Accessible Screening of Mission Santa Took Place on Friday 15th December
December 2023 Leading astronomical research centre, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, screened a special version of its popular Mission Santa Dome Show in British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language on December 15th. Held in collaboration with local charity, Action Deaf Youth, the event was attended by over 50 families from across NI.
Developed in association with The Department for Communities and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the screening is part of a wider initiative by Armagh Observatory and Planetarium to increase the accessibility of its facilities.
Created by BNL Productions, spectacular space pantomime, Mission Santa, is an immersive and theatrical show, which invites visitors to help Marzipan the Elf save Santa from inside mission control.
The show was first translated into British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language by Armagh Observatory and Planetarium in a screening held on November 25th 2023.
Julie Graham, Director of Service Delivery and Development at Action Deaf Youth, says, “It was a pleasure to welcome so many families to this truly special Christmas experience and we thank Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, The Department for Communities and The National Lottery Heritage Fund for making this happen.
“At Action Deaf Youth, we seek to enhance opportunities for deaf children and young deaf people to enjoy all that society has to offer and as such, it is fantastic to see this show made accessible to our very youngest children who could well become our future scientists or astronomers.”
Majella McAteer, Sign Language Policy Advisory Officer at The Department for Communities (DfC) has led the team’s work with Armagh Observatory and Planetarium over the past year to advise and support its enhanced accessibility for deaf sign language users.
She explains, “I visited Armagh Observatory and Planetarium two years ago as the DfC Sign Language Policy Advisory Officer and was pleasantly surprised to see that several members of staff already had signing ability and to discover that the organization was very keen to improve its accessibility.
“Since then, our relationship has developed, and I have been lucky enough to have been able to attend the Mission Santa event in 2022 and CapCom Go! earlier this year. The level of access provided, through the pre-recorded interpreted Dome show, and the live interpreter available for questions and for the exhibitions was amazing.
“The staff were very welcoming and it’s reassuring to know that sign language users are assured of an educational and entertaining day out which will suit the whole family.”
Tommy McAuley, Acting Head of Sign Language Policy and Legislation at The Department for Communities, adds, “The Department for Communities has oversight of both sign language policy and of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium itself and this partnership is an excellent and practical example of how we support organisations to make their resources, events and public attractions accessible to sign language users.
“I am delighted to support this magical event for deaf children in our community at Christmas time and I hope they will enjoy the experience to meet and communicate with Santa through sign language and the immersive visuals at the Planetarium.
“By combining the magic of Santa Claus with the wonders of the universe, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium has created an unforgettable event that fosters joy, connection and accessibility, as well as inspiring some future scientists and astronomers.”
Tommy continues,” The Department through its work with the deaf community and families of deaf children understands the importance of creating inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity and empower all members of our community.
“I have worked closely with Action Deaf Youth over the past ten years or so to develop and fund their programme of accredited BSL qualifications for the parents of deaf children and their support network and some of the deaf children are now gaining qualifications.
“This screening event exemplifies our commitment to providing accessible experiences and ensuring that deaf children can share in the joy and magic of Christmas, just like their hearing peers.”
Armagh Observatory and Planetarium has other inclusive initiatives in place, including its Changing Places facility, improved wheelchair accessibility and a Sensory Room on the ground level of the Armagh Planetarium.
Matthew McMahon, Museum Collections Officer at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, comments, “We are delighted to introduce the first British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language screening of Mission Santa and would like to thank Action Deaf Youth, The Department for Communities and The National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting this initiative.
“At Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, we want to ensure that no child is left out of the Christmas experience and as such, it is a pleasure to translate this popular show for a wider audience.”
To find out more about Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, visit: https://www.armagh.space
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