Article by
George Alleyne

The Barbados Council for the Disabled is collaborating with the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, along with other donors and overseas organisations to get deaf persons on the island involved in music.

Appropriately titled Calypso, the project is expected to involve an estimated 685 deaf persons and will climax with a musical concert in June.

“The deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Barbados are often sidelined, neglected, forgotten. Calypso, which is one of our major art forms in Barbados, has also been excluded from the lives of most deaf persons,” said BCD president Kerryann Ifill this morning during a signing ceremony between her organisation and the main funder, Maria Holder Memorial Trust.

“Calypso will bring together deaf and hearing musicians, artists, filmmakers and writers from across the UK, US and Barbados to help raise awareness in Barbados of deaf people’s needs,” a joint press release stated.

“Through new songs, text and images, the message will be loud and clear: deaf people can do anything except hear perfectly… It is society that disables, not deafness.”

The project, which starts in March, will involve representatives of organisations specialising in working with the deaf – Audiovisibility, Decibels and Specialkids International.

“Audiovisibility dispels the myth that deafness and music do not go together,” stated the company, which speaks of itself as, “opening up skill sets appeal, pushing new boundaries and storytelling which is directly related to our deaf lives”.

Ifill said that along with persons from the US, “this project is going to be a collaborative effort that involves many moving parts… the Barbados Community College music programme, students of the Irvin Wilson School, the adult deaf community in Barbados”.

Peter Boos who has contributed through the Peter and Jan Boos Family Foundation expressed pleasure at the willingness of many small and large organisations and individuals to put forward funds for this project.

“When people saw [and asked], how could we not support this and let this opportunity go by? The reality is the Maria Holder Trust is providing the larger proportion of the funding, so the fact is that this money was available and people were willing to make a contribution.”

The Trust’s consultant/advisor Jane Armstrong said the project, that was two years in the making, exposed another problem of data on the deaf in Barbados. “I couldn’t even get how many deaf people there are here in Barbados,” she said.

Explaining that the number had to be estimated, she said that as the project unfolds, the opportunity will be taken to collect information on the deaf in Barbados. “We hope that will help in the future in putting together projects, informing services and health and education for the deaf community in Barbados.”

Ifill said that when she mentioned to someone that the deaf will be involved in calypso, the shocked response was, ‘deaf, calypso?’

“Somehow those two words didn’t seem to go together. We’re going to be changing that view come March,” the BCD President said. (GA)