“I don’t call you an English user. I am a British signer, you are an English speaker, simple as that.”
What Steven asked Christopher Sacre, deaf artist and Art Facilitator for See and Create.
Christopher Sacre is a local artist and workshop facilitator with See and Create. Steven met with Christopher and his interpreter at his studio to discuss his use of social media, why more people should learn British Sign Language and what he did with 2000 condoms.
Where were you born?
Lewisham in London.
How did you end up in the Medway towns?
My parents moved here when I was a baby.
How did you find school?
Apparently, I have a small brain and I’m not very good at memorising things! So I’m vague on what happened back in the swampy mists of my school days!
My situation was different because I am deaf. They used to have a special Deaf Unit at Fairview School in Wigmore. School was fine, we just got on with it. For secondary school I went to Burwood Park School near Walton-on-Thames, in Surrey, a school for the deaf where I boarded. All the students were deaf and boys. This is where I discovered my true deaf identity and British Sign Language. It was a culture shock. When I was younger, up to the age of 11, I hated being deaf, because I didn’t know who I was, and why I couldn’t hear like other children. All those things were making me frustrated.
For the readers, can you explain who is with us today and why?
This is my BSL interpreter. We first met about 16 years ago. She basically supports with communication for those who can't sign. She is here to make sure the communication is smooth.
What is your preferred method of communication?
It depends. If I was having a conversation with you, which is direct conversation, I am happy to speak English as my second language, because obviously you can’t sign. I am happy to lip-read you, but sometimes I am not sure. I can look at my interpreter, and she can translate it into British Sign Language. Today we have met for the first time. If we had met before, I could have time to work out what you are saying through lip reading, but you are very new and you have lots of beard! If a person can sign, then I am happy to use my first language, which is British Sign Language. I became deaf when I was two years old. I was born into a hearing family, and I didn’t learn sign language until I was 11 years old. It also depends on if you can understand my ‘deaf voice’ because sometimes I can’t hear my voice. I’ll wear hearing aids, so I can hear my voice because I am either speaking too quietly or shouting. Basically, I am profoundly deaf, which means about 90% deaf.
What caused that when you were two?
I think it was because I had the mumps, which was quite common at the time in the 1970s.
Did you go to university?
I went to the Wolverhampton School of Art and Design and eventually graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art Sculpture. Previously I had studied for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Model Making at Rycotewood College in Thame, Oxfordshire. I enjoyed Wolverhampton University as there were quite a lot of deaf students studying there at the time.
Of the different arts, why did you focus on model making?
Basically, I am good with my hands. My favourite programme when I was growing up was Open University because they would have diagrams. It was visual. I can remember Tony Hart and Blue Peter, and I liked drawing. I always wanted to be a graphic designer, but it was too competitive. I studied wider art and design, photography, print and sculpture and so on. I liked sculpture. It was tactile and visual. I wanted to be more free-form, so I re-applied to Wolverhampton School of Art and Design, and it went from there. I just like making stuff.
What was your first full-time job?
Well, I don’t have a ‘full-time’ job. I’ve been self-employed for over 23 years. My first summer job was fruit picking out at Hoo Farm. I needed the money. My first ‘job’ where I worked freelance was at the Tate Modern in the year that it opened (2000) as an art facilitator. I enjoyed it. I like being with people and having the interaction.
What brought you back to Medway?
After Wolverhampton, I moved back to my parent’s house, which lasted about two weeks. Then I moved to London and lived there for about five years. When I lived in London, I said I would live there for five years. I don’t know why. I did struggle, the rent was not cheap, it’s a big place, and it didn’t help my creative process. Towards the end, I had no fixed address. I decided to move back. My parents still lived in Medway. However, I didn’t know anyone in Medway. I just started from there and met a great art community where I felt a sense of belonging. You need to have rich friends in London to buy your work. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any rich friends! In Medway it doesn’t matter who you are, we support each other. We return favours. It’s about pushing and encouragement. Developing your art and creative process.
What is your official occupation?
Artist and Art Facilitator, which means I encourage people to make art, but I don’t teach them. I am not an educator. I have been a director for See and Create CIC since July 2022.
What additional roles, paid or unpaid, do you do?
I do some mentoring work with deaf artists to give them confidence to work in the art sector.
What does your average day entail?
People often think I am very quiet. What they don’t realise is that two thirds of my time I’m chained to the computer to do admin stuff, accounts and emails etc. Sometimes the jobs don’t come to me. You have to go out there and meet people. So often it is a long time until I get to do the fun bits, to deliver the workshops, or drop-in activities, or even make sculptures. Unfortunately, I am unable to pay staff to do the boring jobs. A lot of time is not spent on delivery, and it should be the other way around. I have a lot more to offer, especially to people in Medway.
Do you currently have a preferred artistic form?
Sometimes I feel I don’t have enough time to focus because I keep giving, giving, giving. So, my last creative work was in 2018, five years ago. I quite enjoy digital art on the iPad. I like the animation side of things. As you see with sign language, it’s movement. It’s about how we can create a new form of art. People record language, spoken language and English, but not enough BSL art. I am hoping to see more BSL art in the coming years.
The big question: What did you do with 2000 condoms?
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