THE UK’s latest official language is being celebrated in Woking town centre this Saturday.

BSL Fest, in Jubilee Square, will mark the principal communication method for deaf people being given legal status.

British Sign Language (BSL) was recognised as a language in its own right by an Act of Parliament passed in April this year – much to the delight of Claire Ingham, a deaf teacher from Horsell.

The celebration is Claire’s initiative, and she set up a committee to organise an event that includes BSL performers, a science show, children’s drama and a signing choir.

“It’s been an amazing year for deaf people,” said Claire, who works in Surrey schools helping with the education and support of deaf pupils. “For years and years, we have fought for a British Sign Language Act of Parliament and now it’s a reality. I’m legal now.”

She was active in campaigns that led to West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper presenting a bill to Parliament that became an act requiring BSL to be promoted and used in public services. BSL is now an official language of England, Wales and Scotland.

Claire decided that a public celebration of BSL would be a good way to raise awareness of the language and the fact that deaf people are valuable members of the community.

The organising group raised £2,400 towards the costs through a quiz night and a sponsored walk in the Surrey Hills. It gained the support of Woking Borough Council, which is providing Jubilee Square and Mercia Walk as the location for the festival.

One of the stars of the show is Fletch, one of the UK’s leading deaf sign song performers who supported Ed Sheeran at his Wembley Stadium gig in the summer.

A signing choir from New Haw Community School will be performing, showcasing a school where hearing children have been learning BSL so that they can include deaf pupils in social and learning activities.

The science show features Derek Rodger, a deaf schoolteacher who is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. His performance will feature a rocket launch in Jubilee Square.

Pupils from Guildford Grove Primary School, which has a specialist centre for deaf children, will perform a lively version of the Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime. The young actors have been working with a drama coach from the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre to develop their acting skills.

“The aim of the festival is to get everyone celebrating BSL,” said Claire. “We want it to be inclusive and to understand that signing is good, and signing is fun and approved in law. It’s OK to be deaf.”

BSL Fest will feature information about BSL, support for deaf people, arts and crafts and facepainting, and will be in Mercia Walk from 9am to 5pm on Saturday 15 October. Performances on the stage in Jubilee Square run from 1pm to 5pm.

For more information, see the BSL Celebration Supporters page on Facebook.