Two weeks ago the first-ever Gaslight Festival was held for Deaf and hard of hearing people and their families. It was a four-day camping festival in Maldon, a Victorian town where gold was discovered in the mid-1850s.
The festival had a variety of interesting workshops, classes and sports activities provided in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). I was excited to attend with my family for two reasons: the name Gaslight holds a very special historical meaning for our Deaf community's lives, and I was excited by the choice of many fun activities.
I think it was a good choice to name the festival Gaslight. In the early 1880s, the Deaf community often travelled far to visit a deaf club in East Melbourne to socialise in their language. Once the deaf club would close at midnight, Deaf people went to a lighted area, under a gas lamp, to continue chatting.
Performances and activities
There were 20 stalls holders at the festival that were run by both Deaf and hearing people. Some were interesting and unique. The stall vendors ranged from providing information about technological devices, Deaf sports associations and private businesses to spiritual card readings and yoga in Auslan.
My family, three kids aged 4 to 10 years, and my husband and I especially enjoyed the performance Muckheap by the Polyglot theatre. We all had many laughs at the two messy people, both fluent in Auslan and English, trying to clean out their shed that was attached to much junk filled with memories.
My children enjoyed playing cricket and making art creations from the Junk Puppet workshop. My son made a flying aeroplane and my daughter a large bird. There were other fun activities including fire twirling, hula hoop, bushwalking and a winery tour. We wanted to do everything but we had to miss out due to our hunger pangs and needing a rest from all the excitement.
I was told by others there were interesting presentations by speakers. Our well known Deaf history lecturer Breda Carty, talked about the
horrible histories that happened to Deaf people in the distant past. Anne Bremner, a Deaf Kanga Institute teacher, raised interesting questions about Deaf culture and if it really exists for us Deaf people.
Future Gaslight Festivals
David Peters, the coordinator of the festival, said there was lots of positive feedback and some negative feedback about the festival.
This is the first ever time we held this and a few people attended but that is to be expected as it is a new event. I'm sure in the years thereafter the attendance will grow as the word spreads. The same happened to the Vicdeaf Xmas Deaf Rally which is held every year, he said.
David hopes everyone will have a clearer understanding of what to expect the next time the festival is organised in two or three years' time.
Overall, it was a great camping experience for my whole family. It was especially so for my four-year old daughter. She was delighted and surprised to see her teacher Kate Parremore from the Aurora Bilingual Kindergarten in Blackburn. They had a lovely cuddle. It is a small world with everyone having connections with each other.