First published in the November 2011 issue of The Hearing Times.
Sencity started in Holland before migrating to South America, Africa and Australia. Finally, on a Saturday night in October it was London’s turn: the multi-sensory disco night arrived at The O2 to a packed deaf crowd.
For deafies who travelled from across the UK and abroad, this was a spectacular night full of smells, tastes and sights that added up to some kind of deaf utopia, an evening that was set on stimulating every sense we have.
As I travelled along the Jubilee line and walked out of North Greenwich station, I saw deaf
hands signing everywhere, and realised just how big this was going to be.
This was the first time I’d been back in a nightclub-style environment since my university days and upon walking in, setting eyes on a long bar that hugged the back wall and a brightly lit dancefloor in the middle of the room, I had a flashback to the times I used to flash my Student Union card for a cheap pint. That, however, was where the similarity ended.
The first sign that something different was happening was when I looked up at the stage to
see two women cooking on a small stove as what looked like dry ice floated upwards. My first thought is they might be hungry campers who’d taken a wrong turn, but then my olfactory system was suddenly stimulated – and I realised that these were the aroma-jockeys, sending what seemed to be the strong smell of lavender and chocolate drifting through the air.
That made me feel slightly hungry (it doesn’t take much), which made the next treat even better, as waitresses in masks walked through the crowd with trays of chocolates and meringues, topped with cream and strawberry sauce, sometimes containing unexpected jelly beans.
As I stepped on the dancefloor, every beat and groove seemed magnified with vibrations.
After eating so much chocolate this made me feel half-queasy so I decided not to risk my John Travolta impression and went upstairs, where I saw people having massages and their hair styled.
This being a deaf event, once you walked into one part of the party it took an age to leave,
simply because deaf people love to talk! Everywhere I looked, I saw people I knew from
different walks of deaf life, and I also met a lot of new people – some of them sign language learners, others for whom this was their first encounter with deaf culture.
One of the highlights for me was taking a few minutes to watch the video jockey at work, with different images appearing on a huge screen behind the stage, which was hypnotising. As the night went on, more performers hit the stage, with Finnish sign-rapper Signmark entertaining what must have been over a thousand deaf people in the crowd.
It’s not often you go to a night with something for everyone, even less often that you attend a night with so much on offer for deaf people. The only downside of Sencity was that for deafies, other nights out are going to seem one dimensional from now on.