Developing your Creative Practice

I am thrilled to share with you that I have been awarded a “Developing your Creative Practice grant” from Arts Council England for my project “Devising down the Rabbit Hole”.  I am over the moon as this grant will allow me to explore the skills that are needed to engage with both hearing and non-hearing audiences through the medium of opera and song. I plan to improve my understanding and awareness of the d/Deaf community, expand my acting skills, explore new methods for physical communication, and learn how to devise and produce an operatic show.

Arts Council England describes this fund as an opportunity to support creative practitioners, who wish to take their practise to the next stage through research, devising new work, travel, training, networking, and finding mentors.

I applied in February 2021, and I received an acceptance letter at the end of April. It felt like I had just found one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. I had to get George to re-read the letter out loud to check I hadn’t misread it.

The inspiration for this project has lived with me for several years now. I first devised “Down the Rabbit Hole” for my entry in the final of the Association of English Singers and Speakers competition in March 2016, a program of English art songs interwoven with extracts of spoken prose from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I continued to develop the idea and in 2017 I decided to record the program with George for our album of the same name “Down The Rabbit Hole”, but I still felt like there was room for this idea to GROW and shrink. To me, the world of Wonderland is a place where the absurd becomes logical and many answers can be found without the constraints of sensible thinking clouding up your imagination.

I have often wondered how to make opera accessible to audiences across the hearing spectrum. Many of you may not be aware that I have profound single-sided deafness from birth. This means that I listen mainly through my right ear, bone conductivity, and supplement this with lip-reading. I was lucky to have supportive parents and an audiologist who encouraged me to chase my dreams and find my own solutions to the problems that life presented me with. I never felt restricted by the assumed limitations that are stereotypically attached to hearing loss. It is a part of who I am, a genetic trait, just like the one that selected the colour of my eyes, which happen to be blue. I don’t often share this information because it can subconsciously impact what people think I am capable of.

I love to challenge myself and during the lockdown, I wanted to use the time to pursue this project and explore the possibilities it presented. Like Alice, I “had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.” Now with the help of this grant from the Arts Council England, I have the opportunity to further develop the skills needed to collaborate and produce entertainment that is enjoyable to watch by both the hearing and d/Deaf audiences.

In closing today I want to express how grateful I am to the Arts Council England for selecting my project and giving me this chance to bring a long-held dream of mine a little bit closer to reality.

Stay tuned over the next few months as I share this journey with you.

104 thoughts on “Developing your Creative Practice

    1. Thank you John, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed many aspects of lockdown and the time it has given me to really concentrate on singing technique in my practice. Meeting people online that I normally would never have the opportunity of working with. Less travelling gave us more time to develop ideas. Seven days per week aren’t enough though 🙃.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  1. That is fantastic news, Charlotte! After all the obstacles of the past year and a half, near enough, for something like this to happen must be like waking from a brilliant dream and finding it was all real. And now, I would never have imagined that you had anything affecting your hearing, especially not that time we were talking. If 2021 continues to improve for you in this manner, it might turn out a half-decent year after all.

    1. Thank you Martin. Fitting everything in has been a problem and my blogging has been the thing that suffered. Not enough time in each day, we’re both still busy until 10pm most evenings but we are doing what we love so it doesn’t feel like work and I’m still fitting in exercise and have even done an online cooking course with a friend. I’m always reluctant to tell people about my hearing, it’s all I’ve ever known so it isn’t a big deal to me I just get on with it.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you Benn, if I can actually produce my project after research and development that will be a long term dream come true.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you Les, I feel really blessed to be given this opportunity.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  2. What a marvelous, and I assume much needed project!
    I am happy for you to find such a meaningful direction for your creativity.
    Our personal experiences in life propel us to make changes that benefit everyone.
    Onward.

    1. Thank you Sheila, you have understood my motivation perfectly. Often when I first tell of my idea especially to people with full hearing they can immediately think making a musical show for people with hearing loss is a little strange, but that just pushes me on because I know exactly what I want to achieve and be more inclusive for everyone in a room.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  3. What a fabulous idea for an incredible project! Thrilled to know that you have the green light. No one would have ever known that you had a personal reason for championing this endeavor from the way you have utilized your admirable talents. It is an honor to know you and George. I feel this is merely the start of how you two shall become “the” power couple in your world of opera! <3

    1. Annette you have always been such a fabulous cheerleader for me and I really do appreciate your friendship and belief in me, us. This is a very emotional project for me, I want it to have a lot of heart and be positive and interactive for everyone. I just hope I can take it to the next stage after the research and development, no scratch that, I have to just get on and find a way to make it happen.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you John, my Dad took them on a lovely sunny day in Glasgow botanical gardens.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you Patricia, thanks for reading, this is something close to my heart.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  4. That’s wonderful congratulations. That is a lovely first photo. Did George take it?

    1. Thank you Timothy, the photo was taken by my older brother Matt, he’s been doing an art course on-line during lockdown and he’s thinking about progressing to photography.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  5. Well done Charlotte, you so deserve the award. 👏👏👏 I absolutely love your Down the Rabbit Hole, and the photos are fabulous. Congratulations my friend.🥰😘😘

    1. Hi Gill, Mum said she was hoping you could come over one day later this week, I’m stopping over on my way up to Scotland. I’d love to run some of my ideas past you.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  6. Congratulations!
    I once had a phase when I taught English to blind and visually-impaired people (adults), and a colleague taught a parallel course for the deaf. We compared notes nearly every week (and occasionally observed each other’s classes), and it soon became clear that her job was much harder then mine. (I didn’t even have to do without the little cue cards I always used, because some of the people in my class had Braille printers at work.)

    1. What a rewarding job, fascinating. This award has given me the opportunity to connect with the deaf community for the first time. I try never to make any presumptions because in past times when I have had to declare my hearing loss people have reacted very differently with me, I don’t take offense because I’m sure it’s subconscious. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve because my parents have always told me not to limit myself.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. Congratulations 🎉 so well deserved. You’ve been a wonderful example of innovation and creativity in these unique and troubling times. Brava! 💫

    1. Thank you Holly, I really want to engage and make a difference to the way we deliver some live music performances. The motto when life serves up lemons make lemonade is one of my favourites. 🥰.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. Congratulations on the grant award! I had no idea of your hearing loss. I have profound deafness in one ear as well due to infections as a child. I have continued to pursue musical passions as my

      1. Thank you John, I was born with an unconnected inner ear, it wasn’t identified until I was five and I was talking and singing early so the medics decided not to interfere. There were concerns I wouldn’t have balance so my parents encouraged me to dance and do gym so that wasn’t an issue. I naturally lipread I’ve never had any classes and don’t use an hearing aid.

        One of the things that I’m most pleased this opportunity will provide is for me to explore more for the first time, anything I learn about technology I will happily share.

        Best wishes
        Charlotte

    1. Thank you Lavinia that is a lovely thing to say, I have made some fabulous friends on my blog and you are one of them.
      Best wishes always,
      Charlotte

  9. Congratulations on the grant, Charlotte! It’s just great to see so many good things happening to such a lovely & talented person. I always look forward to you posts as rays of sunshine in a not always sunny world. –peter a.

    1. Thank you Peter, someone once said to me don’t dwell on what you haven’t got and other’s have that is the dark side, so I just try to shine on some light, I love your analogy if that radiates away from me too that is a bonus.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. I’ve been reaching out to people for help and it’s been lovely to have people to bounce ideas off.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  10. Dear Charlotte, if you only knew how happy I am to read this blog.
    You may not know, in 2000 I took courses in France for the University Diploma in French Sign Language. To know how the signing person perceives the images.

    And I remember talking to your parents in Glasgow, I said, “I’m sure after graduating Charlotte will communicate and work on deafness!” And here it is hihihihih

    There is a book I worked on at the faculty:
    The deaf voice
    Society in the face of deafness
    By Michel Poizat
    That I made discover to the teachers who did not know him …..
    We talk about deafness and Opera …..
    I don’t know if it exists in English ….

    Best thoughts for You my friend !!! xx

    1. Thank you Pascal, merci beaucoup mon ami.
      My Mum did say you had studied a sign language course it is something I always wanted to do but never got the chance to. I must look the book up I should practice my French and try to read it in French but it is my weakest of my three main foreign languages that I study and would take too long.
      It is a shame you aren’t in England I will need to record the project when ready.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. Hello Charlotte,
        At the moment it’s a little complicated (the checks in France are complicated and with the health of my mom also, but things are better for her), but from September, if you want, we can do video once per week to work on your French and to discuss your projects.
        And we can communicate on a “professional partnership” between artists. Brexit is not our problem :-).

  11. That’s fabulous Charlotte. Thrilled for you. I am also so happy to read all you say and truly admire your attitude to life. Just amazing to see you’ve overcome so much. My husband has problems in one ear after he got Meniere’s Disease some years back and it attacked his hearing. So it’s so good to see your post.

    1. Thank you, Shehanne, it can often be more challenging if you have lost something that you once had. If I discover any technologies that can help as I research I will pass them on. I was thrilled too.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you very much. Yes I will need a little luck to get this off the ground.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  12. Congratulations with your “Developing your Creative Practice grant” award, Charlotte! I’m happy for you! Thanks for this beautiful post.

    1. Thank you 😊. I’m happy too. Working hard trying to get all my ideas spinning.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you 😊. I was given the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gift box set and just love the craziness therein.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you Rebecca, I had a thoroughly lovely mentoring hour discussing my project yesterday evening. My mind has been buzzing all night in my dreams.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  13. Congratulations, Charlotte! This project sounds so exciting and could be so far reaching. I am so pleased you have been selected for a grant by the Arts Council who are so supportive of so many individuals/groups/companies. I wish you so much luck with the research and work you hope to do.
    Best wishes, Clare xx

    1. Thank you Clare, I get so many rejection letters that I was absolutely thrilled to get this opportunity from the Arts Council and had to pinch myself to calm down.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte xx

    1. Thank you, I might put ‘amazinger’ in my prose. 😊
      Have a super day.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you Elisabeth 😊 loved the emojis 🐛🦎🐇🦩🍄 so much rich word skill in Lewis Carroll’s nonsence literature.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  14. Charlotte Congratulations
    On the grant award you so deserve it. how hard you work
    Good luck with your project, that will benefit lots of people.xx

    1. Thank you, I really hope so, I so want this to work for the audience.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte xx

  15. Congratulations. I wish I was there to hug you in person. Every time I open a post from you and see that bright happy welcoming face I break out in a smile.
    I still have my copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass gifted to me when I was seven, and as well, the thank you notelet I sent my aunt, detailing my progress, has been returned to me.
    I wish I had learned Auslan. In my childhood I had those magazine books that taught all sorts of useful things such as semaphore signalling, how to train your dog, and how to communicate with the deaf by spelling out letters on your hands, but I only ever perfected the second one, and now I don’t even have a dog. Two of my close relatives were born profoundly deaf on account of German Measles, and it has been interesting to watch the choices that were made for them as children, how that has affected them as adults, and what they now choose to do about it. Early hearing loss does enable the freedom to use your body to be more expressive, but it is also incredibly alienating. I admire my relatives immensely.
    We here in “Greater Sydney” (a term that is switched on and off, depending on whether there is government funding on the table) have been put into lockdown for two weeks and I am ecstatic about that because I have just received the latest professional edit of my manuscript so I can finally attend to it without that sneaky time thief who has been invading my life recently.

    1. Have a virtual hug 🤗 back. I’d love to visit Sydney one day. Well I’m hoping to have recordings if I get the project fully running not only live performances. I need to really think about International sign. Varying degrees of lost hearing is a big problem around the world and often hidden.
      I’m pleased you’re seeing lockdown as an opportunity, that’s the only way I could make a positive out of it.
      Best wishes always,
      Charlotte xx

  16. Congratulations on a well deserved award for an extremely worthwhile project. Your writing is as good as the marvellous photographs. You are a model of management of your partial hearing loss.

  17. Oh you must be over the moon – Congrats and all my best wishes with your project.
    Thank you for including the “Alice” pictures again too!

    1. Thank you GP. So many ideas buzzing around in my head. If I can pull this off it will give me a great deal of satisfaction. It has given my practice a nice clear direction and I’ve just sat my first Sign Language examination.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  18. Congratulations. That is so wonderful, Charlotte.. And that hearing problem is something I never knew. And to think you have gone so far with this handicap!

    1. I remember being at High School and during the mock exams I was sat near the back of the room and couldn’t quite hear the invigilators instructions to use a separate booklet to write the answers in, so I answered in the questionnaire. When someone walked past my desk 30 minutes later they noticed I was writing on the wrong paper and told me to change over, I lost time copying into the right booklet so I spoke to the office after the exam and asked if I could sit at the front in future examinations to ensure I could hear someone that spoke quietly. They wrote ‘Special Needs’ next to my name on the list on the wall and some of the other kids were messing around saying I was just after extra time in my exams and asking what ‘special needs’ I had. I got no extra time and could handle the joshing around but I don’t ask for many concessions I just try to get on with it.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. Kids can be so cruel, and some never grow out of being a bully. I am so proud of my one grandson. He is a Special Ed teacher in high school. He’s also an assistant football coach, but of the two, he likes teaching his Special Ed kids.

  19. Wow, down the Rabbit Hole again! Congratulations!! It sounds like a wonderful project. I once watched a video, I think a TED Talk, with a deaf woman who plays the grand marimba (and plays very well indeed). She was showing how she feels sound, even the most delicate sound her instrument can make. I did not know that you had single-sided deafness or any other type of hearing loss. You are a very talented singer, of course, but always a performer, and in the opera field, I can see how you can make your feelings known to that person high up there in the nose-bleed section, even without your wonderful voice. Anyway, good luck with the project!

    1. I must try to find related TED talks thanks for reminding me about them, I attended a full live TED event when I was in Glasgow it was fabulous.
      Down the Rabbit Hole 🕳 is a good lesson in not dismissing something you believe in and created because it’s out of the box that some people perhaps don’t at first see the potential in and push on with it, it is now a part of me and has a life of it’s own, I want to let it grow and develop.
      You are quite right, opera is all about feelings, now that is something that we can all share in. thank you.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. I just looked it up and the TED talk was Evelyn Glennie. I saw it ages ago. I’d love to attend a TED Talk some day!

      2. Oh yes Dame Evelyn Glennie is magnificent I’d love to meet her or talk to her because her research is so advanced and she is so knowledgeable.

  20. Congratulations, Charlotte. Your creativity and perspicacity shine through in your grant proposal. I can’t wait to see the final version! Happy creating!

    1. Thank you so much Noelle, I had to look up perspicacity – thank you very much that is a lovely compliment. I’m having a fabulous time trying to clarify my vision and to write it down in a purpose statement to make it easier to communicate. I’m impatient to get it activated but I’m really going to take my time over this because I want it to be right.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  21. I somehow posted that before I was finished..lol!
    Charlotte, it seems I am congratulating you quite often. How wonderful! Your career is still a rose bud, so many petals to come before we see a full bloom.
    I can’t believe you are hearing impaired. With a voice like yours, it seems an impossible situation. You are a definite inspiration, and now with this grant, you are becoming a hero!
    You blow my mind!
    ❦❦❦

    1. I do that sometimes in wordpress go to hit return and somehow the whole message goes half posted. I love the expression of the rose 🌹 a really nice metaphor to remember. I’ve never known any different with my hearing but I’ve met people recently that once had full hearing and lost partial or full hearing later in life, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf say in the UK hearing loss affects 12 million people, that’s a lot of people. 💕
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  22. I have only just read this, Charlotte – the world is full of co-incidences. Last week I decided (after reading a short story) that it would be an interesting challenge to learn sign language. Two days ago, I spoke to the father of a child in the playground who had been kind to my grandson, but I couldn’t understand his reply, then I realised that he could understand me, he wasn’t speaking a foreign language, he was deaf and lip-reading. I think your project is wonderful, and with your talent and special understanding you are clearly the perfect choice for the Arts Council. What an achiever you are, well done!

    1. Thank you, Hilary. If you need any help with suggestions for videos or an online trainer, let me know, I’ve just taken my first exam I’ve always wanted to do it. During covid I took my German exam the biggest problem was the listening part where someone was speaking with a mask on and there was no lip-reading, but I wanted to get it done and out of the way whilst I had time to move on to the next level.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

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