Flashing Lights Media – The Essay: A Different Way to Listen, BBC Radio 3 – Press Release

Flashing Lights Media has produced a five-part radio series which explores different and unique experiences of deaf professionals working with music. Each deaf essayist tells their own story with illuminating results.

The series airs at 21:45 on BBC Radio 3, with BSL videos available on the BBC Sounds page at the same time. A new episode will drop on 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st of May. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006x3hl

Shows include sign language performer, Paul Whittaker, who has a passion for classical performance; Ruth Montgomery, a leading deaf flautist, who explains how she punched through many barriers to join a music school and; performance artist Chisato Minamimura who details how her work muses on the mathematics and vibration of music for deaf audiences. We also learn from French horn player Nigel Braithwaite about his hearing loss and violinist Elizabeth Elliott, who talks about how she switched to classical piano after a cochlear implant.

A Flashing Lights Media production for BBC Radio 3.
A Different Way to Listen is produced by Sophie Allen and Emma Glassar, with Jess Stevens as Line Producer and Mark Rickards as Executive Producer. British Sign Language versions of the essays filmed, edited and subtitled by Fifi Garfield.

Flashing Lights Media says, “We are delighted to produce another series of pioneering deaf radio essays for the BBC Radio 3 and hope it will inspire wider audiences to learn about real life perspectives of deaf people today who engage with music.”

For more information,
please contact Jess Stevens at Jess@Flashinglightsmedia.co.uk

Episode 1: Ruth Montgomery


Ruth Montgomery is a profoundly deaf professional flautist and flute teacher. In her BSL video essay she details the challenges of her early years in a mainstream school, and how being introduced to the flute at her secondary school; a school for deaf children, led to her becoming a professional musician and music educator.

She describes the hurdles she faced to be taken seriously by the musical establishment, and the dedication that this fostered in her to help other deaf children gain musical appreciation skills as a vital part of life. Ultimately Ruth has created her own musical education programme, Audiovisibility, blending art and music to address the huge gaps she discovered in this field.

Ruth says, “Music will always be my anchor. At the beginning, it  gave me a sense of belonging, then it gave me a career, and  now, it continues to give me an immense amount of joy –  especially as I watch deaf people discover the power it has for  themselves”

Photo: copyright Ruth Montgomery


Episode 2: Nigel Braithwaite

Horn and Wagner tuba player Nigel Braithwaite looks back at his musical life and gives a humorous take on his time as a semi- professional musician.

How did he continue to play in the face of mitochondrial disease which robbed him of his ability to hear the very low notes in which he specialised as a player? After being a keen musician for many  years, Nigel starts to suspect one day that he might be going

when listening to the radio. A semi-professional musician throughout his whole life, he tackles his travails with honesty and humour, musing on what it takes to get through life’s challenges and how key musical tracks along with his family and friends have got him safely through.

Photo: copyright Nigel Braithwaite


Episode 3: Chisato Minamimura

Chisato shares via BSL video her personal journey of exploring sound and music. Growing up in Japan before later moving to the UK, Chisato lost her hearing at seven months. Inspired by artists John Cage and Tōru Takemitsu, Chisato delves into the concept of sound and music from a Deaf perspective, creating visual scores based on mathematical algorithms, turning dancers into her instruments, feeling vibrations with her teeth or using Woojer strap to create multi-sensory experiences.

Throughout her work, she invites audiences to explore the rich tapestry of sound and music through a Deaf lens, opening up new possibilities for artistic expression.

Dreaming of experiencing whale song first hand, Chisato imagines translating these experiences into tactile vibrations, swimming beside them and touching their air bubbles: “I would love to be able to  swim amongst these trapped air pockets and feel them bursting against my skin as I swim, suspended  in the water. So, my journey into exploring sound and music will of course, continue.”

Photo credit : Mark Pickthall


Episode 4: Paul Whittaker OBE

Professional music sign language performer Paul Whittaker OBE explains how he has carved out a space in the classical musical world as a sign language performer. Despite initial scepticism, he pursued a career in music starting with a degree from Oxford, before founding ‘Music and the Deaf’ to promote musical accessibility. With meticulous preparation and passion, Paul talks us through how he translates complex classical musical pieces into his expressive sign language, capturing the essence of each composition. He details how he makes his sign language performance ‘sing’ in genres stretching from iconic musicals to Handel’s Messiah.

Paul says, “I’m a professional musician and interpret music  into sign language for concerts… Surely everyone, Deaf or  hearing, deserves the opportunity to attend live classical  performances of great pieces of music, not just to listen but  to watch too. Open your eyes and hear the music!”

Photo: copyright Paul Whittaker


Episode 5: Elizabeth Elliott

From her childhood immersed in music to her early career as a professional violinist, Elizabeth Elliott’s passion for classical music endured even as she became deaf as a young woman.

In middle age, she had a cochlear implant fitted in one ear, and she describes how this felt – and how it has allowed her to take back up her second instrument, the piano.

Filling us all in with a very different way to listen, Elizabeth details how through careful trial and error she pieces together a piano piece and drills herself to perform it to a high standard. She shares with us how it felt to once again be able to perform music publicly, through dedication and technology.

Photo : copyright Elizabeth Elliott

Press Release – Flashing Lights

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