Charlie Swinbourne: The story behind The Limping Chicken

Posted on May 13, 2013

Last week, Beth Abbott, who runs Bee Communications, who support this site, asked me to write about setting up The Limping Chicken for deaf awareness week. We’ve also shared this article below. If you ever wanted to know more, then read on! 

I set up The Limping Chicken, a deaf news and blogs website, in February 2012. My life hasn’t been the same since!

From that day onwards, we have published at least one article every weekday, featuring over 80 deaf writers, and attracting over half a million views. We have a number of supporters, which is how the site exists, and we are honoured to count Bee Communications among them.

The site just keeps getting stronger. We had a record month in April, with one article by Andy Palmer, about a son who had to tell his father he was going to die (because the hospital didn’t give them a sign language interpreter) getting 10,000 hits in just one day. Although it keeps me very busy, writing, editing, moderating comments and finding new contributors, it’s the best job I’ve ever had!

So why did I set it up? Well, I’m a deaf journalist and scriptwriter, and I’d been writing about deaf life since 2006. Although I’d long wanted to be a journalist, writing articles was something I did on the side for a few years, while I also worked in TV and the arts, made films, and looked after my young daughters.

A strong feature of my work, both in journalism and in dramas, has been focusing on deaf culture, issues and the community I grew up in (my parents and brothers are also deaf). You could say that a lot of my writing tries to bring our culture and issues affecting deaf people, whether serious or humorous, to wider attention.

By 2012, I’d built up my journalism, writing for the Guardian and the BBC online, and other publications too. I was spending more and more time pitching articles to various publications I wrote for. Sometimes they commissioned my ideas, sometimes not.

So, rather than wasting a good pitch, I started to blog some of the articles that people didn’t want to publish. These articles started to get thousands of hits, and around the same time I noticed there wasn’t really an online destination for deaf news and opinons. That’s when I thought – ‘why don’t I set one up?’

I’m really thankful to Laraine Callow and Deafworks who supported me during those first few months. They thought the idea was great and encouraged me to get it off the ground. When it all began, I thought it might work for a while but I really had no idea whether people would contribute to the site, or whether they’d read it!

I aimed to get 8,000 views that first month, but the figures were four or five times more than that, and that was when I first started to think there could be potential in the site.

A lot of people ask where the name for the site came from. I didn’t want to simply call it ‘Deaf News’ or something basic like that. I wanted the site to have attitude, a personality. So I called it after a joke that had just gone viral in the deaf world. During a BBC3 documentary, a deaf student’s notetaker told her she had to go home early because her chicken was ill. Cue lots of jokes, photos, tribute videos… and the name of our site!

The way I run the site’s developed a lot in the last 15 months or so. I now schedule articles a week or two ahead, and then add news stories as they happen (for example, the sailor Gerry Hughes completing his round-the-world journey  last week!). Recently, I’ve made four writers regular contributors – these were four of the strongest writers from the last year. I also now have an Editor-At-Large, Andy Palmer, who writes on a weekly basis. It’s great to give these talented folk the chance to bring their ideas and creativity to our readers – and it means I can go back to writing a bit more, as well as editing!

My favourite comment so far came from one reader who said they weren’t particularly interested in deaf culture before, but they loved our site and went on to develop an awareness of deaf life through reading our articles! That was so satisfying.

In the end, although it’s a deaf site, the site is really about people, what they think about things, what affects them. They just happen to be deaf, so they come at it from a different angle. Hopefully, we can show the serious and the comical sides of deaf life by equal measure.


Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, pennedMy SongComing Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s independent deaf news and deaf blogs website! Check out our supporters:

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.  Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.

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