International Sign Language Day: Employee Feature - Andrew Baillie, Merlin Magic Making

To mark International Sign Language Day, we sat down with artist and Merlin Magic Making sculptor Andrew Baillie, a Moulder Supervisor and a Your Voice Counts Representative for the creative team at MMM. He is also deaf and uses British Sign Language as his first language.

Developing our accessibility offering is critical to Merlin and this is often supported through the brilliant insight of our own teams who also have accessibility requirements. We spoke to Andrew about his experiences as an artist, and to learn how he's carved such a successful career at Merlin Entertainments. Watch the full interview here or read more below.

Andrew has been working in the Merlin studios in London for nearly ten years and has seen his work used in Madame Tussauds attractions all over the world. Having global reach with his art, Andrew has recently stepped into a Supervisor role. We asked Andrew how this role and his team work together.

"As the only person with a disability in the team, there could be challenges to our work. My team is willing to learn ways for us all to communicate better, and we try to have a culture of face-to-face work. It's a great team, and I'd like to encourage them and others to meet and talk to more deaf people."

Andrew Baillie Merlin Magic Making

We asked Andrew about some of the positive experiences that he'd had in his role as a deaf artist, and how this may have changed in the last ten years.

"Merlin has worked on some great deaf awareness training that looks at the culture and identity of being a deaf person. I think that when learning Sign Language, or when communicating with a deaf person, confidence is key. I want to build confidence in people learning Sign Language and tell them it's OK to make mistakes. There's a great effort to learn."

We asked Andrew if and how this has developed since his promotion.

"As a manager, I now represent people. I like to communicate with them and have found modern facilities and tech for quick translations that have been great in supporting me. It can get tiring to type out conversations, questions, and answers, and it can get lonely, I can feel isolated without sign language. Language is fast, and I can lose conversations. So, I find that I focus a lot on my work."

Andrew is the official representative for Merlin Magic Making on the Merlin Your Voice Counts committee. So, we asked him how it feels to be represented.

"There's a huge benefit to being on the YVC. To be able to share my experiences and thoughts. Representation matters."

We asked how his daily work can be affected and what simple actions people can take to be more inclusive.

"Something really simple is meetings. I work with an interpreter who uses British Sign Language during meetings to communicate between myself and colleagues. I have to organise this sometimes weeks in advance, so, in a fast-paced work environment, sometimes last-minute meetings come up.

When I cannot get an interpreter for a meeting, I cannot attend. Which means I get information late and can miss deadlines and opportunities. I'd like people to look at attendees in meetings and make inclusive decisions about others who may be in the meeting".

We wanted to know what Andrew wanted to achieve next, and what his career goals were at Merlin.

"I want to be an Art / Creative Director I want to show that being deaf is not a barrier, and to finish a leadership course that I am currently on. I want to develop my role and develop awareness of my art".

Andrew shared his advice for someone with a disability who is looking to achieve their dream:

"You have to have a positive mindset. There are barriers, but don't give up! Be open to sharing and receiving advice and be recognisable. Put yourself out there and represent your disability, be open to other things. Take one step at a time, and complete training. You can achieve!".

Andrew recommended a taking basic sign language courses, as "even basic knowledge of Sign Language is of benefit to all".

To finish our enlightening conversation, Andrew shared with us a great quote by Christine Sun Kim, a deaf artist who currently lives in Berlin. A quote that he believes to be true.

"If Sign Language was considered equal, we'd already be friends."

Christine Sun Kim Artist

We want to share our thanks to Andrew, for sharing his story, journey, and thoughts with us.