About Charlie Swinbourne

I am a deaf journalist, scriptwriter and filmmaker from London.

About me





I currently edit  The Limping Chicken (the UK’s independent deaf news and blogs website), and was the first journalist to break the news of the ‘fake interpreter’ at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. I also edit the BSL Zone website .

As a freelance journalist, I’ve written for the Guardian, the BBC’s Ouch website, The Huffington Post, Yano, Arts Desk, Disability Arts Online, The Hearing Times and One in Seven magazine.

I’ve also appeared on television and radio, appearing on  BBC Breakfast News trying out some subtitle glasses for cinema goers, and on Radio 4 programmes talking about deaf issues.

To read my writing, check out the Journalism section.


As a scriptwriter, I’ve created a series of award-winning dramas about deaf characters, in sign language. I’ve also recently directed two short films.

The Kiss was selected for Bradford International Film Festival in March 2014, while Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool, a half hour comedy, was shown on digital TV in May 2014.

Last year, I wrote the short play Mine (directed by Jeni Draper) for Deafinitely Theatre’s 4Play showcase in May 2013. This was a return to theatre, having written the play Lipstick and Lollipops for the company in 2008.

I also wrote the half-hour drama My Song, about a girl stuck between the deaf and hearing worlds (broadcast in 2011 on digital TV and online), which was shown, along with 2009’s Hands Solo (funded by UK Film Council and very very rude) at Brighton International Festival in 2011.

Other credits include the drama Departure Lounge, comedic mini-series The Fingerspellers, the award-winning comedy short Coming Out and my directing debut, Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.


My Song – Best short film, Deaf in the Picture (Amsterdam) 2011
Departure Lounge – Merit Award, SuperFest – Berkeley, California, USA (2011), Best Film, Deaffest (UK, 2010), Best Short Film, Ippocampus Ciak – Milan, Italy (2010)
Hands Solo –  Best short film, World Deaf Cinema Awards (Washington DC) 2010
Coming Out – TV Best Scriptwriter, DaDa Awards – ITV (2007), Best Film, Deaffest (UK 2007), Best International Film, Finnish Film Festival (2007), Best Film, Clin d’ Oeil Festival – Reims, France (2007)

To watch all my films in full, read reviews of them and find out about the directors, cast and crew, go to the Films section.

Other work

I currently work on a freelance basis and as well as being a journalist and scriptwriter, have also worked as a consultant (for the South Bank Centre, Royal Court Theatre, and the BBC), a copywriter (for the NDCS and STAGETEXT), a speechwriter, photographer, project manager and teacher.

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 thelimpingchicken@gmail.com


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: http://www.vs1.org/castingCall_LOT.html decide which role you’d like to go for, and email linda@vs1.org 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)