Deaf Travel22nd February 2015

Butlins with the England Deaf Darby & Joan

A brilliant annual event for Deaf over 50's, activities and good company add to people's enjoyment

by Anita Henry

The England Deaf Darby & Joan Organisation is a Deaf Community unlike any other. It is also getting more and more popular, with a lot of Deaf over 50's signing up for the annual one week holiday. The organising committee are thoughtful and considerate, making changes each year in response to feedback and ideas. The introduction of activities specifically for those who use an electric scooter, is a typical example of the evolving and responsive nature of the organisation. 

Attending the annual holiday, is about enjoying the opportunity to be immersed into a Deaf signing world, where the emphasis is about relaxation and enjoyment with lots of planned activities. It is a social occasion enjoyed by hundreds of people each year, and for the first time, Anita had put her name down to attend. This is her reflection of the week.

On Monday 29th October last year I woke up early, very excited because I was going on a short holiday with my two friends. We were going to the Butlins in Bognor Regis. However, for me, this was going to be a holiday with a difference, you see my friends and I are all hearing and we were going to a deaf event, run by England Deaf Darby & Joan (EDDJ). The three of us are level 2 signers, and had asked a deaf friend where she was going on holiday. When she told us, I said I would love to go too, and she said she would ask the organizers if we could go. When I saw here again the following week, she gave me the good news, we were more than welcome.

We arrived at the holiday venue about 2.30pm and I must confess, me and my friends were very nervous.Initially we weren’t sure where to go, but then we saw a deaf group and decided to follow them. Everyone was greeted by the EDDJ staff who were all wearing orange T-shirts, which made it easy to know who to ask if you had a problem.

Everyone was so nice, showing and telling us where to go. We looked for our friend but couldn’t see her or her partner. What was noticeable is that everyone was smiling and happy, with lots of hugs and kisses as people met up. It was like a huge family getting together for a party, all so pleased to see each other.

We went for our dinner at 6pm and finally found our friends. We were introduced to some more people, we needn’t have worried about the fact we were hearing, we seemed to fit in really well. We all talked till after midnight, the time flew, my sides ached from laughing, the jokes they told, the stories they told us. What a wonderful evening. I went to bed looking forward to the next day.

The following day started with a nice breakfast. The dining hall was full of happy faces. I thought it would be quiet but I was surprised, the clatter of plates and people laughing and talking about the night before, providing quite a buzz. We went on a road train, the weather was beautiful. The three of us were wearing our orange lanyard and bracelet, the lanyard had our name badge and EDDJ logo on it. Handily, it also held our room key card. Whilst we were looking around the town, a man asked us if were staying at Butlins as he had seen a lot of people wearing the same thing around their neck. I told him there was a deaf event there, where all the people were over 50. Oh I see, he said, do their carers come too?? I frowned, and said no, the people are deaf not ill!

The entertainment that evening was Bingo, a heritage film show, and a magic show. I was looking around the room and thought to myself, signing isn’t really private, if someone chooses to watch a conversation, they do. When deaf people come together it’s wonderful because they can be themselves and don’t have to worry about hearing people starring, they can just relax and enjoy themselves, which is rightly so.

I was excited when the Bingo started. Everyone was concentrating and looking at the different TV screens which were all around the room. I was distracted as the bar area was busy, bottles were clinking together and making a lot of noise. In a hearing bingo hall, they would have had to have been silent or someone would have said, quiet please, or hush! But here there was no complaining, just total concentration and excited faces.

When the entertainment had finished, the disco started. I was surprised how many woman got up to dance with the Butlin’s red coats. The red coats were doing the actions to the various songs and we all copied, it was fun and we headed for our beds at midnight.

Day three started with breakfast early, before 9, as the blind dominoes were starting at 9.30 in the big hall, the venue for all of the evening entertainment. I had no idea about the rules but by the third game, I understood it. One of the staff had got up onto a chair so everyone could see him, and explained the rules of the game and if there were problems to ask one of the staff to help. It was great fun, although some of the older people took the game very seriously.

At 2pm we were back in the hall for a quiz. The staff split us all up, and we sat in groups of 4, there were about 10 – 12 tables all together. The first 10 questions were given out. My table was a little confused on a question ‘What was a TAMOSHANTER. I signed, oh yes I know this one and proceeded to tell the others what it was, only to be told urgently, “no stop, hands down. Be careful, others will see what the answer is”. I said, “oh yes, I never thought of that.” We didn’t win, but it really didn’t matter.


That evening was going to be special as it was a fancy dress evening. I was dressing up as a Hippy, one of my friends was a Pirate and the other a Gypsy. We were told we would have to go on the stage with all the others who dressed up. I was shocked when I found out, and decided, no way was I going on the stage. So we avoided it by arriving after they had picked the fancy dress winner and went on to have a great evening.

On the fourth day, my friends decided to go and enjoy some beauty treatment. They had booked it for 12 o clock, so I decided to text my cousin who lives in Bognor, to see if he was free for a coffee. Available, we met in the town and I came back at 2pm and met up with my friends again.

We went for a game of crazy golf, which was a great laugh. I am definitely not good at golf, the only good thing was we got to play for free, as we were wearing our orange lanyard.

We went back inside the big tent area, and had a cup of tea. There were lots of amusements for children and adults, even bowling which was fun. I noticed a lot of claw machines, you know the ones, you put in money and then have to move the claw to try and pick out a gift from inside. They had lots of fluffy animals in them. Popular was ‘Baby Oleg”, the Meerkat baby from the TV advertisement. One lady won 6, but my friend tried and tried but had no luck.

Later that night we were in the main hall again for the grand bingo. I didn’t win and one of my friends disappeared at some point but came back later with guess what? Yes, a Baby Oleg! People were asking her where she got it from and the next minute we saw a queue of people at the machine trying to win one.

The final day was home time. Saying goodbye to people we had met, it was quite sad, and seeing the shock on some people’s faces when we told them we were hearing. They thought we were deaf, it was a wonderful feeling and as was being asked if we were going to Skegness next year for the next meeting. We said not next year but definitely the year after, in 2016. I wonder where it will be, I can’t wait.

Article by Anita Henry

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel

22nd February 2015