I just want to go to the cinema with my Mum. She’s the best cinema date; more often than not she’ll buy the popcorn and let you share it, she laughs loudly which makes me really happy and she loves films almost as much as I do. That’s why it’s so annoying that it’s so difficult.
It was so lovely to interview my Mum. I’m not sure I’m the most accomplished interviewer and we kept going off on some tangents (my Mum is planning a birthday party for my Dad at the moment, it’s stressful), but getting to sit down and chat with her was a proper treat.
Catherine: Mum, you have three daughters. What was it like going to the cinema when we were younger?
Mum: It was difficult. Subtitles were even less common then, so often I would take you girls to the cinema and fall asleep! Other times you would go to the cinema with other family members who could hear, but most often we just had to wait for the VHS to come out so we could watch the film together at home. To wait for the VHS with subtitles often meant waiting up to six months, which was annoying.
Catherine: I remember you falling asleep! During the Lion King, is that right?
Mum: Yes, it’s really boring watching a film when you don’t know what is happening! And it’s dark and comfortable so…
Catherine: Haha! What is it like going to the cinema now? Is it better?
Mum: Yes it is a bit better, but there are still lots of barriers. For example, in North Bristol, where I live, subtitled screenings tend to be on a Tuesday evening and a Sunday. But I’m quite busy; I work funny hours so sometimes I have home visits to do, or a school governors meeting, or a class to go to on a Tuesday evening.
The other thing that annoys me, particularly with the VUE cinemas nearby (there are two near to my parents house, both a similar drive away), is that they’ll both have a subtitled screening on the same night. That’s fine, but its the same film just at slightly different times. Sometimes I think that they are sharing the tape!
Catherine: Are they the only barriers?
Mum: No, not at all. There’s not very much choice when there is only a handful of screenings a week, so sometimes I’ll fancy going to the cinema but all the subtitled showings are films I don’t want to watch. Star Wars! I don’t care about Star Wars!
Also, you can’t take advantage of any special offers that are on at the cinema because the cinemas are very careful about screening films on nights when they aren’t running any promotions. I used to be an Orange customer, but because there was never a screening on a Wednesday night, I couldn’t use the buy one get one free. I know that’s because of the CEA card, but not every one has one, so it doesn’t seem very fair. I complained to the cinema but they didn’t care.
Catherine: The cinemas I have spoken to admit that they don’t screen subtitled films on promotional nights, you’re right.
Mum: It’s annoying. And don’t even get me started on the level of deaf awareness training for cinema staff members! It’s hopeless.
Catherine: What was your best cinema experience Mum?
Mum: I went to the cinema with my Mum to watch Happy Feet. It was just after Christmas, and it was the first time I had ever been to the cinema with her. It was really lovely. She was so happy to be able to watch a film with me and we went to the cinema a few times together after that before she passed away. I really enjoyed being able to go to the cinema with my Mum*.
Catherine: How about your worst experience?
Mum: Oh definitely the cinema in Falmouth with you. It was so embarrassing. For lots of reasons.
Firstly, it felt like we were in the 19th Century! They had advertised a subtitled screening and they just didn’t seem to care that they weren’t showing them! It feels so old fashioned to still be fighting to be able to watch a film, for goodness sake.
Secondly, the manager only spoke with you. He didn’t speak to me. I’m the deaf person, I’m the mother, I’m the grown up**. I’m the person it was affecting. I don’t want to say that I felt small, but I felt bored. It’s boring to have the same discussion again and again. I’ve already said this, but the lack of deaf awareness is so frustrating. You can talk to me! I’m not stupid!
Lastly, when he said “you’re welcome to stay and watch the film anyway” I felt like I did twenty years ago! It’s like he didn’t understand that I need the subtitles to be able to follow the film, even if it’s a well known story. I wanted to put him in a screening of a BSL film, with no sound, in a room full of people who could understand BSL.
Catherine: Does it feel isolating?
Mum: Yes. Sometimes it’s fun; you can go to a screening, there are four people in the screen and all of them are your friends. You start to get a bit silly, like you’re teenagers! Just chatting through the film or moving around the cinema. But its often really cold in there, like they don’t want to put the heating on for the deaf people!
I want people to realise that subtitled screenings aren’t only for deaf people. I’d like to feel like part of a community when I go to the cinema and enjoy it with other people, rather than being separate from the hearing people.
Catherine: Ok Mum, last question – what do you think of this campaign?
Mum: I’m very very proud. I think it’s important, not just for deaf people, but for everyone to be a bit more aware of the issues that people around them have. I’ve been talking about this with people and some people consider it a deaf issue, like they consider subtitled screenings deaf screenings. It’s not a deaf issue, it’s a person issue. It’s about equality and what is right. I’m proud of you.
Catherine: Thanks Mum.
Mum: Maybe I can put something on the tables at your Dad’s party. “SIGN THE PETITION”, what do you think?
Catherine: Sounds very celebratory.
*My mum and I, we’re similar.
**Some people would suggest that the fact that I am 28 would also make me a grown up, but when you’re with your Mum, she’s the adult and you’re the child.
Signed our petition? It’s here.