Deaf Entrepreneurs

Paula Garfield

What, Where? UK
Theater, Acting

(from the website)
In 2002 Paula Garfield founded Deafinitely Theatre alongside Steven Webb and Kate Furby having become frustrated with the barriers deaf actors and directors faced in mainstream media. 

Deafinitely Theatre are the first deaf launched and deaf led professional theatre company in the UK producing quality bilingual theatre in British Sign Language and spoken English.

Our Vision

A world where theatre is accessible for all and deaf people are a valued part of the national theatre landscape.

Our Mission 

To produce high-quality bilingual theatre for deaf and hearing audiences of all ages and backgrounds, combining the visual storytelling of British Sign Language with the immediacy of the spoken word.

About Paula Garfield (copied from Independent)

"As a professional actor during the 1990s I became increasingly frustrated with the barriers that deaf people faced across the arts. Most significantly it seemed that there was a real lack of theatre created by deaf artists and with deaf audiences in mind. 

I spent 15 years as an actor and was often the only deaf professional working within a “mainstream” theatre company. Despite having a deaf actor using sign language, the shows weren’t made accessible to deaf audiences – deaf friends who came to see me perform would always say how lovely it was to see me on stage but, not able to understand the hearing actors, they weren’t able to enjoy the production fully. I did notice during this time that there was some progress in improving accessibility with the introduction of captioning and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted performances. 

Over the years I became disillusioned with the world of acting, and theatre more generally, having experienced a lack of deaf awareness and bullying from others in the industry. One year-long tour took a particular toll on me. As the only deaf member of the company, I was ignored and poorly treated by my fellow actors and made to feel that, as a deaf person, I should be grateful I’d been offered the work in the first place.  

At this point, mentally and physically exhausted, I was resolved to leave acting and the industry. At 35 this was a daunting and stressful prospect – I didn’t have any qualifications and didn’t have the confidence to retrain in a new career. Jo Hemmant, working for Arts Council England, was responsible for encouraging deaf/disabled artists to apply for funding; having met previously, she asked about my upcoming projects, I told her that I was no longer acting and she suggested applying for support. With English as a second language, the application itself was challenging but a friend, Kate Furby, assisted and I was successful – from here Deafinitely Theatre was born."

 

  • Clark Denmark (Trainer at the UCLan workshop)

    " Therefore, without Deaf role models being here it would be difficult for many Deaf participants to imagine and believe in what they could achieve."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "I only will say: Go on! Use help from everybody, both from government and in your network. A lot of people are helpful with sharing informations and so on."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Your deafness does not define your business skills. You are thinking with your brain, not your ears."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes is okay and you learn most from this. Don't afraid to ask for help if something is wrong."

  • Participant Deaf Enterprise Workshop (IT)

    "The Deaf Enterprise workshop has been incredible: each one of us worked intensively on understanding the way to take to achieve our dreams; each one of us was able to express their doubts regarding talents and difficulties we might encounter.(..) Each one of us was able to contribute so as to find the key to unlock our personal journey and fulfil our dreams."

  • Ramon Woolfe (Trainer at the UCLan workshop)

    "The level of quality engagement was so great that we often would not have enough time in the day to discuss all the points the participants wanted to discuss and would often spill over into our tea break or lunchtime to continue the discussions.

    All of which shows how great the need is by Sign language users to have this direct dialogue in their own language."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Keep an open attitude; co-operate with other Deaf business people. Use 'we' instead of 'I'."

  • Ramon Woolfe (Trainer at the UCLan workshop)

    "There are plenty of opportunities for Deaf people to set up their own business not just in the traditional areas of teaching sign language and interpreting services but also in all areas of the economy from retail, to service industries such as restaurants, leisure such as a gym.

    I really would like to see more Deaf entrepreneurs showing that they can do it.

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Asking Feedback is important. Then I look back and ask different people about their experiences. What is going well? What can be done better? I often hear new things and I learn. That helps your company improve."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Go for it. Follow your dream. Keep persisting and ask lots of questions. Don’t give up. Seek advice from friends, family and look outside the box."

  • Ramon Woolfe (Trainer at the UCLan workshop)

    "By the end of the workshop they all displayed a renewed confidence to be able to go home and act upon their aim of setting up their business idea."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Keep fighting, don’t give up!"

  • Jakob Gade (DK)

    "The best way to create more jobs for deaf people? More businesses run by deaf entrepreneurs!"

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes is okay and you learn most from this. Don't afraid to ask for help if it's something wrong."

  • Clark Denmark (Trainer at UCLan workshop)

    "In the past Deaf people have had to travel many miles to find a course which is then predominantly hearing people and hearing led. This has made participation and involvement very problematic for Deaf people who have said comments such as: “I didn’t understand what the trainer was saying.” Also, “I found it difficult to mix with others in the group.”

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Try it, nothing to lose."

  • Clark Denmark (Trainer at the UCLan workshop)

    "The workshop was extremely worthwhile; especially when one considers there has been nothing of its type in the UK before."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "I will only say: Go on! Use help from everybody, both from government and in your network. A lot of people are helpful by sharing information and so on."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Talk to other business owners, ask them about their successes and their failures. Don't be scared to ask for help. You do not need to do it by yourself."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Most of all, be passionate! Know and love your subject well!"

  • Participant Deaf Enterprise Workshop (IT)

    "It has been amazing, I am really satisfied because I have learned so much during these days and I think I have looked into myself and found very interesting insight which will be useful for my life. I believe this is the same as all other participants feel."

  • Participant Deaf Enterprise workshop (IT)

    "It is now no longer matter of dreaming: we have discovered we have so many ideas it is a matter of putting them into practice! This workshop was an important opportunity, with many useful presentations and group discussions. I hope this same opportunity can be given to deaf individuals in other cities in Italy."

  • Deaf Enterprise Survey

    "Perseverance and guts! Develop resilience to deal with adversity as this will help you get stronger and believe in your business."

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