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
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
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

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes