Laura Hawksworth: Deaf clubs are rich with history and culture. Young Deaf people need to support them

Posted on February 16, 2015

When I watched John Smith’s article about deaf clubs on Limping Chicken, I was inspired to tell my story from a young person’s point of view.

Those days, if you ask a young person if they went to their local deaf clubs, most of them would scoff and say deaf clubs are lame.

From my experience, most of you may say I had an advantage in that my parents were deaf and mingled in the deaf clubs since they were young, but you forget one thing, readers. They could have stopped when I was born.

They could have left me home with a baby sitter when they went out, but every single time, they brought me along because they wanted me to embrace my identity instead of hiding away at home or within a limited group of fellow deaf friends.

Laura Hawksworth (left)

Laura Hawksworth (left)

Don’t get me wrong, the deaf community is bigger than you could ever imagine. From my older friends’ memories and my own experience, the deaf community is the life and soul of every single party, but there are deaf people who limit themselves to the deaf people they’ve known for years, rather than going out, meeting new people and broadening their horizons.

I was raised in a deaf club environment, where people would come into such an extraordinary small space and drink, chat and laugh the night away.

Even from a young age, I would play bingo… until I got bored and gave it to Mum or Dad to play for me.

I played sports, from snooker to football from a young age. My parents always encouraged me to go to deaf clubs and embrace the deaf culture. My true culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I lip-read a lot and I rely on my hearing aids, especially at work, like a lot of deaf people, young and old, today but I consider myself deaf, regardless.

When I look at young people today, I pity them for losing out to a wonderful childhood of dressing up, playing games and having proper role models.

My father was my role model and still is, regardless of his death. However, since then, I have met wonderful people who mean a lot to me and now I look up to them. They support the deaf club and have been for so long. Their support is even older than I am!

The age gap between me and my role models is massive, but I was raised that way – you should never care about age. I was taught to respect my elders, like everyone else, but to also be friends with them because they can teach you so many wonderful things.

I know a particular couple who could simply walk away from the deaf club and mix with the hearing world so easily, you’d never notice, but they come almost every week and support us in so many ways and I have learned so much from them.

So when I heard deaf clubs across the UK were closing down due to lack of funds, I was devastated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my deaf club and I am so incredibly lucky to have Norwich Deaf Social Club. In fact I’m a committee member.

I know young people, like my friends, consider me odd and strange but most importantly, very sad for being so loyal to the deaf clubs after so many years, but I don’t care.

They constantly mock me about it, but you know what? I had some of my best memories in that place, and I will carry on making more memories in the same place.

Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn or Norwich, young people deserve to have a place where they can escape to from the pressures of our lives.

Right now, I am attempting to encourage young people to come to their local club so they can learn but have a laugh at the same time. Sadly, most young deaf people have stereotypes of them.

However, I have never forgotten this simple fact… current deaf club members partied, drank and rebelled when they were our age.

They are not so different from us. I know my father and mother drank, played sports and drank even more when they were eighteen.

Our older generation isn’t so different from me, but young deaf people seem to forget this. If you meet a deaf person, they will tell you fantastic stories about their youth that would put your youth to shame; I’ve met so many people at deaf clubs that put my youth to shame.

They were young. They drank. They partied. They married. They had children. Yet they remained so loyal to deaf clubs. I can’t tell you how many parents here in Norwich brought their children, hearing or deaf, to our local deaf club.

I’ll say this again. Deaf clubs are rich with history, legacies and culture. Imagine this. A deaf history without deaf clubs. Impossible, isn’t it? Well, it will be one day for the next generation if we don’t do something now.

Even popping up to your local club once a year could make a massive difference for our future. For our generation. This is our time to make our older generation proud.

This is the time to prove them wrong that we don’t care. Because let’s face it, we do care, or else we wouldn’t identify ourselves as deaf. Those people who created deaf communities created them for a reason.

Without the idea of a deaf community meeting in one place, we would have never had deaf pubs or massive events such as Deafpool. We would be sitting at home, isolated and lonely, shut off from the world but most importantly, from each other.

Our legacy as a deaf community, our extraordinary history, our powerful identity, our wonderful culture and our stubborn pride; for me that is what deaf clubs are all about and we are not embracing that anymore.

Read about Laura’s Deaf bowls team here:

Laura is a nineteen years old profoundly deaf writer who writes about anything and everything. She says she is physically young but old at heart.

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