Peter Pullan, one of the Stagetext founders, stepped down as Chair of the Board of Trustees on 2 November 2010 after 10 years at the helm. Since taking early retirement from his job in industrial chemicals in Europe back in 2001, Peter became fully occupied with the development of Stagetext, also acting as Chief Executive until January 2005 and concentrating on giving the organization focus, securing funding and building the team. He has been severely deaf since the age of five.
Here he reflects on how access to theatre has improved since 2000 and why he was so determined to set up Stagetext along with Merfyn Williams and Geoff Brown.
“I am very passionate about the theatre and the arts and believe they should be accessible to everyone. Before we set up Stagetext in 2000, I found it totally frustrating to live in the greatest city in the world for theatre but to be completely unable to follow the spoken or sung word. At that time, access to the arts was restricted to sign language interpretation which I can’t follow, or loop and infrared sound enhancement systems which can help by increasing volume but still left me struggling to understand.
“It was quite common for opera and plays in foreign languages to have surtitles in English so that hearing people could understand them. Imagine if for an opera or play in English the audience was made up of people like me. Surely surtitles or unedited captions in English would be helpful? The visit of a group of deaf people from New York to London inspired us to bring about change and we set up Stagetext.
“At the heart of our mission was the need to offer high quality captioning to match the high quality of the productions. Advocacy, training and service delivery are key activities.
“Theatre is about being involved in the development of the characters and being emotionally and intellectually attached. I felt deprived of this great experience until captioned performances came along. Now I’ve seen so much theatre over the past 10 years; some productions so powerful they touch your life, others perhaps best forgotten. It’s all about equality. It means I feel just the same as anyone else who goes to the theatre.
“I am thrilled to have helped create an organization that has brought so much happiness to many deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people who were previously excluded from the arts. The future is immensely exciting with the prospect of new developments for Stagetext to offer to commercial and subsidized theatre and also to community theatre, as well as improving access to other areas of arts and entertainments yet to be reached.
“It has been a privilege to get to know so many people over the last 10 years, as colleagues and friends, who have shared the passion for arts and entertainments that great access can help create.
“I look forward to seeing you all at the next captioned show!”
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