Despite there being 11 million deaf people in Britain, when it comes to places for them to socialise, there is almost a total dearth. Wanting to address this, Hackney-based DJ Troi Lee organised his first ‘Deaf Rave’ back in 2003. Lee, who is deaf himself, has since cultivated a close community of people who, like him, are eliminating the widespread stigma attached to deaf music lovers, one party at a time.
Lee’s events – which are frequented by hundreds of deaf guests from all over the world – offer a much-needed alternative to simply lip-reading. “You just turn the base up, and you will feel that vibration,” he explains.
Huck first met with Lee back in 2018 for Beyond The Screen – a video series following six grassroot communities led by people organising online and affecting real-world change. In an update on the series, we revisited Lee to find out how his deaf raves are adapting amid the pandemic.
“It was really, really blooming,” says Lee of his business prior to COVID-19. Social distancing measures then led to a string of cancelled festivals, and Lee was left fearing not only for the future of his business, but the mental wellbeing of his community. “Isolation is the worst thing that can happen to anyone,” he says, “especially if you have a disability.”
With the need for these gatherings now all the more acute, Lee remains as committed to his project as ever. After receiving a grant from the Arts Council England, Lee decided to resurrect his Deaf Rave online with virtual DJ performances. It’s meant he can reach audiences from even further corners of the globe, and provide them with a space to connect in isolation.
To learn more about how Lee has kept his community alive through the pandemic, watch the first episode of Beyond The Screen In Lockdown above.
Tune into Deaf Rave’s online festival on September 26.
Follow Deaf Rave on Twitter.