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A chat with sign language artist Wayne Barrow

Have you seen the latest deaf-related internet craze? It’s Wayne Barrow and Lizzie Jay, the musical sign video duo!

As I’m a fan myself, I was lucky enough to interview Wayne to find out more about his life, career and of course, his sign language music videos!

Ellie: Hi Wayne, I’d just like to say thank you for giving me this opportunity to get in touch with you! I’ve recently discovered your Sign Language music videos and I think they are brilliant! I’ve got a couple of questions I’d love to ask you… First, can you please tell me a bit about yourself, what do you do (music videos as well as radio?)

Wayne: I actually started my career off as a Hairdresser, then went into the Education sector, and somehow ended up working as a presenter. I work mainly in television doing different bits here and there, and I’ve also done a bit of radio!

Ellie: Oh fascinating, the presenter job sounds like so much fun! Do you have a hearing loss, (if no- what has inspired you to learn sign language?) 

Wayne: I actually don’t have any hearing loss whatsoever, however both of my parents are profoundly deaf, and they are the reason I learned sign language, and they are also the reason I have discovered such a beautiful language.

“…both of my parents are profoundly deaf, and they are the reason I learned sign language, and they are also the reason I have discovered such a beautiful language.”

Ellie: I see! That’s quite nice that you view sign language as beautiful, and we certainly don’t see many hearing people using it!  What motivated you to start these signing music videos?

Wayne: I actually started signing to Beyonce’s “Love on Top” off-camera a while ago, and I used to perform this to my friends all the time. It wasn’t until one day we actually recorded this and uploaded it to social media, and saw the views and comments were crazy. So I decided to do more, as people were saying it was opening up a new door for them being able to actually “hear” the music, which is so lovely.

Ellie: Ahh, what a song! But I’m so glad you decided to upload it! I suppose for Deaf people, they can relate to your videos and it opens up a whole new world for them in terms of accessing music, and I admire you for that! I see that you often have a co-presenter in your videos, could you tell us a bit more about her?

Wayne: Lizzy and I actually met a while back through work, we both worked for the same company selling jewelry on television, and we became really close friends through this. We actually decided to become co-presenters when we both realized we had applied for the same presenting job once, and thought we should just go into it as a duo. We really hit it off, and worked great together, which blossomed into a great friendship. Lizzy is also a presenter, and she’s also a trained actress and singer too – but she does prefer to do Presenting. She has been learning sign language through the videos we have been doing, and she’s picked up everything so well! I’m so proud of her!

Ellie: Wow, that’s amazing, hats off to you too Lizzie for learning sign language!  Do you choose the songs that you sign or do you rely on public requests?

Wayne: It’s a mixture of the two to be honest. Sometimes we get public requests come in, and we decide to go with that, other times we both just love a certain song and just think, “we have to sign that!”

Ellie: I see! It must be interesting knowing what the most popular requests are! How often do you upload new videos?

Wayne: Both of us have quite busy lives, we aim to do around one a week, however we have no set schedule to upload videos as it’s so difficult to fit around our work. We would love to have a set day a week we could work on this, but because we have to be adults (boring!) we have to earn a living and try and work it around that.

Ellie: Fair enough, that’s the same for me with blogging! Which of your sign language music videos has been the most popular so far?

Wayne: It has to be Rockabye, it is currently on 1.3 million views, which is crazy! I could not even tell you why it became so popular, but everyone seemed to love it!

Ellie: Oh brilliant! That’s my current favorite song at the moment, and when I found out you released a sign language music video of it, I couldn’t stop playing it on repeat! What do you hope people get out of your videos?

Wayne: There are so many messages that I want to get across in our videos. The main one is the petition, we want to get as many people behind us to show the government that sign language is truly important to the deaf community, and it needs to be taught in schools. It’s also a way to raise awareness for the deaf. I think it’s great how we have awareness for so many other disabilities, but there’s not a lot for the deaf. So I want this to be able to shine a light on such a wonderful community that I’ve been so lucky to grow up in. I also want people to see that if Lizzy, who is an adult, can learn sign language, then so can kids who are still at school.

“…we want to get as many people behind us to show the government that sign language is truly important to the deaf community, and it needs to be taught in schools.”

Ellie: That’s lovely! From what I can see, deaf people just love your videos which is great that you’ve got their support! Where do you see yourself in the next two years?

Wayne: That’s a really tough question! I’d love to have successfully gotten BSL into the national curriculum in two years, and I’d love to have so many more people understanding the deaf community. In terms of my personal career, I could give you a million-and-one answers for this one.

Ellie: Haha! Good to hear, I hope exciting things are lined up for you! Could you tell us some more about this petition you are sharing around?

Wayne: I am promoting this petition to get BSL into the national curriculum, we have hit the 10,000 mark, which gave us a response from government. However, this wasn’t the response I was looking for, so I have responded to the Department for Education showing them that we will not rest until this is taken seriously!

Ellie: It’s fantastic that you’ve received 10,000 signatures, but disappointing what the government have come back with. Fingers crossed a change will be on the horizon! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and keep up the incredible work!

You can watch Wayne and Lizzie’s sign language music videos on YouTube and Facebook.

Let us know what you think of their music videos! Post a comment below. 

Author Details
Ellie was born profoundly deaf, uses verbal communication, lipreads and wears Phonak Sky Q hearing aids. She is currently learning British Sign Language. Ellie hasn’t let her disability stand in the way and embraces every new challenge. Her deafness didn’t prevent her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as excelling in her education, previously working as a Marketing Executive and now as an Events Coordinator for a deaf organization, as well as blogging for Hearing Like Me. She is passionate about deaf awareness, campaigning for equality and helping others through her personal blog as Deafie Blogger.