Article for the Guardian: Why soaps can’t compete with Facebook for continuing drama


Recently I’ve watched three compelling narratives, each involving some of my favourite characters, play themselves out. Amanda realised her boyfriend was cheating on her and threw him out. Emma and Steve were joyous at the safe arrival of their baby son after Emma was rushed to hospital with pre-eclampsia. Barry was gutted when he lost the chance of a job interview because he asked the company to pay his travel expenses.

It’s a blend of stories that sounds like it could come from a TV soap opera, but you won’t recognise them from last week’s TV schedules. These storylines and people are real – although the names have been changed – and I followed the ever-evolving twists and turns of their lives on my Facebook timeline.

Read the whole article here:

My article for the Guardian: Disabled people aren’t here to inspire you

Here’s my latest article, for the Guardian:

Advertising agencies don’t miss a trick. In the run-up to the 2014 Super Bowl, an advert from Duracell that featured a deaf NFL footballer called Derrick Coleman went viral. Coleman narrated it himself, saying: “They gave up on me, told me I should quit. But I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.”

That trend’s been followed up this year, with two adverts being aired during the Super Bowl featuring disabilities. One, featuring a six-year old boy called Braylon O’Neill, shows how, with the help of Microsoft technology, he can use prostheses to walk. The other shows Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy, who also uses prosthetics, gliding across the snow to promote a car company. Both adverts have prompted a debate on “inspiration porn”.

To read the full article, click here:

Check out The Limping Chicken – offering news, features and opinion on deaf news, issues and culture!

Hi all, I’ve set up a new website called The Limping Chicken, offering news, features and opinion on deaf news, issues and culture in the UK.

This means that a fair bit of my writing will migrate to the new site, so if you’re subscribed here, subscribe to The Limping Chicken to keep getting my regular posts!

You’ll get more too. The aim of the new site is to feature more deaf writers, with varied perspectives and opinions we can all agree or disagree with. So keep an eye on it!

To read the first few posts, just click here. To read about the aims of the site, go to this page.
Enjoy! And do get involved if you can, we welcome new contributors! If you have a story, a point of view or just an idea, email


Photos from Graeae’s rehearsals for ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’

Last week I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon watching the cast of Reasons To Be Cheerful reunite for a new tour. Their rehearsals made quite an impression on me, as you might be able to tell from reading my preview for Disability Arts Online. I had my camera with me, and here’s a slideshow of my photos.

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Deaf production company searches for actors – could YOU be a star?

Deaf production company VS1 are searching for deaf and hearing actors to play a number of roles in their new drama, Life’s Out There, which will be funded by the BSLBT and shown on the Community Channel in Autumn 2012.

There’s eight roles in all and you’d need to be available for various dates in April. Interested? Check out this information on their website: decide which role you’d like to go for, and email with a recent photograph and your CV. Good luck!

Why we all owe the ‘Chickengate’ notetaker an apology. Er… honest.

Ok, ok. So we’ve had our fun. In going viral, ‘Chickengate’ has expanded from a mere few seconds on BBC3’s Deaf Teens: Hearing World to inspire numerous gags on Twitter, hundreds of Facebook comments, and now, amazingly, a handful of tribute videos. A four year old girl even made the “my chicken is ill’ excuse on a Facebook video yesterday, and ‘Chickengate’ has duly been honoured with its own (admittedly rather clever) Downfall parody.

I still can’t stop laughing at the moment when Sara was told by her notetaker that she couldn’t stay for the whole two-hour lecture because her chicken was visiting the vet. Clearly I’m not alone.

But then, yesterday, something made me think again. Deaf actress Emily Howlett posted this tweet: “Can we all leave the poor note-taker alone now? We need these people to help us. Might be better not to shit all over them for doing so.”

At first, I argued back. I told Emily that she had a point, but that the reaction wasn’t cruel, it wasn’t aimed against the notetaker, but was simply one of those rare moments when the whole deaf world found itself laughing at the same thing. A funny excuse that became our version of Simon Cowell’s high trousers, Ricky Gervais dying (comedically) on stage during Live 8, or the bridesmaid who was grumpy during the Royal Wedding. The ‘chicken is ill’ joke was something that us deafies all understood, that we could all share. That bonded us together.

Then, through Twitter, Emily pointed out a few things. Like the fact the notetaker “was only booked for the hour, it’s not like she was booked and walked out before time up…” and that it wasn’t “worth the backlash the poor woman got for being honest.”

It got me thinking. There’s a person out there who’s probably wondering what she ever did to deserve this.

I don’t know much about Sara’s notetaker, but there are two things we can glean from the small amount of footage in the film. One: she cares about animals. Two: she works to support deaf students. Those are two things right there, that indicate, with high probability, that she may well be a pretty good egg.

When I think about it, if Sara’s notetaker is guilty of anything, then first, it’s of caring too much about her chicken. So much that when said chicken developed a limp, she didn’t decide it was a good time to plan a Sunday roast, she chose to try and help it get better. The vet fees alone must have cost more than simply murdering her chicken and replacing it with a new one. She must have really loved that chicken.

The other thing she was guilty of (as Emily pointed out) was being honest. Too honest. Think about it. She’s providing support for a student who is being filmed for a documentary. She walks up to her before her first lecture and there’s a camera filming their whole conversation. She suddenly finds out that the student’s lecture is two hours long. She can only stay for the first hour. Amazingly, she decides to tell the truth about why she has to go.

How many people, faced with the same circumstances, would make up a story here? A little white lie? How many people with a camera at their side and a disappointed student staring them in the eye would fib that they had an urgent doctor’s appointment of their own, or that their Grandmother was terminally ill, or that there was some kind of urgent flight out of the country they had to make? How many people would choose, as Sara’s notetaker did, to simply be honest, however ridiculous they might sound, and say those immortal words: “I have a problem. My chicken is ill.”

If that’s not enough for you, here’s one final reason why I think Sara’s notetaker is a good sort. Her job is writing down a summary of what’s said during a lecture for deaf students. She’s not an interpreter. Yet – and let’s not underestimate the significance of this – she has taken it upon herself to learn enough sign language to enable her to communicate easily with a deaf student. She doesn’t need to do this – she could probably get by writing notes to them on a piece of paper at the beginning and end of lectures. But somewhere along the line, she’s chosen to go the extra mile. For deaf people.

That’s why I think we’ve read ‘Chickengate’ all wrong. Rather than being vilified for a split second in her life, I think we should rally round Sara’s notetaker. She’s suffered for nothing more than being a good, honest, genuine person, and rather than continuing to laugh at her for nothing more than a moment in her life, we should instead all give her a big old deaf hug and wish that there were more people out there like her. People that care about their chickens and their deaf students, no matter the circumstances. On reflection, Sara’s notetaker, you are my hero.

(with thanks to Emily Howlett for making me see the picture with fresh eyes)

Interview with deaf actor, playwright and stand-up comedian Sophie Woolley

Sophie Woolley is an actor, playwright, and a stand-up comic. She starred in Channel 4’s drama series Cast Offs, has written numerous plays for theatre and Radio 4, and recently performed in her own online series, Deaf Faker. She has also just written a short story called I Am the Walrus in a new anthology called One for the Trouble. Later this month she’s performing as one of the characters in the story as part of Abnormally Funny People’s comedy gig at Soho Theatre, all of which makes it seem the perfect time to find out more about her work. Or at least, a small part of it.

You’ve got a play in production, have just starred in the Deaf Faker online series, have written a story  in a new book, and now you’re doing stand-up too. How do you fit it all in?

I’m developing another couple of plays as well! I’m also trying to finish reading a time management book called Getting Things Done, which is like an erotic self help book for busy people or something. I don’t really understand a lot of it, and there is some hard core filing advice  – but the author says some interesting things about ‘open loops’.Basically you have to make a system for yourself so you aren’t thinking about the other task you should be doing when you are supposed to focus on the other task.

But I’m answering your question far too literally. The way I fit in this stand up thing was by writing the new material for this month’s gig after thinking of something funny in the half sleep just after I went to bed. I had to get up and write it down. Hopefully it won’t show that I wrote it whilst asleep.

What do you like writing best – fiction, drama or comedy?

I usually like whatever I’m doing the best while I am doing it – on a good day! I started writing plays and short stories when I was 7 or 8. I’d read them in school assembly (people would always die in the end as I was crap at thinking of twists in the tale) and cast friends in my plays and revues. I made magazines as well at primary school. Then I took a break from fiction, drama and journalist writing during secondary school to devote more time to fancying pop and film stars on TV.

What was your first stand-up gig like?

People laughed – it was a big relief. I thought ‘this is easier than I expected’.   I didn’t really do a proper joke joke joke set. It was a character monologue, although I situated the piece in the venue I’m in at the time. I was glad no one heckled – because I might not be able to lipread them or hear them. The gig this month is the first subtitled stand up gig I’ve done, so maybe I’ll find out actually people do heckle me and I just didn’t realise.

Tell us about the act you’ll be performing at Soho…

My act is a quick masterclass in acting. I’ve done a small amount of acting and now feel fully qualified to lecture everyone on a few secret tricks of the trade. The comedy night itself is called Abnormally Funny People which is a regular comedy night featuring disabled stand ups and a  token non disabled stand up. It’s in the swish new comedy room downstairs.

How does the act relate to the story in the book?

The stand up character is kind of based on the one in the book – but the tone is very different. It’s a deaf actress character – inspired mainly by myself. Which sounds very conceited, but come and see it – and read the story in the book and you will see that it is quite the opposite.

Sophie will be performing live at a palantyped (with live subtitles) comedy gig downstairs at Soho Theatre on Monday 20 February at 7.45pm. Tickets are £10. Booking info:

Book Slam annual Vol One: One for the Trouble is available as a limited edition signed hardback (£30) or as a cheaper eBook (£2).from Amazon kindle:

For more information about Sophie’s work, visit her website: