Drama and deaf studies are the ticket to success for new graduate

25 July 2019

Rebecca Cooney combines her love of theatre and her deaf studies degree to create script for hearing impaired children

Life is one big drama for Rebecca Cooney - and that’s just how she likes it. 

For the 24-year-old has managed to combine her love of theatre with her work with deaf people to earn herself a first-class degree from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Rebecca started working as a volunteer with the deaf as a 17-year-old in her native Belfast and used her love of drama to script hearing impaired children and adults in international shows.

She ended up making her home in Preston to do a degree in British Sign Language and deaf studies due to UCLan’s reputation as a centre of excellence.

In 2014 she was asked, at short notice, to direct at the World Congress on mental health and deafness in Belfast using an entirely deaf cast. She put it all together at short notice and began making a name for herself on the world stage.

Rebecca said: “During my first year at UCLan I scripted and directed another performance. I ended up having to fly back to Northern Ireland every weekend during the first semester. I would catch the flight straight from class on a Friday and be arriving back in Preston on Monday morning just in time for my first class. It also toured during the Christmas break.”

Throughout her third year she worked on another project in Ireland. Rebecca’s work is aimed at breaking down the stigma surrounding deafness and this has led to her working with and training deaf professional actors - and is already setting up her own Artistic Sign Language Consultancy.

While studying at UCLan she also flew with a team to Morocco where she scripted three productions for a deaf residential school. Besides the language difficulties, Rebecca had cultural problems to overcome and, she was the only hearing person in the school.

She said: “My real passion is around script and using dance and drama to work with deaf cast members. It is something I am passionate about and it is so great to be able to incorporate dance and movement into working with the deaf and breaking down barriers. Coming to Preston made sense to me.”

She added: “I am working for my trainee sign language interpreting badge so I can work as a freelance interpreter and develop my business further. Interpreting is another massive passion of mine and I am really looking forward to exploring that further.”