Hearing Loss Cornwall are my new favourites. After my meeting with Mark Williams from WTW I met with Clare Greenwood from Hearing Loss Cornwall and ended up so thoroughly inspired and cheered.
I arrived at the Hearing Loss Cornwall offices feeling a little defeated after my previous meeting. I hadn’t felt particularly heard and at no point did we have a proper discussion about why subtitled screenings are so poorly attended. I don’t really have the answers, but Clare and I did have a great chat about it. There are probably some really clever people that have done studies into this* and I am certainly not one of them, but here are my basic thoughts:
- Its not part of the culture: When I was growing up, we didn’t really have anything to play music on until I was 10. I was born at the end of the eighties, so we had a cassette player but I can’t remember owning any music, just story tapes. We hid the tape player under my sister’s bed and played it after lights out. I’m not sure if my parents know that. Anyway, I digress. The Christmas of 1998, we got a hifi and it was glorious. I got my first album (Spice, by The Spice Girls) and we generally played music too loudly and lied to our parents about the volume. But it was all a bit late. It was never the kind of home that always had the radio on and so now, even in my late twenties, I forget that background music is a thing. I stayed at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and he was playing a record while he was making breakfast and playing along on his guitar while he waited for the coffee. It would never occur to me to put some music on. It’s not part of my culture. Subtitled cinema wasn’t really a thing until the millennium and even now it is so difficult to access that I genuinely think that lots of people with a hearing loss or deafness, especially older people, just don’t think of it as a leisure activity.
- Hearing people think subtitled screenings are not for them: here’s the thing, you get used to subtitles really quickly. In countries where English is not the first language lots of films are subtitled rather than being dubbed. Subtitled films are the norm.**As a hearing person, I can totally sympathise with the idea that something with a special provision isn’t for me. However, as Mark from WTW was so concerned about reminding me, subtitled showings need to be sustainable for cinemas to run them. This is particularly true of smaller chains/independent cinemas. So, be a pal to the community of people that find subtitled screenings helpful and attend a subtitled screening. Also, just to clear up another myth, they still play the sound during subtitled screenings, so you won’t only have to “read the film”.
- Subtitled cinema screenings are at hopeless times: This one is a bit of a vicious cycle; cinemas want subtitled screenings to be sustainable so they are often at off peak times. Off peak times are off peak because they are poorly attended. (Can you see where I am going with this?) In all seriousness, when was the last time you went to the cinema at 5.15pm? Or at 11am on a Saturday to watch a film rated 15? We don’t only need subtitled screening to happen more regularly, they need to be in better time slots because when I go to the cinema with my Mum I want to be able to do it without taking the afternoon off work.
*If you are those people, please get in touch. I’m interested.
** this is a different type of subtitling, but there’s still words on the screen and noone is dying.