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Women’s Aid Annual Conference, 1st July 2015

Waiting for the Women’s Aid conference panel to start, July 2015

On 1st July 2015, I made my first appearance at a conference specifically aimed at survivors of domestic abuse.

For its latest conference, the national anti-domestic abuse organisation Women’s Aid invited me to join a panel chaired by its CEO Polly Neate that focused on minority perspectives. I was the first ever Deaf survivor to speak out about my experience as an example of the particular issues affecting the Deaf Community. My presentation lasted all of seven minutes – yet it made the biggest impact, due to the specialist subject-matter.

Twice as many Deaf women are at risk of gender violence as hearing women every day, yet still lack access to suitable anti-domestic abuse services due to both language and communication barriers and a persistent lack of funding. The situation is likely to get worse thanks to deepening cuts made by the government, which also impact on women’s refuges and mainstream anti-domestic abuse services.

2015 CINEDEAF Awards

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Me at CINEDEAF Festival, the day before the Awards

LISTEN, EVEN WHEN YOUR HEART IS CRYING was unexpectedly nominated for Best Documentary in the 2015 CINEDEAF Awards in Rome on Sunday 7th June, where the film had its Italian premiere and I was invited on stage for a brief presentation in International Sign.

It was also the documentary’s first screening abroad. Congratulations are in order for everyone involved, particularly Neath Films, the interviewees and the children who also featured.

Upon my return I gave a brief account of my visit to Rome on the BSL Zone here. I don’t mind repeating that I felt welcome and loved my stay there.

Click here to watch the nominated film

First draft play script uploaded

My first ever piece of playwriting has been uploaded to Deafinitely Theatre’s HUB website, albeit as an early draft.

How’s Your Garden? is the story of a survivor set in the suffragette era. A ten-minute short involving three characters, the play takes place over one night at a rich dowager’s townhouse, and explores themes of personal freedom, love, and votes for women with a sprinkling of euphemistic fun amidst doses of opium and the heady scent of a summer garden.

Click here to read the draft script. 

Crash and Burn panel discussion, WOW Festival, Friday 6th March 2015

Being on the Crash and Burn discussion panel last Friday was a cathartic event for me. ‘Coming out’ about my grief, and especially the role it played in my life – marriage breakdown, family estrangement, mental health, self-worth, parenting abilities – and how I turned it around (an affair, divorce, counselling, my blog and film) was certainly the most personal thing I’d ever done with a live audience. I have no regrets. 

Because it was so ‘no holds barred’, I was able to assert myself properly as a proud Deaf woman who accepted disability as a part of life, but also had room to accept that there would always be people who could never address grief in the way I had, for all sorts of reasons.

My six-minute summary went down very well. The Purcell Room, where the discussion took place, was fairly well-attended and I got enthusiastic applause when I finished, with about a third of the audience giving a BSL handwave. 

There were five on the panel, including myself and the legendary Rosie Boycott, who was chair. She and two of the other women had their own personal catastrophes to share: alcoholism/homelessness (Boycott), bipolar disorder (Hannah Parkinson), human trafficking/prostitution/rape arising from an early life in extreme poverty (Marieme Jamme) – with the fourth, Polly Harrar, founder of the SHARAN Project, acting in an objective capacity offering information and advice. 

They were all brilliant and I loved how diverse they were. Last, but not least, the Love Language team – Naomi, Vicky, Karen (who voiced me most of the time) and Nicky – all did a fantastic job of ensuring adequate BSL/spoken English interpretation for all. 

See the highlights video for more. 

LISTEN, EVEN WHEN YOUR HEART IS CRYING: feedback

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An excellent review of the film in The Limping Chicken can be viewed here.

Comments on Listen, Even When Your Heart Is Crying:

‘I was confounded by your film. You handled a number of issues sensitively and intelligently. I also liked the way it was constructed’
‘Visually rich and colourful, as well as profound…I liked the bits where the subjects were viewed from behind frosted glass, like the way you feel when you’re dealing with raw grief. Sort of frozen and detached from the world’
‘A broadcast breakthrough’
‘A wonderful and refreshingly honest film. Thankyou for letting us in’
‘I would like everyone reading my status to spend a valuable 25 minutes watching this unforgettable film’
‘Absolutely spot on on all levels, beautifully filmed…the shining stars were the children’
‘I think you have opened up space for discussions that are so badly needed. I think previous generations (for whatever reason) saw talking about this stuff as a sign of weakness. They put on a ‘brave’ face, but never really dealt with many issues. It was something considered ‘private’, swept under the carpet. But actually, sharing experiences like this helps us realize how common these emotions are. It’s part of a process that so many of us relate to. You hit the nail on the head!’
‘I feel oddly “healed” after watching your film, almost as if I am able to finally close a door’
‘A breath of fresh air’
‘Life-affirming’

See the film here

Many thanks to the crew and Neath Films, my mentor Caroline O’Neill, and all the contributors 

Zoom Focus: LISTEN, EVEN WHEN YOUR HEART IS CRYING goes live

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The documentary went out on Film4 at 8am today, and has so far received an enormous positive response. It will be repeated tomorrow (Tuesday), Thursday and Saturday – more scheduling details, including channels, can be found on http://www.thebslzone.co.uk (click on ‘TV schedule’ at the top of the page).

It is also live on the BSL Zone website. Watch it here: http://www.bslzone.co.uk/watch/zoom-2014-listen-even-when-your-heart-crying/

HuffPost blog: why I wore purple

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Prompted by #DEAFPurpleThursday – an initiative by DAWN designed to highlight the plight of deaf domestic abuse victims by wearing purple for one day on 23rd October 2014 as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month – I came out as a survivor on Facebook. This is my story.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/melissa-mostynthomas/i-am-a-deaf-survivor-last_b_6067412.html