible summer Shakespeare tours of Romeo and Juliet and the Tempest with Taking Flight Theatre Company. She says, “I know that when I was taught about internet safety at school a lot of the words and terminology just flew over my head, and it was all taught in a very boring stand up in front of the class preachy way, I know that WISE will make it exciting and interesting and very importantly get this message across to anyone who watches! I’m really looking forward to be part of the project!” 

And we are looking forward to watching it!

Sarah Gatford is a registered BSL interpreter and Producer of The WISE Project. She tweets @WiseToTweet.

For more information email





The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.

The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:


Posted in: Site posts