Norfolk Deaf Festival – Fri 8th – Sat 9th July 2022

Looking back on the Norfolk Deaf Festival I feel so proud of what we achieved and being part of such a positive event.

There was so much preparation that went into it.  I was keen to stand out among the crowd and ordered in some fantastic balloons; designed fresh posters; made sure I had freebies like pens and sweets and just generally to have a fantastic stall display and make my company stand out.  

My design skills have come on leaps and bounds as I came up with fresh ways of creating visual posters and flyers and I quite impressed myself. I made sure we had plenty of tee shirts for the team to wear and also arranged a cracking display of the SH BSL! hoodie and tote bags. Unfortunately no one was that interested in ordering a hoodie due to the weather being so hot but it was still good to have it on display.  

Some of my team went to great lengths to cut out nearly 300 wonderful green card life size hands with my logo and details on one side and the Deaf Festival printed on the other, these were stuck on wooden sticks and were great ‘business cards’ – they were quite a talking point during the event and were seen used to high five people; Deaf wave and generally as a visual awareness tool for the weekend.  A lot of people used them during the sign singing choirs to wave in time with the music and clap at the end.  I was really proud of them, it was great and it got our signature green logo far and wide.  

We had also designed a fingerspelling activity for the children with pre cut fingerspelt alphabet squares so they could spell out their names and take home an A4 Certificate with their name on spelt out in BSL letters.  This was very popular with parents and kids alike and one school asked to take home some of the materials.

With all the build up over several months, the preparation, the investment, the prospect of the crowds – I was starting to get quite nervous in a funny kind of way before the actual festival.  I think when you have invested so much time and preparation and you have tried to think through every potential scenario, prepare for anything and everything, and have organised a team of volunteers – the reality of it hits you with a real frisson of excitement and anticipation!

Friday morning dawned and we were there bright and early.  As each of my volunteers arrived they were issued their lovely tee shirts and quickly changed.  We were all adorned in lovely bright green with the logo showing loud and clear.  I was so grateful to my volunteers, they were all fantastic.  One lady has a cochlear implant, like myself, she is a retired Primary School teacher and she did a fantastic job raising awareness for the stall.  My partner, who is deaf herself, was feeling really poorly on the day but she was determined to support me no matter what.  I had one of my interpreters there for both days and also three other volunteers who were ex students of mine, their enthusiasm filled the venue.  I was also delighted to have my new tutor join me, Justin.  Justin is Deaf and currently teaching classes in the West of the county.  We were out in force and proud of it!

So there we were, having arrived around 8.30 am, the first task was to unload all the boxes and find our location in the event.  I had boxes of freshly printed flyers and cards that a local printer had produced for me, I am so pleased with how they turned out, top quality and very professional.  I had prepared a flyer with simple BSL greetings and also the left and right handed BSL alphabet.  Loads of people found these resources really beneficial and they were really popular with everyone that came by.  

Friday morning was really busy as the event had several school visits.  Schools from Yarmouth and Norwich areas came for a tour around the event.  My volunteers were kept busy helping them complete the activity and handing out sweets and hands.  

We had arranged the stall with a display board showing clearly our names as tutors, posters about our courses and lots of bright green balloons to attract attention – I think we had around 20 balloons festooned along the top!  It was really important to me that the stall was both visual, appealing and informative and we definitely achieved that.

During the day we were inundated with people from a variety of backgrounds coming over to ask questions and pick up information.  I noticed we had a lot of families and parents with children who were deaf.  With the children, I really loved their reaction when I reached out to communicate with them, you could see the recognition on their face – ‘Oh look, he’s deaf like me!’.  There was also a lot of social networking going on during the festival – I noticed a lot of young deaf adults, say from 16/17 upwards who seemed to have previously been somewhat isolated due to not being part of the local Deaf community, all swapping numbers and catching up with each other.  It was lovely to see.  

The weather on Friday made it a bit of an endurance test at times as The Forum felt like a hot house due to the sunshine but that didn’t stop the visitors from still coming.  It was an amazing event.

I would like to say a special thanks at this point to the Committee who managed and arranged the organisation of the Norfolk Deaf Festival.  It was a really enjoyable event with few hiccups.

During the two days I felt like the Duracell Bunny for those old enough to remember those adverts, my battery was on full charge and I was busy, busy, busy the whole two days.  Barely stopping to take a breath between conversations and activities.  It was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for several years due to the pandemic and life, and it was great to catch up with other stall holders.  There was a plethora of information available from different services and organisations like Sign Video; Sign Live; Sign Solutions and deaf led organisations and businesses too.  

Looking back on the festival I feel proud and a huge sense of achievement.  It also made me feel quite emotional from the view of being part of such a big event and the people that were there.  Children of Deaf adults; deaf children; deafened people; BSL users; hard of hearing; lip readers and those new to the world of Deafness.  There was such a variety of people represented and supported and enabled.  Seeing everyone together, in one place, positive and empowered by each other and the information available.  Wow.  Over the two days there must have been thousands of footfall to the event, all with different reasons and motives. We had visitors come from as far as Cornwall; Surrey and Essex that I am aware of, to support the event.  One person who often visits nationwide events said our one was one of the biggest they have attended.  

At the end of the day on Saturday we took great pleasure in giving out all our balloons to the children and my closing memory is seeing happy faces dancing away with their treasures.  It was a privilege to be part of the Festival and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

I have been privileged to see how Steve has grown his business from an idea, a concept, and take it from strength to strength.  The Norfolk Deaf Festival was huge fun – I was a little nervous about interacting with the children as I don’t have huge experience of working with anyone under 16, but it was great.  Quite often you would find me down on the floor with them and helping spell out their names on their sheets.  It was lovely to have so many positive conversations about Deafness and BSL.  I told many people that I wished I had access to the resources Steve and his team offers as part of his courses, often when I was learning I felt a little stumped trying to watch and learn and being unable to take affective notes at the same time and then tending to forget what I had seen by the time college ended.  With Steve’s resources and back up learning a visual language is made so easy now with all the access to technology.

It was an absolute pleasure to support this event with the team.  The other volunteers were amazing and we all bonded so well. There was such a positive vibe in our team and within the event as a whole.  I hope I get asked back next year!

Julia – BSL Interpreter

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