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Fife sign language star Layla Cooke to appear in new BBC football legends documentary

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Sign language star Layla Cooke’s dreams of becoming an actor are coming true, as the Fife teen shares the news she’s been cast in an exciting new documentary.

Layla spent three days filming the documentary and is using the experience to further raise awareness of deafness and sign language.

The BBC Alba documentary, Sadie Smith, will focus on the legendary female football team, Rutherglen Ladies – one of the earliest known women’s association football teams in Scotland.

‘I feel really grateful’

Layla, from Windygates, takes on the role of Maggie Grozier – one of seven children. She and her younger sister Janet were part of the football team.

Speaking of her character, Layla, 16, says: “We are showing the world that women can play football too and don’t just need to work in factories.

Layla spent three days filming the documentary.

“Maggie had great football skills and that caused her great recognition. I feel really lucky to have been cast and it was such an amazing opportunity.

“I feel really grateful to have been involved. It is such a great documentary showing a really important topic. I am so lucky to have been chosen to be part of it.”

‘I want to spread awareness of deafness’

Layla hit headlines in 2019 after teaching Scottish singer, Lewis Capaldi, to sign Happy Birthday in British Sign Language (BSL).

The documentary is just the next step on her quest to raise awareness of sign language and the experiences of the deaf community.

Layla has taught Lewis Capaldi to sign Happy Birthday and has also performed with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Layla continues: “I’ve wanted to be an actor for a long time now. I want to pursue my dream of spreading awareness of deafness and sign language through performing.

“It was such a memorable experience on set. I worked with an amazing cast, crew and producer Margot McCuaig.

“They were amazing with my needs. If I didn’t hear anything I would just ask and they would happily repeat it.

Layla also creates videos raising awareness of BSL from a studio at her home in Windygates.

“They were really good at remembering to look at me so I was able to lipread them.

“I also look at actors such as Rose Ayling-Ellis, Leah MacRae, and Alexandra Mardell and take their tricks and tips.”

‘I love to help people’

While reaching for the stars and achieving her dreams, Layla is also pushing for better disability representation on screen and is using her platform to encourage others with hearing loss to pursue their own goals.

She enthuses: “In life, I love to help people. Knowing some people look at my story and find it inspiring amazes me.

Rose Ayling-Ellis is one of Layla’s inspirations.

“It gives me the boost to keep doing things that are out of my comfort zone so I can show others they can do it too.

“Other deaf people need to believe in yourself! This is such an important thing which I personally find really hard.

“My supporters online always think I’m amazing and that I’ll do anything.

“But people who know me personally will know I find it really hard. I just need to believe in myself.

“Try anything you want to do. If you feel like you failed just remember there is no failure – only mistakes, and mistakes are an opportunity to learn.”

Sadie Smith’s story is scheduled to be shown on BBC Alba in April 2022.

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