‘Captions Speak Louder’ | Exhibition and Archive

Thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we have created the world’s first ever archive and exhibition on open captioning.

“Captions Speak Louder” cements Stagetext’s place in the history books and guides you through the history of captioning using the stories and memories of caption users, our founders, and the staff and supporters who have worked with us over the last 21 years.

This is an ever-evolving project that will exist online and as a touring exhibition, which will continue to add pieces of history and new stories as the art of captioning continues to develop. Find out more details about the venues and tour dates at: ‘Captions Speak Louder’ Exhibition on Tour.

The exhibition is currently on display at The Mayflower MAST in Southhampton from 2 – 18 November

Captions Speak Louder Online Talks

Join us for one of a series of free online events offering you an opportunity to learn about the history of theatre captions, as well as to share what access means to you. The talks include previously unseen videos from our archive, featuring those who benefit from captioning, the charity’s founders, the staff and its supporters, who have all worked to make the arts accessible to deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people. Find out more and register.

We’d like to thank The Barbican, who hosted the exhibition from its launch in November 2021, until early 2022. Stagetext’s archive, which inspired the exhibition, will live on at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection.

What did we do before captioning? We stayed at home

John Unsworth, Caption User

Stagetext’s History

In the words or our founders, staff, captioners, and users…

The Need for Captioning

Before captioning, visiting the theatre was a frustrating experience for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people. They were unable to enjoy performances with their hearing friends.

In 2000, Peter Pullan, Merfyn Williams and Geoff Brown, who all had different types of deafness, formed a charity, Stagetext, and through consultation with deaf people, captioners, theatre directors and venues began to explore the best ways to make theatre accessible.

Our three founders in their own words….
I can go with my hearing friends and enjoy the magic and power of live theatre. I don’t feel disabled or excluded anymore.

Nell Baugh, Caption User

The Art of Captioning

From the beginning, Stagetext recognised the challenges of captioning live performance. Through consultation with deaf people, captioners, theatre directors and venues.

Our first captioners were Lynn Jackson and Roz Chalmers and today there are over 50 Stagetext-trained captioners working nationally.

It gives me such pleasure to be a part of what‘s happening. I can now follow everything that’s happening on stage.

Vivienne Keightley, caption user

Changing The Arts Landscape

Stagetext wanted more people to have access to the arts and they knew they couldn’t do it alone. By working together with community groups, arts venues and other access organisations, they became part of a network for positive change.

As captioning became more widespread, audiences wanted access to different kinds of events. Stagetext began working with speech-to-text reporters to make talks in museums, discussions at art galleries, and conferences more accessible too.

In 2010, Stagetext introduced a digital subtitling and during the COVID-19 pandemic the demand for accessible content grew. Stagetext worked with arts organisations to subtitle hundreds of online events, and produced free online training for venues, so that more people could enjoy the arts from home.

You have made many deafened people feel like part of the human race again.

Early caption user

Celebrating our 21st Birthday

After delaying our birthday celebrations due to the pandemic we were finally able to get together with some of the most important people in our history at the launch of the exhibition in November 2021.

We want to thank everyone who joined us and invite you all to enjoy some of the photos from this event.

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