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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible