It is Friday night, the week is winding down and the weekend revving up, as people up and down the country head out to the pub for a drink and some friendly conversation.

In one corner of Swindon, however, around a pub table, attracting a couple of curious but friendly glances, the conversation is buzzing - but silent. It is carried out using sign language.

I have been invited to Deaf Pub, which takes place at the Abbey Mead, on Elstree Way, once a month.

Deaf Pub was set up three years ago by Barbara Anscombe, to give deaf people a venue for regular socialising, as well as offering people learning British Sign Language a chance to converse and improve their signing skills.

Nikki Bowie, a hearing member of the group and a proficient signer, said: “People in the community who are deaf can feel isolated, so we wanted a place to gather together. For people who are working, it can be hard to socialise during the day, so we have Deaf Pub.”

About half a dozen people turn up for Friday’s gathering, and an animated dialogue begins.

“I have no deaf people in my family, but I wanted to learn sign language, as I thought I would like to be able to communicate with deaf people,” she explains.

“I found out about Deaf Pub and the first time I did feel intimidated, trying it out, but Barbara and the others were all so welcoming of a new learner, and so willing to help.”

Barbara runs a Facebook page with information about social activities in the town, including a group for people learning sign language which meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Wyvern Theatre, and coffee mornings at West Swindon Library. About 10 people usually attend Deaf Pub, though numbers vary over the course of the year. Members also organise other social outings, such as trips to see films with subtitles.

The profile of living with deafness locally has risen thanks to the success of short film The Silent Child – which stars Maisie Sly, a seven-year-old from Swindon, in the role of Libby. The film has received an Oscar nomination and was recently screened at Swindon Arts Centre for an audience that included some of Maisie’s classmates from Red Oak primary school, as well as members of the local deaf community.

Barbara said: “There has been a lot about Maisie Sly in the press recently, and that helps give more push and support for us.”

Barbara works as a teaching assistant at Drove Primary School, where she is the hearing-impaired lead.

“I work with deaf children in one school, which is why the film is so important. For children to benefit, they need that support – to make sure their journey through school is a nice experience. I can help them with their confidence. A lot of people see it as a disability, but deaf people can do the same things as a hearing person.”

The conversation at Deaf Pub ranges widely – about work, films, personal lives and so on – just like any Friday night conversation at the pub.

“It gives us opportunities to meet with other deaf people, and to enjoy the social aspect,” Barbara explains.

“Gloucester has its own deaf association, with a club and a meeting place but Swindon doesn’t have anything like that, so we have to arrange to meet up.

“It takes away that isolation for deaf people. We would like to see something set up here, but we would need funding.”

Nikki says she would encourage more people to learn sign language.

“I’m a big advocate for it, especially in school. It should be offered at GCSE level, and be part of the curriculum,” she said.

The bar staff and pub-goers at the Abbey Mead are used to seeing the Deaf Pub gathering.

“People look and they are interested. I think it’s giving them awareness that it’s another language, and maybe they will become interested in it themselves,” Nikki explains. “The bar staff are very happy we come here, and very interested.”

Deaf Pub member Patricia Grey signs: “We have been coming here so long, that when I went to the bar and ordered, the staff signed ‘thank you’ after I bought a drink. They want us to come here and feel included.”

The group is keen to encourage younger people to join the social activities too. For more information visit the Facebook page Swindon BSL Social Events.