Marnie Davis Wood is the mother of Ivy, a Deaf 5-year old girl who uses British Sign Language. Here, Marnie recounts her daughter’s experience at the Children’s Festival Family Day.
"My family and I live in Birmingham, but my husband used to live in Edinburgh and we love visiting. We found out about the Children’s Festival in 2018, and I noticed that there were lots of accessible or BSL interpreted performances. We were unable to make the trip then, so we planned a holiday for the following year to coincide with the 2019 Festival.
As well as seeing performances, I was also really keen to go to the Family Day at the National Museum of Scotland: it looked amazing. But I wasn’t sure how accessible it was going to be for Ivy. I contacted Imaginate on Twitter and asked what the accessibility would be like for D/deaf children. I got a reply straight away, offering to book an interpreter. I thought that was an amazing response, because often I send these tweets to organisations and no-one ever gets back to me, or they get back to me 3 weeks later. For Imaginate, it sounded like it was a no-brainer. They booked her interpreter Helen for the whole day, at short notice. Helen was incredible: she met Ivy at her level and they started chatting immediately. Me and her dad could have gone to the café and left them to their own devices (we didn’t!). It was wonderful, because on that day, even the events that didn’t involve verbal storytelling still required a certain level of interpreting – there are instructions to follow, for example: someone is dressed as a unicorn and is shouting out what the next dance move is going to be! Without interpreting, Ivy misses those things. Our first event was the Unicorn Dance Party, and Ivy got straight into it, as did Helen.
As parents, we can interpret to a certain degree but it’s not the same. It’s not access like the kind other children get, and the opportunity to interact with the performers freely. If it’s always interpreted through mum or dad, it’s less empowering because we’re always trying to parent at the same time. Ivy needs to access and enjoy the arts independently as any other child would.
The crux of it was, that for that whole day, Ivy didn’t experience any barriers. We stayed from 10 in the morning till 4.30pm, when Ivy was basically collapsing. We wanted to suck every little bit that we could out of it. Usually, with something like that, we spend time going through the programme to determine what Ivy can and cannot access. Mostly the BSL interpreter is only there for certain performances, so we have to plan around that, and it’s not always feasible in terms of making a good day out. It’s not the ‘drop in, see what happens’ kind of experience at festivals that other children get. Having that full access was really liberating for us as a family because it meant we could just go and do what other families do on a day like that: follow our noses and see what takes our fancy. For Ivy, it’s that feeling of: this is for me as well. I’m as welcome here as anybody else."