Edinburgh Deaf Festival to take place 12-19 August

Photo of Jamie Rea, Solar Bear; Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Fringe Festival CEO, Philip Gerrard, Deaf Action CEO using sign language underneath a large screen with Edinburgh Deaf Festival graphic displayed

We were delighted to hear the announcement that a new Deaf Festival taking place in Edinburgh this summer might well become an annual event. The Edinburgh Deaf Festival is the first of its kind in Scotland and is organised by Deaf Action and, importantly, support was shown by over 100 leading figures form the arts, business, charity and politics gathered at its launch last week, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

Unique in Scotland and the rest of the UK the performing arts festival will run from 12-19 August, will be a celebration of deaf culture, language and heritage. The event is deaf-led in its organisation, production and its shows and events, and will feature drama, magic, comedy, cabaret, tours and exhibitions, and even a spectacular deaf rave.

Philip Gerrard, CEO of Deaf Action, said: “A few years ago there was a debate organised by the Fringe about whether we should have a deaf festival. At the end of that session I stood up and said ‘I will make this happen’. And three years later, here we are. It is so thrilling.

“The festival will be a real celebration of our language, culture, heritage and the variety of people that make up our community."

The programme launch, which was held at Bonnie & Wild at the St James Quarter last Friday, brought together performers and supporters including Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy, plus representatives from EventScotland, the Scottish Government and St James Quarter.

Shona McCarthy, said: “The Edinburgh Fringe is really proud to be associated with the first deaf festival in Scotland.

“I am completely thrilled to see this happen. It’s amazing to see Deaf Action, and the all the community, come together to put together such a comprehensive programme. And they're still adding to it. 

“I think this is something that’s going to continue into the future and I hope it becomes an annual addition to the festivals landscape.”

Make sure you add the dates to your diary! The program and tickets are available through the Edinburgh Fringe box office. Some festival highlights will include

  • Perspectives with Gavin: International standup Gavin Lilley shares his experiences as a deaf person navigating a hearing world.
  • SPILL YOUR DRINK: Deaf cabaret from Glasgow’s Solar Bear theatre company which works with deaf and hearing actors, theatre makers, artists and young people.
  • Deaf Rave: with leading deaf DJs including DJ Chinaman, MC Geezer, DJ Ceri Karma, Jia McKenzie and Billy Reid in an underground car park in the St James’ Quarter.
  • The Funny Punny Magic Show: with the acclaimed Tricky Ricky.
  • Once Upon A Raindrop: Cheerful, funny, magic show for toddlers with a walkthrough performance with sensory games and magic tricks.  

Christina McKelvie, Minister for Equalities and Older People, said: “I warmly welcome the Edinburgh Deaf Festival to Scotland’s festivals family this year and thank Deaf Action for their work in organising. 

“This inaugural festival will highlight the wonders of deaf culture and its arts which will be a showcase of how communities can come together to enjoy inclusive and accessible entertainment, stories and cultural enrichment. 

“In our Culture Strategy for Scotland, the Scottish Government set out our goal of supporting everyone, regardless of background, language or disability, to lead a cultural life of their choice, with all aspects of cultural engagement available to them. 

“This festival will be fully aligned with our government’s intention to ultimately make Scotland the best place in the world for people who sign to live, work, visit and learn – so that people whose primary language is BSL will be fully involved in all areas of daily and public life in Scotland.”

Edinburgh Deaf Festival will also feature tours, exhibitions, workshops and book clubs, and performances will include a mix of deaf and hearing artists. All of the performances will be interpreted and captioned and will be inclusive for hearing people as well as the deaf and hard of hearing.

More great news is that Deaf Action will also be working with the Fringe to make its own events more accessible.

The festival will also feature an exhibition and screening as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, which has been designed to spotlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of deaf-led stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland.

Edinburgh Deaf Festival is supported by Creative Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nancie Massey Trust.


Pictured: Jamie Rea, Solar Bear; Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Fringe Festival CEO, Philip Gerrard, Deaf Action CEO.

Tags: deaf, deaf festival, edinburgh festivals, edinburgh deaf festival, Edinburgh international fringe festival


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