Named for the Greek Goddess of Communication, Iris are unique in the folk world in that they incorporate Makaton signing in to all their performances.
Cat McGill (vocals & Makaton signing), Henry Webster (fiddle), Ollie King (melodeon), and Pete Ord (guitar) have performed together since 2014, and their work incorporating accessibility in to folk music has put them at the forefront of a new movement of inclusive folk. Between them they have amassed decades of experience working with children and young people with Special Needs and disabilities, and in Iris they combine this expertise with their love of folk and traditional music, and their passion to bring it to new audiences.
"Melodeon, violin and guitar entwine in a pageant of folk songs, both traditional and home-grown, with Cat’s accompanying vocals and gestures. There is something to suit all tastes and language levels, from narrative songs of the fox and goose-o to moving ballads of fallen soldiers. Each one is supported by simple interpretive Makaton gestures, with easy sign-along choruses, modelled beforehand by Cat. She takes care to explain the programme as it progresses at a suitable pace for the relaxed crowd, even warning us when we are likely to be moved to tears. No crying on the day I witnessed it, just spontaneous dancing in the aisles." -- audience member
Singer Cat McGill says "People with communication difficulties often inhabit a confusing world, which can move very fast around them and leave them feeling excluded, and frustrated. I'm not under any illusion that by signing the songs, suddenly every Makaton user will have a perfect understanding of what I'm singing, but by incorporating signs they may recognise I hope I'm actively demonstrating that this is not something that excludes them, but something that they can be included in and enjoy. We [Iris] believe that music and singing are for everyone, and we set out with the intention of helping more people to access the music that we all love."
Makaton is used with the kind permission of The Makaton Charity, all rights reserved. Iris are grateful to Folk Arts Oxford Ltd, the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, and The Folk Camps Society for the initial funding to allow us to develop our work.