Flow Festival: Four days to ‘experience the world through the eyes of Deaf people’

Flow Festival: Four days to ‘experience the world through the eyes of Deaf people’

Flow Festival
Words by Lucas Radbourne

FLOWfestival is Australia’s only Deaf Arts festival, a curated four-day arts and theatre program showcasing the language, culture and heritage of Australia’s Deaf community.

Flow Festival was created and developed by well-known Deaf artists, leaders and facilitators Ramas McRae (festival director), Irene Holub (festival producer), Riona Twomey Tindal and Medina Sumovic. 

The aim was to inform the mainstream hearing community of the unique culture and outstanding artistic output of Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists.  The festival’s organisers – FLOWteam – want to show why Deaf Arts are important, and that Deaf people know what’s best for themselves, yet welcome everyone to experience their world.

What you need to know

  • FLOWfestival is Australia’s only Deaf Arts festival
  • It’s a four day program of free livestreamed performances that begins September 18
  • Featuring a huge array of artistic mediums, you can register on their website

Stay up to date with what’s happening in Melbourne here.

Starting September 18, FLOWfestival will exhibit a diverse four-day program of performances, presenters, workshops, film, theatre and art talks, with over 80 presenters, artists and performers.

Holub says there is a contemporary, overarching social narrative that ties the festival together.

“There is a shift in Deaf Arts as a social movement,” she writes. “It’s a documentation of those influenced by the mainstream who have (un)intentionally removed the rights of people to be different, Deaf and proud. 

“With the growing recognition of sign language and culture, Deaf Arts are developing an identity of their own. The significance of a festival of art and culture that’s driven, designed and delivered by the Deaf community is enormous. The impact for the arts and future Deaf artists will be profound. 

“For younger generations, to be part of this community event that will surround them with role models and pathways for their futures, it’s a substantial offering not available in the hearing world.”

Acquiring grants to cover the broad range of artistic expenses is a challenge that FLOWfestival are accustomed to. However, organising, researching, preparing, rehearsing and then ultimately staging a festival of this magnitude in lockdown has been another monumental challenge. It’s given the already-innovative festival added impetus to stay at the breaking edge of artistic production.

The performers are mostly Deaf, hard-of-hearing or Deafblind, while others are ‘Coda’; the children of Deaf adults. They come from all walks of life, and include First Nations and queer Deaf Arts coordinators. The majority of the festival uses Auslan, and the event will provide interpreters and captions.

“Each performance, event and workshop standalone, but share a common thread that they have lived experience as a Deaf person,” Irene continues. “Diversity is a critical theme in our FLOWfestival, everyone is different and the same. 

“Auslan storytelling, Deaf slam poetry, dance, theatre, short films screening, children’s art activities, workshops, artists talk, Deaf indigenous storytelling/art workshops, queer arts and Deafblind arts are some of the artistic mediums offered at FLOWfestival.

“We want people to experience life through the eyes of Deaf people. Deaf Arts is another way of seeing and embracing the Deaf culture in our community. 

“Deaf Arts is a platform of our culture, language and heritage and Deaf pride in our identity and community. It demonstrates our lived progress in the hearing world.

FLOW  is proudly presented by FUSE Festival and Darebin Arts. For information go to the FUSE website . You can also Visit the FLOWfestival website here to register for the free, livestream performances.