Edinburgh Deaf Festival Aims to Increase Inclusivity

This year, the second annual Edinburgh Deaf Festival part of the Fringe has more than 60 events ranging from comedy, film and drama to workshops and talks. We caught up with the festival coordinator Jamie Rea ahead of the launch on 11 August.

Come celebrate the rich pool of deaf talent

Tell us about Edinburgh Deaf Festival.

There’s a difficulty of access for deaf people within performing arts spaces. Edinburgh Deaf Festival aims to bridge the gap between deaf artists and mainstream audiences.

We offer interpreters, free of charge, to our performers, giving them a chance to perform to wider audiences without the added financial burden.

We’ve worked to foster relationships with mainstream venues to platform deaf talent and give hearing people the chance to discover it beyond their usual scope.

How has Edinburgh Deaf Festival made a difference already?

Edinburgh Deaf Festival has been instrumental in creating a space in the Scottish festival scene where deaf arts can thrive, both as a cultural celebration, and as a platform for promoting a wonderful array of deaf talent to the hearing world.

Last year’s festival saw the platforming of deaf artists in mainstream spaces. Deaf comedian Gavin Lilley performed a sold-out show at Summerhall to a mixed audience of both deaf and hearing people.

One of the standout performers from last year’s deaf cabaret was Amy Murray in Witcher: Blood Origin. Amy is returning this year with a hilarious full-length show called Red Aphrodite, exploring the funny and cringe side of womanhood.

What do you hope to achieve this year?

This year we want hearing audiences to explore and enjoy the amazing talent that the deaf community has to offer. We're promoting an inclusive festival where hearing and deaf audiences can come together to appreciate and celebrate the rich pool of deaf talent.

What will hearing audiences find that’s distinctive about deaf culture?

There are a few things that might be a little surprising when attending a deaf festival for the first time.

For example, there's no applause. To show our appreciation we shake our hands in the air. Hearing people might find the silence strange, but looking out to the crowd and seeing a sea of hands is the best feeling a deaf performer can experience.

There will be interpreters or captioners at the show, but they'll be providing access to hearing audiences. If you’re at a comedy show, you might see deaf people react before the hearing people get the joke because of the time lag involved in interpreting, which can be really funny to see.

People will be signing too. Don’t worry if you don’t know any sign language though. Deaf people are used to interacting with hearing people and are more than happy to help. Use gestures, point, or even write something down on your phone if you’re having trouble.

What else are you offering?

We have developed an ‘on demand’ service for this year’s festival season and beyond. People can request an interpreter or captioner for any show they want to enjoy during the Edinburgh festival season, not just those at Edinburgh Deaf Festival.

Our goal is to transform Edinburgh's festival season into an inclusive one. Giving the deaf community greater access to mainstream festival spaces while also providing culturally specific events that celebrate the richness of our deaf culture.

The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy yourself. So come join us and get involved!

Find out more at https://edinburghdeaffestival.com

Since you’re here…

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