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Signs from the past

Members of Docklands' deaf community share their personal stories of a vanished world of ships, wharves, cranes and warehouses. The stories are all told through the expressive medium of sign language, giving access to the unique experiences that come from being a deaf person in a hearing world.

We took individuals to the regenerated docks and captured their memories as video clips... 

Familiar memories of work...

and play...

Peter reminises in a workshop for the deaf community.
View full size imagePeter reminises in a workshop for the deaf community. © NMM
Children of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.
View full size imageChildren of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. © NMM

'Men used to finish work and head straight for the pub. They spent their hard-earned wages on beer. To feed their children, the woman had to rely on scrap food. On leftovers.'

'We were allowed to play on the streets…bike riding and all sorts of games. One favourite was to climb over the swing bridge…but of course we never let our mothers know!'

And unique memories of being deaf...

Members of the deaf community.
View full size imageMembers of the deaf community. © NMM

'My grandfather and my uncle both worked on the docks…and my great grandfather…but I was deaf and they wouldn't allow me to work there. When I had to fill in a union card, I had to state if I was hearing or deaf. So I failed that assessment. Because I was deaf.'

watch the signs from the past video clips

This event was held in partnership with Shape and Remark!

Find out more
StoriesThe 20th-century port
The changing fortunes of Docklands and the port
GalleriesVideoThe 20th-century port video gallery
From 1914 to the present day
Related Resources
Related Images4 Images
Related Video1 Video
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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