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Wednesday 28 December 2022

Dolly Rose Campbell interview: Gemma's wedding woes

Gemma is keen to get married, what has brought this on? Is it Fiz and Tyrone and Daisy and Daniel?

It is a little bit of watching everybody around her planning to get married and her feeling a bit of competition with the other people. She is thinking why is everyone else getting to have their happy ever after and I’m not. Also maybe a bit of weariness with her situation where every day is the same and she would just like something to look forward to, something for her that is not just about the kids. Something outside of just being a mum because her whole identity now is just ‘mother of the quads’.

What is life like day to day for Gemma and Chesney, how tough are things?

It is completely hectic. It is like a constant treadmill. She feels like a hamster on a wheel just running round and round. They are constantly organising everything for the kids, the meals, the washing, trying to keep the house tidy, making sure they get playtime. She wants to ensure they are getting all the right stimulus to help them learn and develop. They take it in turns to go to nursery, two of them go one day and two go another so they never have a day without having children around because it is too expensive they have to make the most of the free places. They are also both working, she is at The Rovers, Chesney at the kebab shop and Bernie at the cafe so the three of them have also got to juggle who is going to be at home to mind the kids. Paul also helps out too. Having one child is a full time job so having five in the house is a lot to deal with whilst also trying to hold down their jobs which they need for the money.

Is she a good mum, has she learned from some of Bernie’s mistakes?

Yes but I don’t think Bernie is a bad mum now, she is a real help to Gemma and they have a very caring relationship. She has made mistakes but she is not a bad person and she does her best. Gemma is the same, she takes every day one day at a time and she is just trying to do her best for her family.

How tight is money?

Very, like a lot of people they literally have to count every penny. The cost of living crisis is hitting a lot of people and when you have five children to feed and a house to heat and all that washing to do and get dry it is a challenge to make the money go far enough. 

How does she feel when Chesney says they can’t afford to get married?

She knows what he says is true but she is just weary with it all. It is exhausting, it is like she is swimming but she is treading water and not actually getting anywhere. The pressure of constantly being on that machine and working really hard but not feeling like she is getting anywhere and she has got to the point where she would like to be able to try and put some money aside, or do something to try and earn more so she can have something to look forward to and do something nice for herself rather than the money always going on the mundane necessities.

Their wedding discussion takes second place when she hears Joseph has got into trouble at school - what has happened?

Joseph is sent home from school because he has been signing to some friends at playtime. The teacher’s reason is that he could have been signing something rude or swear words and she wouldn't have known and that the children in general are not allowed to use other languages.

How does this make Gemma feel? She must be furious?

Yes she has gone to the trouble of making sure they are all learning to sign around Aled to make him feel inclusive and part of the family. Through her relationship with Freda she has really learnt the importance of BSL and how that is going to affect Aled’s identity as a deaf person. She has encouraged and been the driving force of the family to learn sign language, to keep practising to keep using it with all the children to support Aled and that includes Joseph. Gemma feels that the teacher is being unfair sending Joseph home and she feels that he wouldn’t have been sent home if he was speaking maybe Spanish or something. She feels like it is an audist action and very ignorant of the teacher to discriminate against Joseph in this way. She is worried about how it will be when Aled goes to school and will there be support there for him.

Crossing Gemma and Bernie on an issue like this is never going to end well, what happens?

Gemma and Bernie turn up at the school and their plan is to tackle the teacher about it and get her to apologise and make it so Joseph can use his sign language skills in future. They even offer to help set up an after school class that Gemma would volunteer at but the teacher just dismisses the idea saying she hasn’t got the time, she hasn’t got the money to be teaching sign language and she has got other priorities. At that point things get out of hand and Gemma and Bernie sort of accidentally end up staging a sit-in and barricade themselves in the classroom. Then they realise that Michael is in there as he was waiting to see the teacher about enrolling Glory - but he did have cake with him so it wasn’t all bad and he was a very welcome addition to the team. He ended up joining the protest and spending the whole night with them playing ScaleXtric.

Whilst there are some comedic elements this is actually a real world issue. You have learned to sign since starting the Aled storyline and there is a real lack of deaf awareness.

Yes I have just finished my Level 1 and am halfway through Level 2. Lots of people have said to me that they want to learn sign language when I have told them what I am doing but they don’t know how to get started with it. Sign language lessons can be really expensive so that may be one of the barriers preventing parents from accessing the tools to learn. You have to learn sign language from a deaf person because they are using the language every day, it is their language. The first step would be to include deaf awareness training in schools and improve the learning experience for deaf children. There is support available but parents are really having to fight for it.

Why did you feel it was important to learn to sign?

For me it was never really an option not to learn to sign, if we were going to be working with a deaf child actor whose language was going to be BSL then for none of his colleagues to be able to sign didn't make sense to me at all. For us to have made a little bit of effort in earning it that has brought about really nice moments on screen. Because I am going to lessons and learning it as Dolly I am able to feed that into what I am filming as Gemma and shown a little bit of how you learn. You will see Gemma signing a lot with people who are hearing, like in the pub with the staff and customers. That is because I sign with hearing people when I know the sign to make sure I remember it and learn it. I am constantly teaching myself and those actions are scripted but I have driven it through the scripts. I didn't want to throw a sign in every few months just to remind the audience that they have a deaf child, that is not how it works when you have a child with specific needs. 

Are you pleased with how it is playing out on screen?

Yes, having a child who is deaf does have an impact on the whole family and I want to show our family dealing with that in a positive way and to show the positive side and extra joy that can bring to the family rather than the difficulties that people tend to focus on. People’s first impressions of Gemma, Chesney and Bernie are probably that their capabilities are quite low in terms of learning new things and that is not the case at all, just because someone is in financial difficulty doesn't mean that they are any less capable than someone with money. Although in real life there would be some cost issues that they would have to overcome. But the reality of showing how they have learned, how they have improved and how they practise is all real and is based on my experience of learning it. We have had moments on screen with Joseph who plays Aled and he is actually signing back to us. Also young Will  who plays Joseph is also picking up the signing really quickly and using it in scenes.

Do you think this is a good platform to raise the issue of the importance of signing and normalising it for people?

I was hoping that people would start to enjoy those elements of the scenes and not be distracted by it and that is the feedback I am getting. It also adds something to Gemma. I wanted to illustrate the extra joy that you can get and what you can learn from knowing someone who is different rather than people thinking how hard it must be as a hearing person having a deaf child. Actually you can learn a lot from them and grow yourself because of this relationship and the joy that can bring to the rest of the family.

Glenda Young
Twitter: @Flaming_Nora
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