Charlie Swinbourne: The chance meeting that inspired me to make my documentary Found, about Deaf identity (BSL)

Posted on June 18, 2015

We all have moments in our lives when something happens that – like a fork in the road, sends us on a different path.

A day that changed my life was the day I started talking to two complete strangers in London, almost exactly ten years ago.

To watch Charlie signing his article, click play below, or scroll down to continue in English!

It was a weekday in February 2005, and I was walking through London in the rain.

I was 23 at the time and I’d moved to London the month before, living with hearing friends. I was soaked to the bone, but I wasn’t feeling gloomy at all – I’d just had a job interview which had gone really well. So I was wet but upbeat.

I’d just reached Leicester Square tube station when I saw a man and a woman signing to one another. At first I carried on walking, because they seemed to be locked in conversation. Then I stopped and signed to them “are you Deaf?”

Faced with a soaking wet stranger signing at them, the couple understandably looked a bit surprised. “Yes we’re Deaf,” they said. “Do you know where deaf people meet in London?” I asked.

They soon told me that there was a pub just round the corner, where Deaf people met every week. They went there sometimes and I could come along.

The poster for Found, Charlie's documentary

The poster for Found, Charlie’s documentary

And that was it. The conversation lasted about a minute or two. But it was the start of a real change in my life.

The week after, I started going to the pub. It was awkward at first, signing to strangers, but as the weeks went by, I started to get to know more people.

The reason it was such a big change was because until then, the Deaf people I tended to know were older – such as my parents’ friends.

My friends at school and university were always hearing. So this became the first time in my life I’d got to know Deaf people my age, which was the start of building up a sense of my own Deaf identity.

A lot more changes happened in my life after that, such as starting work in Deaf media a few months later, but that moment when I stopped and talked to the couple always feels like a real turning point in my life.

Remembering it, along with learning about my wife Joanne’s experience of finding her Deaf identity, eventually inspired me to make a half-hour documentary called Found.

The documentary features three deaf people’s stories, including Joanne’s, and will be broadcast for the first time tonight.

I hope you enjoy it. And do tell us about the moment that led to you finding your Deaf identity in the comments below!

Watch Found by clicking here.

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist, director and award-winning scriptwriter. He has written for the Guardian and BBC Online, and has written and directed a range of dramas in sign language, including The Kiss.

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