ZooCo – Interview with Ros and Will.

Who are ZooCo and where are you based?

Hello! I’m Ros and I’m the producer for Zoo Co – we’re a theatre company based in Croydon. We create mainstream theatre but every show is relaxed. This show which is called Sirens is accessible to d/Deaf and hearing people, is creatively captioned and has integrated BSL and a d/Deaf and hearing cast. 

When did you start performing together? What’s the best thing about being in ZooCo? What’s the worst thing about being in ZooCo? 

Zoo started in 2013 but four of us started acting when we were 11 because we’re school friends. The best thing about Zoo Co for me is that I love acting with my friends and that I love producing. Really it’s the best job in the world. The worst thing is there’s not enough money! 

How many D/deaf or HoH actors are there in ZooCo? Have you all learnt BSL? Do all your performances incorporate sign language?

Zoo Co work with loads of different hearing and deaf actors for example Sirens has one deaf actor. Our other show Messy has a deaf and hearing cast. The whole of Zoo Co’s team now signs after we all learnt together last year. All of our performances of Sirens have integrated BSL with captioning performed by d/Deaf and hearing cast.

What advice you would give to a Deaf person wanting to get into acting. 

(This question was answered by William Grint who plays Jake and won the Best Actor award at Clin d’Oeil Festival and was nominated for Best Actor at Deaffest)

My advice for any deaf people wanting to get into acting is to go for it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t because you can. Being deaf or disabled is not a barrier. Go to workshops and auditions, meet people, network. For example, look up Deaffest [The UK’s leading Deaf Film & Arts Festival] Deafinitely Theatre and Graeae (both London theatre companies) who run workshops where you can develop your skills.

What are ZooCo plans for the future? How can we find out more about ZooCo?

We have lots of plans for the future! Firstly, we want to tour Sirens again. We also want to keep creating accessible theatre all over the world. You can find more information at www.wearezooco.co.uk 

When are you performing in Bedford again?

Sirens is coming to Stantonbury theatre on 13th June and The Place theatre on 28th and 29th June.


Mayoral Hustings 18th April 2019

Mayoral Hustings explained

The Mayoral Hustings are coming up soon but what exactly does ‘Hustings’ mean?

Alison explains.

On May 2nd there will be an election when we can vote for a new Mayor, we have a Mayor now but there are 4 other people who would like the opportunity to become Mayor. The Hustings is how we find out information about them, it’s an opportunity to ask them questions. The 5 candidates will be in front of an audience, they will start by introducing themselves, explain why they would like to become Mayor and talk about what skills they have to offer. Afterwards the audience has a chance to ask them questions, there will be a chairperson present to keep control and direct the questions to the most relevant person. At the end of the hustings you should have a clear idea about each candidate, which should help you to decide who you would like to support. The audience can ask specific questions about things that affect them; such as accessibility to services if you are D/deaf or have a disability.
The Hustings will take place on Thursday 18th April 5.30pm till 7pm at the Bedford Blues Rugby club and there will be 2 BSL Interpreters present, people need to register to attend using the email link below.

Is there a difference between the Mayor and a Councillor?

Yes, the Mayor has full responsibility for Bedford including things like the budget and financial decisions for all services. Councillors are responsible for their own areas and there will be 1 or sometimes 2 councillors in each area. They have different responsibilities for example if you have an issue with a road that needs repairing or where roads are unsafe roads due to parked cars you can ask your councillor to discuss this on your behalf.

Councillors also have the responsibility to scrutinise council services and discuss any issues together to make sure these services are fit for purpose.

So, the Hustings, (question and answer session), is on the 18th April, the election when we can vote for a new Mayor and local Councillors is on the 2nd May.

Interview with Alex Mills – Deaf Magician


Full name: Alex Mills
Age: I’m 18 years old and I will be 19 on January 28th.
When did you become interested in magic?
I started magic when I was 8 years old, I was watching an old TV programme about magic and I thought it was amazing. My grandfather showed me one card trick and I was really confused by it. I wanted to learn one thing, so I got a book and read through. I tried some magic and I started to be able to do some tricks. With patience, I would be able to do more.
What’s your favourite magic trick?
My favourite magic trick is any and all magic tricks really. It depends on lots of things but any trick really.
What was it like performing at the Deaf Vintage Ball?
Recently, I went to the deaf ball, it was really good. I stood up and performed for the first time and it felt really good. I felt really confident and focussed, not panicking and just did my thing.
Who inspires you?
The famous person that got me into magic was Dynamo. He’s a famous magician, but now he’s really ill. I watched all of his TV series, films, I’m addicted! Also, it was really expensive, but I bought his magic box which I still have.
Would you like to perform as a magician full time?
I would like to be a full-time magician but I’m also happy working in construction, plastering, building and painting things. However, if you have an event or you want me to come and perform magic just ask, text me, call me, I’m happy book. Of course, I want to do it full time so I’m happy to do any date or time. You can also contact me on Facebook and text and it will all be confidential.
Can people book you for events?
I hope you’re really excited about magic. If you have a birthday party or any event and you want me to come along, just contact me and I’m happy to tell you all of the information including the price. I’m happy to talk to you.
What’s your aim?
My aim is to become the youngest deaf magician. There are a couple of deaf magicians already, but I want to be the third and youngest.


Bedford Half Marathon Weekend


This year Access Bedford were proud to become a Charity Partner at the Bedford Half Marathon weekend 2018

Members of Access Bedford and the Deaf community took part in both the running and the volunteering over the weekend. We had a dedicated water station where our volunteers handed out drinks to the 1000’s of runners who were taking part. We cheered the runners on as they crossed the finish line, celebrated in style, watched Carla and Charlotte BSL performance alongside the bands till the sun went down!

On Sunday we were joined by the ‘Big Deaf Picnic’ gang and enjoyed the family atmosphere in the sunshine, some members of Little Eagles took part in the ‘mini mile’ races and family fun run!

We would like to say a very big thank you to all the volunteers that helped out over the whole weekend and the amazing runners who raised money for Access Bedford.

Bedford Parkrun ‘Deaf Takeover’


On Saturday 1st September Access Bedford and members of the Deaf community came together to volunteer at Bedford Parkrun. Nathalie Koenig stepped up as the Run Director and she did not disappoint, Parkrun ran like clockwork with Nathalie making sure that each volunteer was carrying out their role perfectly. The first timers brief was delivered in BSL by Philippa Wynne, a parkrun tourist at Bedford, she then quickly joined Peter Cook at the finish line to become a Timekeeper. The Runners were briefed in full BSL with voiceover being provided by Alison Crook, it was fantastic to see all the runners thanking the High-Vis heroes with a ‘Deaf Clap’. After Parkrun was done and the tail walker crossed the line many of the runners joined us at The Pavilion in the Park for a cuppa and a chance to have a go at fingerspelling and learn some Cafe related signs. Parkrun was a brilliant start to our Half Marathon weekend, Access Bedford and all the volunteers had an amazing time, watch out for the next ‘Takeover’ at Bedford Parkrun!

AGM and Annual Review 2017/18


Thank you to everyone who came to our annual general meeting at The Bedford Golf Club on 27 June 2018.  At the meeting we showed a short video about our year which you can see here!


Catherine Wright, the chair of Access Bedford, thanked everyone for coming and for their time and support over the year.  Catherine picked out her favourite things from the year – the Casino Royale Ball, winning 2 awards, going on the BSL Art Tours and more!  You can read about what happened from April 2017 – March 2018 in our Annual Report 1718

Changes to Committee for 2018/19 were also announced, with Emma standing down as a trustee, and Michelle and Nathalie leaving as committee members. All were thanked for their time.

The new trustees for 18/19 are

Chair – Catherine Wright           Governance – Alison Crook           Secretary – Helene Bolton

They will be supported by committee members Peter Cook, Shelly Caswell and Ally Tree.

Our funding and partners

Emma talked through the finances for the charity (full details can be seen here) and thanked our partners this year who have helped us so much;

  • Healthwatch Bedford Borough
  • The Higgins Museum
  • Bedford Half Marathon Weekend team
  • Business / organisation support like Bedford Golf Club who always let us come and take part in the Quiz and support with rooms!

Our funders were also thanked, Bedford Borough Strategic Partnership, Waitrose who donated £223, 44 Harpur Street who donated toward venue hire and donations through event tickets, raffles, our new JustGiving page and more!

We are so pleased to see all the new groups and activity in Bedford and around for the Deaf Community. More social opportunities with Northampton Deaf Coffee, Luton BSL Pub, Milton Keynes pub, Deaf Walks, Big Deaf Summer Picnic, HearMeOut and Little Eagles. WOW. 4 years ago there was nothing – now look!

Our priorities for the next year;

Helene explained that this means that Access Bedford will change the focus for this year. We will look at how to stay focused on changing services and improving the lives of all of the Deaf Community in Bedford Borough.

This means we will;

  • Raise awareness of the Deaf Community
  • Find out the needs of the community
  • Create a strong network of Deaf Organisations so it is easy to understand who does what, where, why and when
  • Share information and work together for a strong Deaf Community

Thank you 

We wanted to say a massive thanks to everyone who has helped us this year, from the community volunteers helping at events, the volunteer committee/trustees, partners, funders, supporters and everyone!

Adobe Spark (10)

4 teams then took part in the Quiz Night, with the Kangaroos taking the prize for the team of the night!


Run Weekend Competition

My Post (8)

Find out more about the competition in BSL here


Watch the competition rules in BSL here 


What:  win a free ticket for you and a friend to join us at the Bedford Twilight 10k on Sept 1st as an Access Bedford runner!

How: Please like the Facebook post and put your name in the comments to enter by 6pm on May 11th 2018.

On Twitter please like the tweet and mention @AccessBedford in your reply to enter by 6pm on May 11th 2018.

We’d love you to share the post or retweet so more Deaf runners get the chance for free tickets! Please click watch above for the full rules and BSL versions .

A name will be chosen at random at 8pm on May 11th 2018 from the Facebook and Twitter competitions to win one ticket for you and one for a friend .

Why: We want more Deaf people to have the experience of a BSL accessible 10k and want to share this with you!

Who: this competition is open to Deaf or Hard of Hearing runners

Thank you to Bedford Half Marathon Weekend for working with Access Bedford to make the weekend accessible!

1. You must be Deaf or Hard of Hearing to enter.
2. ‎One entry per person.
3. ‎Entries can be on Facebook or Twitter and must include a like of the post or tweet and your name in the comments / twitter mention and done by 6pm on May 11th 2018.
4. ‎One name will be selected at random at 8pm on May 11th 2018.
5. ‎Prize includes 2 tickets only (no travel/accommodation or other expenses or prizes included).
6. ‎You must not create multiple Twitter accounts to enter. Anyone found to use multiple accounts to enter will be ineligible
7. ‎The promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
8. ‎You must be 18 or over to enter

Bedford Run Weekend – Full BSL Access!

Access Bedford is proud to be a charity partner for the Bedford Half Marathon Weekend with the Bedford Half Marathon, Bedford Twilight 10km and the Bedford Mini Miles.



Click here to register for this fantastic weekend taking place Sept 1st / 2nd 2018. There will be full BSL access with Deaf volunteers, interpreters and the Access Bedford committee. Join us to run, walk, socialise or volunteer!  You can also raise money for Access Bedford by being sponsored!

All BSL videos here

What is the Bedford Half Marathon event? https://youtu.be/m4ZsKVMWt2U

What is the Bedford Twilight 10k event? https://youtu.be/Dxi63gqJK6g
Where do i register? https://youtu.be/AskFji8LxgQ

Bedford Half

To read more about the charity partners, click here

BIG THANK YOU to Bedford Half for being so inclusive of the Deaf Community. Also thank you to Philippa Wynne for helping Access Bedford with the BSL videos, and Helene Bolton and Nathalie Koenig from the Access Bedford Committee for helping to get everything set up!


Casino Royale Deaf Ball 2017

We are still smiling from our fantastic Casino Royale Deaf Winter Ball at Woodland Manor Hotel & Restaurant on November 11th.  It was a great night where people got to try out black jack and roulette in the lovely setting of a hotel full of character.



You can see all of the photos thanks to Moo Photography here 


Big thank you to the Hotel staff for being amazing, to MJS Events for a great casino and a big BIG thank you to all the people who donated prizes for the roulette lotto!

The George Inn
Albero Lounge
GBK Bedford 
Pavilion At The Park
Vue Bedford
Wooding’s Crafts
T & J Scents
Ashton Emporium
Ciaran McCarthy Tennis coaching


Also huge thanks to our amazing volunteers Will and Jamie who got everything ready on the night kept it all running smoothly!



Thanks everyone!

Deaf group wins National Award!

To watch Access Bedford pick up their National Award go to 25 mins.

Access Bedford, a local charity supporting the deaf community has won the National Community Spirit Award run by Signature. Two Access Bedford members, both deaf, travelled to Leeds on Friday (19 November) to take part in the glitzy awards event hosted by BBC One’s Louise Minchin.

photo - www.northern-exposure.co.uk

Michelle Raperport-Smyth, a committee members with Access Bedford said:

 “Our award was one of the last and we were feeling emotional, nervous and never thought we would win. They read out all the finalists then our name popped up, Access Bedford, and I couldn’t believe it! As we walked up to collect the award people were saying congratulations and it was really overwhelming!”

Catherine Wright, chair for Access Bedford said:

“This award means so much to us as volunteers but also to the community we support. I’m so proud that we won! The awards ceremony was an amazing experience where I met lots of other people who now want our help to set up an Access Charity like ours in their area. It is fantastic to be recognised in this way for everything we have achieved in Bedford and for other people to see that you can change things by working together. Thank you to everyone who voted for us to win.”