Pat Keysell: Innovative signer who made her name presenting 'Vision On'

At the height of public-service broadcasting in Britain, Pat Keysell introduced a generation of deaf and hard-of-hearing children to television in Vision On, the first programme successfully to bridge the gap between those groups and hearing viewers. The innovative presenter, who had studied mime at drama school, combined sign language and speech in a show that originally featured magicians, jugglers and mime artists.

Vision On was screened fortnightly when it began in 1964. In the same year, the new, "minority" channel BBC2 launched News Review, the world's first news programme for deaf people, presented by Robert Dougall, but Vision On was targeted at a mainstream children's audience on BBC1. Deaf children put on plays in the studio, stories were told in mime and there was a quiz for both hearing and deaf viewers.

However, Vision On was soon reduced to monthly broadcasts amid discussions about such a "worthy" show's place in the schedules. It was saved with a revamp in 1966 that saw the quickfire artist Tony Hart bring a new vitality to the programme, which also introduced quirky animation.

Children's own artwork was showcased in The Gallery, mounted on a wall, with the camera panning across it, accompanied by a soothing, hypnotic jazz tune. Keysell will long be remembered for telling viewers: "I'm sorry we can't return any of your pictures, but we give a small prize for those that we show."

Hart and Keysell had both appeared in a previous show, For Deaf Children, but Vision On was firmly aimed at both hearing and non-hearing children. It ended in 1976, after 182 episodes, and Hart went on to present his own programmes while Keysell continued to work with the deaf and other disadvantaged people.

Born in Tooting, south London, in 1926, the daughter of an accountant, Keysell was brought up in Petts Wood, Kent, and studied mime at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

After joining the BBC's administration department in 1958, she became personal assistant to the assistant head of children's programmes, Ursula Eason, who was hard of hearing herself and had launched For Deaf Children in 1952. A new producer saw Keysell hanging around the show's set, liked her smile and made her its presenter (1960-64). Her previous performing arts interests also led her to found The Mime Group company of deaf actors, with which she performed in the programme.

After turning freelance to present Vision On – which won the Prix Jeunesse in 1972 and a Bafta Award as Best Specialised Series two years later – Keysell also taught mime for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. In 1968, she travelled to the United States to study with the Royal National Theatre of the Deaf and, on her return, founded the British Theatre of the Deaf, which was a pioneer in performing for both deaf and hearing audiences.

Keysell ended her association with the theatre group in 1977, a year after Vision On was axed, but continued to pursue her interests in mime and the stage. For ITV she adapted and produced Under the Same Sun (1978-80), two series of folk tales from around the world based on a British Theatre of the Deaf show, and she was the author of Motives for Mime (1975), Mime Themes and Motifs (1980) and Mime Over Matter (1990).

She also worked at the Brewery Arts Centre, in Kendal, and toured her Compass Storytelling show. On moving to Eastbourne in 1996, she established Compass Community Arts, which promotes the arts for disadvantaged people, and its Round Robin Theatre Company, staging mainly non-verbal productions. In 2006, Keysell retired to Italy.

Anthony Hayward



Patricia Keysell, television presenter, writer and teacher: born London 7 June 1926; married (divorced; one son); died 31 October 2009.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star