Adam Bird


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Monday, 10 October 2011

Sencity 2011

On Saturday evening just gone, I went to the O2 arena with my sister, her husband and my mother for an evening out at an event called Sencity 2011, which was held within the Indigo nightclub which sits under the famous O2 tent. Sencity is a club night promotion held for deaf people and their friends and family, who can enjoy a multi-sensory experience where music isn’t the main attraction. For someone who was rather nonplussed about going, the night turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Firstly, a little bit of history. Deafness in our family is like a badge, it is who we are. Mum is the eldest of five siblings - all of whom are deaf, born to a deaf mother. The sisters, all have deaf children of varying severity. The boys, as we’ve now scientifically discovered, help prevent the gene which carries the defect from being passed on as it’s carried within the tail of the sperm which fertilises the egg (it’s amazing what men in white coats can do nowadays). Which for me comes with a slight blessing, as it would appear at least for now that my own children will be exempt from what is a life defining affliction. Unfortunately, there is a prevailing female dominance in the family, my sister has three girls, my auntie has four, so the deaf gene will continue to be passed on for the next few generations at least.

Having a serious hearing loss hasn’t affected Mum’s ability to enjoy music, which some people find hard to understand. How you can you enjoy something that you cannot hear? But it’s not always what you listen too, music is a multi-sensory experience in itself, what you can feel, both physically and through the emotive response to the lyrics or through the personal emotion that the artist portrays through their performance, which is exactly what Sencity was all about.

The venue, a large bowl in which the dance-floor is spacious and well proportioned had upon it a smaller, raised dance-floor which vibrated in time with the music, which was a mixture of dance music and urban R&B. On stage, various deaf DJ’s went through their sets, some accompanied by sign dancers, which were as described, people on stage dancing, whilst signing along to the lyrics of the song. Also on stage was an Aroma DJ, mixing like a mini apothecary various potions which when ready and smoking, wafted across the arena quite pleasantly, adding to the overall experience and atmosphere of the occasion.

My particular highlight was Signmark, a deaf rapper, who was accompanied by a signer and had the subtitles of the lyrics displayed on the wall in the background. You could quite easily have been at a gig in the main arena next door such was the level of professionalism in the performance - but a key thing I noticed, was whenever a performer was on stage, the dancing stopped. Everyone pays attention to the signer, or the lyrics as they scurry quickly across screen, one of a couple of subtle differences that I picked up on a night of very new experiences.

But it wasn’t just the value of having each of the five senses heightened. My cousin Charlotte, who we met there, brought with her a friend, who has perfect hearing and it was the pair of them that highlighted for me the real value of Saturdays event. On a normal night out with her friend, Charlotte has to rely on her to interpret things that have been said, or keep asking questions such as “what did he/she just say?”. But on Saturday night, the shoe was very much on the other foot. Charlotte, signing away to a guy, who she’d just got talking to as her friend watched on trying to work out what was being signed. Asking Charlotte what was being said and if she could say back something on her behalf, even saying to me that she didn’t realise “deaf blokes were so fit”, which I attributed entirely to her youthful ignorance.

Ultimately, it wasn’t about me, I was just along for the ride and had a thoroughly good time in the process, but for people like Mum and Charlotte it was a chance for them to feel part of something ‘normal’ where they are the ones who know exactly what it is that’s going on and the hearing are in the minority trying to keep up. Music, ultimately is just noise which evokes a sensation or an emotion, things that just because you can’t hear doesn’t mean you don’t have. In fact, as a thousand people testified on Saturday night - probably the opposite.

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