Dialogue in the Dark

Dialogue in the Dark {Melbourne}

In a world without vision your other senses step in to help you navigate your way.  Dialogue in the Dark allows you to experience Melbourne in a totally unique way.

This is a “tour” of Melbourne like no other that will be long remembered – and will most likely open your eyes.

When:  Monday – closed except for public holidays and special events, Tuesday to Thursday – 10am to 6pm, Friday – 10am – 9pm, Saturday – 10am – 6pm, Sundays and public holidays – 10am – 5pm and by special appointment

Where:  Harbour Town, Level 1, 29 – 31 Star Crescent, DOCKLANDS

Cost:  $19 for child aged 9-15, adult $42.50 and family (2 adults 2 children) $99 – please note during the September School holidays there is a special discount offer if you book online.

So what exactly is Dialogue in the Dark and is it something for kids?

First up, you need to be nine-years-old and above to take part in Dialogue in the Dark.  And I would absolutely take the kids.

Second – while I describe the experience as a “tour” it actually all takes place within the exhibition space in Harbour Town – a mock-up of Melbourne experienced through textures, smells and sounds.  The tour is done in complete blackout darkness.

During the hour you move through iconic Melbourne destinations relying on every other sense other than your sight.

Tour groups are small (we were a group of 5, the maximum is 8) and led by a vision impaired guide.

We were instructed to arrive 20 minutes before our tour began so that we could visit the bathroom (you aren’t able to leave the tour and then return) and put our belongings into one of the lockers included in our ticket.  You’re not allowed to take anything that emits any light into the tour (and bags and coats aren’t needed either) – the staff have even gone to the extent of taping up shoes with LED lights in them!  It really is 100% pitch black inside.

After we were settled and ready to go we had a simple briefing about how to use our canes, what would happen when we went into the darkness and they answered any questions we had about the logistics of our tour.  Immi (11) was nervous about being in the dark and finding it scary so she wanted to know if we would be surprised by anything scary (hmmm I think she’s still thinking about the Halloween event we went to last year!).  Charlie had lots of questions  – but Aliane, who held the briefing, wasn’t giving away too many details of our tour.Dialogue in the Dark

We were shown to the hallway that went into the darkness and told to hang onto the handrail and keep going until we found our guide Cassie.  Quite quickly we were in pitch darkness and as we heard Cassie’s voice encouraging us forwards the handrail ended and we were on our own with our canes.  A confronting moment, but after initial jitters, I tentatively moved a few steps forward – the nervous giggles of the kids in front of me echoing around.

Cassie encouraged us to explore our space.  Listen to the sounds – what could we hear?  Given we were 6 people in absolute darkness it was important to keep talking so that people didn’t crash into you – so we were all busy volunteering what we could hear and what we thought we were touching.

I quite quickly ended up in a clump of bushes and I spent a few moments there just trying to orientate myself – where was I?  What was to my right, to my left, in front of me (okay some bushes) but what was behind me?  I would love to see infrared footage of us in that first space – I am sure I didn’t move very far at all.  A whole section I am sure I left unexplored – when I moved a few steps to my left I no longer knew where I was in relation to anything… it was utterly disorientating – and while I felt 100% safe in this experience I know if I was out in the real world it would be absolutely terrifying.

The kids adapted quickly…

Charlie (9) was largely unchanged – he was still bustling past everyone to be at the front, super excited to be part of everything and go first… I am pretty sure he was running as he bolted past me a few times as he did extra laps of the space we were exploring.  Despite Immi’s initial fears about the dark before we went in, she seemed to completely forget them as soon as we were inside – her mind was distracted with the challenges Cassie set us as we moved through the different spaces.

The tour goes for an hour – it went really quickly.  The kids were both disappointed when it ended.  During the last 10 or so minutes we sat and had an opportunity to chat with Cassie about anything we wanted to – the kids wanted to know about her dog and they wanted to know what she looked like (we did get to meet her before we left).  There were also questions about how does she know which traffic lights are beeping when it’s a busy noisy street.  Charlie wanted to know how she picked up her dogs poo.  Cassie very generously (and patiently!) answered our questions and then it was time to return into the daylight and say goodbye.

So while Dialogue in the Dark might simply be a tour of Melbourne in darkness it’s much more than that.

I believe without a doubt that those living without sight are possibly the bravest people out there – navigating simple daily journeys I am sure would become second nature over time, but I would challenge anyone to suggest that it would ever be a “simple journey” or without fear.  Our experience took place in a very controlled and safe environment – the real world is often unpredictable and, as an adult, I think my main takeaway from Dialogue in the Dark was one of total awe.

For more details visit: dialogueinthedark.com.au

Dialogue in the Dark