Night of comedy hopes to bring disability awareness into the spotlight

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Mansfield is to be one of the first towns to hold a night of comedy for both the disabled and able community.

With props, visual aids and live music, Disability Nottinghamshire is taking a stance against stigma with a twist.

The comedy night will see Mansfield’s British Sign Language (BSL) user and comedian, John Smith, and disability presenter, Mik Scarlet, relay jokes to both a hearing and non-hearing audience on 20th March.

Growing up in a society that did not tolerate sign language, John Smith is championing for legal rights to protect British Sign Language and to raise awareness in general about the prejudices the non-hearing world face.

He said: “This night is about making an impact on hearing people and other disabled people. It is really the first one of its kind and if it is a success, it could be something that grows and we do more of.

“As well as the comedy, it is about letting people know how we can help and support the disabled community

“I will have an interpreter to translate the jokes but most of it is visual and so speaks for itself.”

John has a selection of around 500 jokes to choose from for the comedy night but says he will be revealing some new material for the festival.

Simon Bernacki, development officer at Disability Nottinghamshire, said the event hopes to bring together the community to break the stigma around disability.

“We noticed in the mass media the growing popularity of comedians who may have a disability and are standing up and speaking about it. I suppose we are trying to pick up on that growing theme. It can be a double edged sword around the topic, some people will either love it or hate it. For us, it is something we have never done before. It is partly about trying to raise money for charity but it is also about helping people in the community and creating a place for all to come together and raise awareness about disability.”

John has told Chad of his harrowing experience growing up as a child and being forced to speak. Little is widely known in today’s society about the experiences of deaf people and the oppression they faced by hearing people who up until recent years misunderstood the language. John said: “When I was at school, being unable to speak was not tolerated.

“We were forced to wear headphones and dictate what it said from a strip of paper but I could not do it.

“We were punished for getting it wrong and if we were caught using sign language we were also punished and told we were naughty.

“It’s not reported in the mainstream media what struggles deaf people have undergone, more needs to be done to raise awareness and protect BSL.”

Tickets are limited from Mansfield Museum. Doors open at 6.30pm and a light bite is included.

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