Causing a Scene: An Interview with Mum

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.

Causing a Scene: CaptiView

There was a time in my life when my everyday internet searches were about whether it would be sunny on my next day off, or whether I can buy a private island somewhere warm. These days I just look at different captioning devices.

My favourite so far is the CaptiView from Dolby. It fits in the cup holder of the seat and has an extendable arm with a little screen that has the subtitles on it. You position the little sceen so that you can see both the subtitles and the action on the big screen. No need to caption the film on the big screen, because people can have their own devices. This means that you don’t need separate screenings that apparently noone attends but which represent a significant cost; people with hearing loss aren’t consigned to a cold, mostly empty cinema but get to be part of the action.*

I’d read an article on the Limping Chicken blog about the fancy pants glasses that add subtitles, but it seemed like there were some pretty big drawbacks. I sometimes wear glasses so the idea of wearing glasses on glasses feels a bit odd. Also, I feel as though noone will steal a captioning device that only fits in a cup holder so I imagine that it would appeal to cinemas more than adapted Google glasses/Sony glasses/other fancy glasses.**

But, whenever I make statements about what I would like, I remember that I can hear. So, if you have a hearing loss, please get in touch and let me know what you think!

*I promise I’m not on comission for Dolby.

** Pure speculation.

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Causing a Scene: Political

” You’re quite political, aren’t you?”

Someone said this to me the other day and it made me laugh. I’ve always been a bit outspoken, always tried to err on the side of love and compassion, always gotten myself embroiled in things that ended up being bigger than I had expected them to be. When I initially met to talk with Merlin Cinema allllll those months ago, I genuinely just wanted them to make sure that the subtitles were played when they said they were going to play them. That and maybe some more free tickets (I did get two more free tickets, my pal and I watched Nerve. It’s fine.)

But there was something about the tone. I can’t put my finger on it, the people I met with were perfectly nice and understanding. But I came away with a sense that the status quo isn’t something worth maintaining and if it isn’t worth maintaining you may as well do something to change it.

I didn’t expect this though; a website, a facebook page, letters of support and survey data to try and decipher. Classically, this has snowballed. And I’m taking this all the way to government. I just can’t see how the Equality Act is being recognised in this situation, how 1/6 of the population are being represented and so I think there needs to be some more focused and prescriptive legislation to protect the rights of those with hearing loss.

So we have a petition, we have emails to MPs. We have these things because being political isn’t actually a choice. We make statements through our action or indeed, our inaction. The smallest of things have some of the biggest impacts, so please take three minutes to sign the petition. 10,000 signatures and the government will have to respond to this petition. Even if they don’t change the law (I hope they will, but then I also hope they’ll stop making ridiculous noises when people are talking), 10,000 people making a statement is a pretty big thing.

And yes, I’m political. We all are. Some of us are just noisier about it than others.

Causing a Scene: Hearing Loss Cornwall

I had another great meeting with Clare Greenwood from Hearing Loss Cornwall this week. I always leave feeling fired up, inspired but disheartened all at the same time. There’s work to be done, and I’m really proud to be partnering with Hearing Loss Cornwall on this campaign.

They work locally to me in Cornwall and I’ve written about meeting them before, but every time I see them they’re working on something different, a new challenge that had never occurred to me. It’s so inspiring to meet with people who are breaking the wall down, even if they’re doing it by banging their head against it sometimes. Slowly but surely, I can see advocacy taking over my life. I don’t mind one bit.

They’ve sent me a letter of support, which you can read here. If you’d like to formally lend your support, drop us a message at

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Causing a Scene: Selfish (an open letter)

Dear person who used the free text box on the survey to comment that people with hearing loss are “being selfish to demand something that only helps a small group of people”,

I saw your comment way back when I closed the survey last year and I’ve known that I’ve needed to address it, but I haven’t known how. Then I remembered that I have a website. So, I’m writing you this letter, post night shift (so be gentle about typos).

The idea that we must only cater to the masses feels absurd to me. If we follow your logic then it’s selfish for wheelchair users to “demand” adjustments such as ramps, wider shop aisles, lifts. If we follow your logic, we can get rid of those special buses that hiss their way down to the pavement so wheelchair users can get on the bus without having to perform some kind of wheelchair acrobatics.

Except we would never do that, because it’s 2017 and because we are sensible people that recognise that people with any kind of disability or difference are entitled to the same life experiences that the rest of society takes for granted.

When we limit a minority’s access to something, we devalue that minority. In your comment, which I imagine you popped in that text box quickly and unthinkingly, you devalued people based on whether or not their needs would affect your experience. Your experience.

When did your needs become more important? Subtitling does not affect whether or not you can attend the cinema; you may not be used to having subtitles on a screen, you may not like it, but ultimately they don’t affect your level of access. The same can’t be said for a person with hearing loss.

Put simply, both you and a person with hearing loss can go to the cinema when the cinema has provided access to personal subtitling devices or subtitled screenings. Only you can go if they don’t. But as long as you’re enjoying yourself eh?

Ultimately though, I’m forced to admit that I am selfish. I want to go to the cinema with my mum, or my pal who lost her hearing through some medical treatment. I want to be able to do that easily, just like you can. Maybe we are all a bit selfish, but it’s how our selfishness plays out that we need to be mindful of. Does our selfishness limit or promote people? That’s how we can determine whether our selfishness is acceptable.

Yours is not. Not in a world that has come as far as it has. Not in a country where people with hearing loss account for 1/6 of the population. Not when people “being selfish” means words being on a screening instead of not.

Catherine x

Please please sign our petition! Click here to be taken to it.

Causing a Scene: Charlie

I was thinking that it would be nice to hear from some people that this actually affects. Because, try as hard as I do, I can’t do anything more than empathise. The reality for me is that, even in Cornwall, I can decide that I want to see a film and then just go and see it. Sure, I might have to wait until the next day and occasionally things sell out, but most of the time I can access the cinema really easily.

So, I asked Charlie about his experience of the cinema; he had this to say:

“I’ve attended films without subtitles and just felt so depressed about missing so much of the plot and dialogue, so I never go without subtitles now. I feel a lot of frustration when i can’t see films I want to see, because of bad timings and lack of availability.

A big thing that annoys me is I know theatres have done so much to welcome deaf audiences, and how theatre audiences have accepted captioning and sign language interpretation, but the same thing doesn’t happen with cinemas.”

Charlie Swinbourne runs the Limping Chicken blog which is well worth a read, I wrote a post for them here and the other day there was a great open letter to someone who had complained about subtitles in the cinema. You can read that one here.

Causing a Scene: Happy New Year

Oh, I forgot to say – Happy New Year friends!

We finally have wifi around here, which I’m sure you’ve noticed is making running a campaign much, much easier. I’ve also commandeered the box room of our house and made a tiny little study*. With a proper schedule for blog posts planned, and an excellent helper in the shape of new pal Abi**, I think 2017 is the year that this will really take off.

With every new year comes resolutions. I thought it might be fun if we could commit to some resolutions of our own. Here goes!

  1. Use a spare three minutes to sign and share this petition.
  2. When you’re buying cinema tickets, ask whether there are any subtitled showings of movies scheduled or devices available for closed captioned subtitling. Simply asking will keep the issue firmly in their mind. And always, always feel free to cinema staff to our website.
  3. Write or email your local cinema to ask for an increase in subtitled showings or an investment in some closed caption devices. There’s a good pdf from Action on Hearing Loss that I linked to in this post to help with that.

Also, look out for blog posts every Saturday. That’s my resolution to you, and running an effective campaign.

*sorry housemates

**I’ll introduce you later

Causing a Scene: Leicester Square

I found myself in London last week which, for someone who lives in a little seaside town in Cornwall, always feels like a welcome break but also a little bit of a shock. Sometimes I love the hustle and bustle; sometimes I want to sit in a quiet coffee shop and read my book. But a quiet coffee shop was hard to find and so instead, I went to the cinema for a break from all the busyness.

I’ve wanted to watch Passengers ever since I saw the trailer. I love Jennifer Lawrence, I don’t mind a space film* and Michael Sheen as a robot is too much for me to resist. So off I headed, to the epicentre of cinemas in London. Leicester Square.

Luckily, I was going to the cinema at 1.30 on a Wednesday** otherwise the ticket would’ve cost me over £20. Madness. I asked if there were any subtitled showings or closed caption personal devices, but I was met with blank looks. Excellent start. But it’s worth reminding ourselves that in 2017, in the capital city of the worlds fifth largest economy, I still wouldn’t be able to pop to the cinema with my Mum without consulting two websites and crossing my fingers.

Today, in Central London, there is one screening with subtitles. It’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and it’s showing at 4pm in the Odeon on Leicester Square. That’ll be good if you haven’t found time in your diary to catch a film that was released in mid-November. This week (Monday 9th January – Sunday 15th January) there were 12 subtitled screenings planned, 9 of them were showings that were before 5pm so bad luck if you work 9-5.

I spoke with customer services at Cineworld, the chain I watched Passengers with. They confirmed that there are no subtitled screenings at all this week in Leicester Square. I’ve sent them an email asking why that’s the case and what they intend to do to ensure that they are making a “reasonable adjustment” as per the Equality Act. I’ll obviously let you know the reply.

Passengers was good, but if you’re someone who needs the subtitles you’ve missed all three of the showings in Central London this week. They were all at nonsense times anyway.

*just don’t talk to me about Gravity. Why can’t Sandra Bullock’s character catch hold of anything?! Her life literally depends on it!

**I know, I know. I’m always banging on about how noone goes to the cinema on a midweek afternoon and so cinemas should be screening subtitled films in the evening, but I was on annual leave!

Causing a Scene: Stats

Some of you may remember that I ran a simple 6 question survey at the end of last year, well, here are the results! We had 496 respondents, which was WAY more than I expected since it was just me repeatedly sharing it on my personal Facebook page and annoying the flip out of everyone. Thanks for still being my pals!

I’ll just run through the questions below, a couple of them are just boring demographics-type questions, but there were some responses that really surprised me.

  1. How old are you?

Under 21 – 4.5%

22-35 – 53.5%

36-50 – 27.5%

51-65 – 12%

Over 65 – 2.5%

So far, so disinteresting. But the one thing of note is that the vast majority of responses were from people aged between 22 and 50, which also happens to be the largest cinema going audience. So, sciencey people would say, good data sample group. Thank you sciencey people.

2. Do you have any kind of hearing loss?


Yes, I’m hard of hearing – 11%

Yes, I’m profoundly deaf – 22.5%

Well, sciencey people wouldn’t like that would they? I’ll hold my hands up and admit that the results are skewed slightly towards people who have some hearing loss, in that they represent a greater proportion within the study than they do in the  general population. But this is a campaign looking to support them* so I’m glad to have heard from lots of people that this will directly affect.

3. How often do you go to the cinema?

Hardly ever – 14.5%

A few times a year – 56.5%

Once or twice a month – 22%

Once or twice a fortnight – 4.5%

More than once a week – 2%

Nothing to say here really, other than I’m quite jealous of those people going to the cinema more than once a week.**

4. Do you attend subtitled showings at the cinema?

No, I actively avoid a subtitled showing – 11%

Sometimes, I don’t seek them out but I don’t avoid them – 61.5%

Yes, I need to because I have hearing loss which means I require films to be subtitled – 27.5%

When I wrote the survey I was worried about this question because so many people had told me that the reason there are no subtitled films is because people actively avoid them. And, in 11% of cases people are actively avoiding them.

5. What proportion of cinema showings should be subtitled?

0-25% – 13.5%

26-50% – 32%

51-75% – 17%

76-100% – 37%

This was the biggest shocker to me. I thought that most people would go with the lower options, but definitely wasn’t expecting the largest piece of the pie to be 75-100%. One person suggested having subtitled films at the same, sensible time every day in every cinema, which is  a lovely idea, but I think would still ghettoise people with hearing loss into one area. Ideally, I’d have every screening subtitled, lets just all go together shall we?

6.Would increased subtitled showings affect the amount of times you would visit the cinema?

I wouldn’t go as often – 3%

I would go more regularly – 32.5%

It wouldn’t change my attendence – 64.5%

I think this question is really key. 97% of people would, at the very least, go to the cinema as often as they already do. That includes 77% of the respondents that actively avoid cinema screenings.

The cinemas have told me time and time again that subtitling reduces attendance. And perhaps it does in practice, but this data suggests otherwise. The conversations I have suggest otherwise. I’m almost certain that subtitling isn’t the way forward, but that it is investment in smarter, better technologies that is going to enable those with hearing loss to have greater access to the cinema. But, in the meantime, I think we can be having conversations around how people with a perceived disability access a world that is designed to exclude them and isolate them. By making subtitling a one off, rare event, we make it for people with hearing loss. On the other hand, if subtitled cinema screenings were totally mainstream, those with hearing loss wouldn’t be ghettoised into a particular screening, away from everyone else.

I’ve sat in empty cinemas at 11am on Saturday mornings with my Mum. That’s exactly what a cinema experience isn’t meant to be. Do you know how cold an empty cinema is? How distracting that is from the film? Do you know what a shame it is to not be able to see anyone else react to the film? To miss laughing, or crying, along with a crowd? It’s crap. And the cinema, for me at least, should be a magical place, where can escape into a fantasy land, rather than being harshly reminded, yet again, that the world you are in doesn’t serve you. And we have to change that.

*mostly so that i can go to the cinema with my Mum, but still, other deaf people have hearing kids/friends/partners/grandmas/like the cinema too.

** I appreciate that this adds up to 99.5%, we are rounding to the closest .5%. This’ll probably happen more than once in this post, but I’m always happy to show you my data if you want to look at it. Just drop me a line at

Disclaimer: I’m not a statistician. I’m a healthcare assistant. I’m more equipped to hold frightened old ladies hand’s than I am to muck about in excel. Any mistakes, and there will be some, will be mine. Be generous.