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Graduate startup creates online theatre resources for deaf children

Graduate startup creates online theatre resources for deaf children

Paddleboat Theatre Company, which is run by four Exeter drama graduates and performs interactive plays and workshops at local schools, has launched a series of online resources for both hearing and deaf children. This was made possible thanks to a Covid-19 Startup Support Grant funded by Santander Universities UK and Research England.

Paddleboat Theatre was founded in 2014 by a group of Exeter drama students with a passion for storytelling and making theatre accessible for all. The team have worked with the Exeter Deaf Academy for 5 years delivering drama sessions to deaf students, which has helped raise their awareness of the deaf community and build their skills to welcome any deaf child and their family to engage with their work. Paddleboat integrate British Sign Language (BSL) and Sign Supported English (SSE) into some of their shows, which they perform in mainstream and SEND schools across Devon.

Paddleboat’s interactive productions adopt a playful and collaborative approach to encourage children from different backgrounds to engage with challenging topics. One of their plays, According to Arthur, which is also available as a published storybook, tells the story of an old man in an attic who doesn’t speak, and encourages students to explore the topic of loneliness in an open and relaxed atmosphere.

With the closure of schools during the coronavirus pandemic, Paddleboat wanted to find another way to engage their local network of children and families. Lockdown can be a particularly isolating time for deaf children, so the team were keen to provide a resource that would inspire and motivate deaf children’s creativity.

The Covid-19 Startup Support grant has funded the creation of five online activities which children can complete at home with BSL, SSE and audio-only options, ensuring inclusivity and giving children the chance to learn sign language in lockdown. The ideas generated from the activities will be incorporated into Paddleboat’s next show that will be performed at Exeter Phoenix. Santander Universities UK also subsidised 35 free tickets for users who get involved with the activities on a regular basis.

To explore Paddleboat’s Lockdown activities and to find out more about their work, visit

For more information about the COVID-19 Startup Support Fund and details on how to apply, please contact Emily Davies (SETsquared Exeter Student Startup Manager).

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