Did you know as many as 600 live events every year, including theatre shows, stand-up comedy and museum talks are captioned so no one need miss out, even if you don’t hear as well as you used to?
Today, there are 11 million deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people in the UK – that’s one in six of the entire population. And whether you’re registered deaf, know someone who is or just don’t quite catch as much of a conversation as you used to, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the very best British theatre, comedy and entertainment on offer around the country.
Since 2000, Stagetext have been providing captioning and live subtitling to performances in theatres, museums and live event venues around the country. From top West End musicals to gallery talks, pantomimes to literary festivals, they bring up to 50 performances a month to life for huge audiences.
In fact, last year 25,000 people benefited from a captioned performance. This includes deaf and hard of hearing audience members, who, thanks to the captions, can still enjoy the show sat with their hearing friends and family, as well as people for whom English isn’t their first language and students studying the text of the play they’re watching.
So how does it work? “Our captioned performances are prepared before the show from the script,” says Bethan Way, Theatre Programme Manager for Stagetext. “Our captioners will also go see the show live a few times to make sure the captions are as accurate as possible. Then with live subtitling that’s a bit more to the wire as it’s written in the moment. Our speech-to-text reporters need a lot of concentration but they get a real buzz from delivering something completely live. Audience participation keeps them on their toes.”
“Some audience members may use the captions for the whole thing while others may just check a word here and there. Brilliantly, with live subtitling, the words only take a second or two to scroll, so with things like live comedy anyone who is hard of hearing will get the joke and laugh at the same time as everyone else.”
Carol Fender, 72, who is hard of hearing and has a cochlear implant says being able to enjoy captioned performances has made a huge difference to her life. “I was originally a bit sceptical about how captions might help me and I’d previously got rather distressed at not being able to follow shows properly. But since discovering captioned shows I’ve now been able to enjoy and understand so many more shows.
"Probably the performance that made the biggest impact on me was seeing Les Miserables as though I’d been to see the show a couple of times before, I’d never fully followed all the words and the songs until I saw a captioned version. It was a wonderful experience and has since become my favourite musical.
“I do not sign so a captioned performance really is the only way I can fully follow and enjoy the theatre. Captioning has meant I can once again enjoy theatre visits with my husband and we can most importantly laugh at all the right places. If anyone who is deaf, deafened or hard of hearing is unsure whether or not to check out a captioned performance I would say to them you have nothing to lose and so much to gain as it really does make you feel part of the 'hearing' world and can enrich your lives so much.”
So how can you find a captioned or live subtitled performance? Visit www.stagetext.org for a full list of performances near you and keep an eye out for the little CAP logo on theatre brochures or posters. And make sure you let the box office know when you book that you’re a caption user so they can seat you in the best possible place and may even offer an access discount on your ticket.