Deaffest, the UK’s leading Deaf-led Film & Arts Festival, returned for its 14th festival, with the theme Unlocked, after its postponement last year.

The biennial festival unlocked their doors from 6th to 8th May during Deaf Awareness Week, after an absence of 3 years. Our return to Deaffest at Light House, Wolverhampton amid glorious rays of sunshine, brought a huge crowd that packed out the courtyard, workshops and cinemas at the venue. Visitors included adults, children, and those from overseas, hailing from nations such as Canada, Switzerland, and France. All were gathered and welcomed by Deaffest.

Isolation is an issue for many Deaf people at the best of times, and during the pandemic and lockdowns, they have been amongst those who suffered most.  At Deaffest, we want to “Unlock” this isolation, enabling Deaf communities and individuals the freedom to discover a positive sense of their identity and re-connect with their rich culture in Deaf Films, Arts and BSL.” Deaffest team

Despite the challenges we have faced and the changes we have had to make to the festival this year, we are delighted that Deaffest 2022 provided a joyous weekend where hundreds of visitors participated. The festival’s success was achieved thanks to the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery as well as our sponsors.

The launch of Deaffest 2022 took place on the evening of Friday 6th May with exclusive screenings by HearArt, including One Letter directed by Brian Duffy, Hair Uncovered directed by Cathy Heffernan, and Night Shift directed by Bim Ajadi. A premiere screening by BSLBT followed; Diagnonsense directed by Samuel Dore. The evening continued in the courtyard, where visitors had a chance to catch up with old and new faces.

Saturday 7th May saw the popular and bustling stalls fair open for business beneath the sunlit glass roof of Light House.  Visitors enjoyed walkabout entertainment by DeafMimo and Vamos Theatre’s hilarious Midwives on Call.  Non-competition screenings took place in Cinema One with various workshops continuing throughout the day. Sessions were led by Comedian John Smith, Danny Murphy (Ambassador for Young Deaffest), Visual Vernacular Performer Ishtiaq Hussain (commissioned by Creative Black Country in collaboration with Zebra Access and Birmingham 2022 Festival), Documentary Maker Cathy Heffernan, and Mime Artist Stephen Robinson.

Above photos taken by Mark Mecklenburgh, Willow Photography Ltd

Below photos taken by Diana Martin

A live streamed interview with the Founders of Deaffest Nikki Stratton and Marilyn Willrich, by BSL Zone was shown on BSL Zone’s Facebook page.  A fantastic exhibition by Deaf artists was showcased in the Main Gallery, where a large audience gathered to watch talks given by the exhibitors.

Thought-provoking panel discussions How to be an influencer like me, The future of female filmmakers in the Film & TV industry, and BSL Zone – meet the Executive Producers and the Programme Makers took place in the afternoon. These attracted a large audience, many from the younger generation.

During the The future of female filmmakers in the Film & TV industry a surprise visitor contributed her input – Wendy Daunt! Wendy is known for her role in Deaf education and her work for CHASE video productions, together with her long-time friend and work partner Jerry Hanifin. She has previously presented an award at Deaffest 2015. During the panel, Wendy volunteered to come up on stage and give inspiring advice and tips on producing videos, asserting how important it is to support one another. The audience were captivated, and the time seemed to fly by!

Above photos taken by Mark Mecklenburgh, Willow Photography Ltd

The highly anticipated 8th Film & TV Awards Gala took place in the evening, led by two fantastic MCs Julian Peedle-Calloo and Yvonne Cobb – BBC’s See Hear presenters. The atmosphere was buzzing, with laughter and smiles in every direction. High profile award presenters including our main sponsors from SignVideo, BSL Zone and Zebra Uno presented awards to 11 category winners.

I’m really delighted to win this fantastic accolade [Best Film], considering the high standard of the nominees in the category.  For me it is a much-appreciated recognition of everyone’s hard work who contributed to the film, in front and behind the camera.  A massive shout-out to you all, from a very proud Director.” – Bim Ajadi

Throughout the evening the audience were entertained with performances by Comedian John Smith, Visual Vernacular Artist Ishtiaq Hussain – whose focus on COVID related well to the Unlocked theme, a dance performance by Lydia Mackett and a sign song performance by Sarah Adedeji.

Photos taken by Mark Mecklenburgh, Willow Photography Ltd

The evening ended with the traditional Late-Night Party, involving a Karaoke session where it seemed some people were trying to sign-sing along, hold drinks, sign to each other, laugh, and applaud, all at the same time!  The audience were really letting their hair down and in the mood to party – and quite rightly so, after 3 years of isolation!

In case you missed them, you can watch the films by the winners and nominees of the Film & TV Awards for FREE on Deaffest Online Cinema – our first-ever online platform – until 11.59pm (GMT) on 14th May 2022.

A big thank you to every individual involved at Deaffest 2022 and we hope you will join us once again for the big celebration of our 15th anniversary at the next Deaffest in 2024!

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About Deaffest

UK's Leading Deaf-Led Film and Arts Festival

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