We have recently had the great privilege of working over the last few weeks with the staff of a well-known Farringdon-based restaurant, Dans Le Noir?, supporting them to bring their new concept of the Silent Party from their Barcelona restaurant to London. Dans Le Noir is famous for its dining in the dark, (yes, that’s right!!!) but they wanted to push the boundaries a little – hence the addition of the Otra Vista (meaning ‘other perspective’) Club.

Dans Le Noir? wanted to establish their innovative new concept of introducing sign language into the silent party, and felt they needed the support of a deaf organisation to help implement their vision. We were fortunate in being asked!

Our deaf awareness trainer, Mandy Crump, visited the restaurant a few weeks ago to spend a full day with the staff providing a mixture of deaf awareness training and an introduction to basic British Sign Language. All the staff were enthralled by what they’d learned, and are now keen to continue to develop their new skills!

In addition to that, our beautiful staff member, Hanisha, was photographed and videod demonstrating how to sign a variety of words and sentences, ranging from hello, what is your name, and do you come here often…to the signs for alcoholic cocktail, champagne, and red wine!

Then we worked hard using the photographs to create the drinks menu showing the correct signs for the drinks, and an information sheet on which we showed the useful sentences with the signs alongside, to give people a kick start in communicating without using either sound or speech. Hanisha will be famous in the London area soon!!! I’m sure she’ll love the indirect attention she’s receiving!

So, the staff were prepared for the launch night which took place on 15 March.

On the first night, which was an invitation only event in conjunction with Time Out magazine for the well-known press, journalists and bloggers, four of us travelled down to London to the restaurant. The diners arrived, and were led into the darkness for their first experience of sensory deprivation, their eyesight, while they ate their food.

When the meal was over, people headed to one of the two dance floors, (this wasn’t in complete darkness in case you were wondering!) The lights were just dimmed. People were provided with headsets, enabling them to listen to one of the two excellent DJs providing the fantastic music, and the four of us, plus some others who were also able to sign, were around to mix and mingle, encouraging them to use their basic signs to start chatting to someone, to order their drinks at the bar, and to generally communicate using sign language instead of speech! It was highly amusing, and a great learning experience for those attending! And so they experienced their second sensory deprivation of the evening – hearing.

We had some great feedback on the night. People had really valued the opportunity to experience the restaurant and not be able to see the food, but also to spend the evening learning something of what it’s like to be a deaf person, and to experience communicating without access to speech. Eventually they left with the confidence to be able to ‘have a go’ at communicating with deaf people, and the knowledge of some basic, but very useful, signs! What a fantastic, fun and productive evening!

We were also able to support Dans Le Noir? in recruiting their first deaf person as Project Coordinator, with the aim of developing the Otra Vista Club concept, and soon to bring in a further 4 deaf staff to work behind the bar and to mix with the customers, showing them some signs and facilitating communication generally! The Project Coordinator will introduce himself to you in due course and will update you as he develops the service…

Jaz Mann, Head of Services at Action Deafness, said: “It’s been such a privilege to be involved, and we’re proud to say we’re a ‘Friend of Dans Le Noir?’. We look forward to working with them again in the future!”

Edouard de Broglie, Director and founder of Dans le Noir? said: “When we set up a new project we try to bring in experienced people to create the best experience for our visitors. I was impressed by the very professional support we received from the Action Deafness team managed by Jaz Mann. After Barcelona and London, we’ll now try to bring this experience to Paris.”

We all had a great night, and that was only the first of many! The Otra Vista Club will now run every Friday night from 10pm till 1.00am.

Have a look at the video clip that was produced on the night to give you a flavour of what it was like, and also see some photos below.

Deaf people are able to access the Dans le Noir ? Otra Vista Social Club for free. They will just pay for their drinks.

It’s a great experience that we’re privileged to have been a part of! Don’t miss it!

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