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U.K. captioner highlighted in international newspaper article

A Jan. 16 article in The Guardian entitled Get the joke: how live captioning lets more comedy fans enjoy every punchline featured veteran stenographer, court reporter, and NCRA member Claire Hill, RPR, CRR, CRC, of London, England. Hill was kind enough to grant the JCR Weekly an interview via email sharing her insight and experiences.

JCR Weekly (JCR) | How did you learn about captioning and what made you want to pursue this career field?

Claire Hill (CH) | I started training at a London court reporting company, and sidestepped into captioning when I went freelance 12 years later.

JCR | What is the funniest joke you’ve captioned?

CH | I mostly caption tour shows, so there aren’t a lot of one-liners, but Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle has some real zingers like: Rishi Sunak is too wee, it’s so weird to me. He can’t give any speeches at night in case he gets taken by an owl.
JCR | Has there been anything you weren’t expecting in terms of atmosphere for comedy clubs that made your job more difficult or challenging?

CH | I always ask for a clean desk feed from the microphone and listen to that through headphones.It’s important to cut out the audience sounds, and usually any loud heckles are clear enough on the performer’s mic.

JCR | In a recent interview with The Guardian, you estimated that maybe out of 400 captioners in the U.K. perhaps 10 were captioning live comedy. What do you think ought to be done to increase that number?

CH | I wish I knew how to increase both numbers! Ultimately more money in the system to pay a realistic rate for the amount of preparation work involved in captioning comedy, and funding for training courses on all aspects of captioning. 

JCR | What made you join NCRA as an international member?

CH | I wanted the opportunity to take certifications.

JCR |Do you have any advice for somebody considering becoming a captioner?

CH | To someone considering a transition from court reporting to captioning, I’d highly recommend it and advise them to work on strategies for when the material is too fast or the words are unclear/unknown.

JCR | You mentioned that production companies have started taking the initiative to provide captioning at events instead of the venue, why do you think that is? How can we encourage such efforts here in the U.S.?

CH | I think lockdown had a real impact on the provision of captioning; it got more mainstream because everyone was watching their comedy on screens and the transition was smoother into live events. It still needs venue and local audience support, so I’d encourage caption users to ask for captioning. When the performers and producers realize it expands their audience, they’ll be on board.

JCR | What would be your dream event to caption and why?

CH | I’d really like to caption one of the Tony Robbins’ events like Unleash the Power Within – they already have simultaneous interpretation, so it’s a small step to captioning. They look really emotional — I think I’d be crying within the first hour (and hopefully empowered by the end!).

JCR | How can NCRA be more supportive of the captioning community?

CH | I think NCRA is pretty supportive at the moment, but training and advocacy work can always continue.

JCR |If you could provide captioning services for any historical event or figure, what/who would it be?

CH | I wish that I could have worked at the London 2012 Olympics.  Although they had stenographers working at the media center on interviews, they didn’t have any live captioning for sports or the ceremonies, and it seemed like a real missed opportunity.

Claire Hill, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance captioner based in the United Kingdom. She can be reach via email at