The Schloss-Schule school for the visually impaired and blind in Ilvesheim opens its doors for a special performanceonce a month: The lights are switched off for the events performed in the Kultur im Dunkeln (culture in the dark) series of events. It is an evening of challenges and sensory experiencesat the same time, for artists and spectators alike; as well as for our author Sarah Weik.
Better not move. I’ve stayed put since I pulled the blindfold over my face. I know there are lots of people around me and I don’t want to bump into anyone or step on their toes. I am surrounded by a cacophony of voices. One voice emerges more and more clearly, sounding young and friendly: “Hello, I am Sidney. I’d like to show you in.” I feel Sidney’s hand reaching for mine. He walks off slowly and I follow. I feel a few shoulders and arms along the way. The place is crowded. But then the acoustics change. The many voices disperse. They become quieter and reverberate a bit. “Oh, I must be in the assembly hall,” I am thinking. Sidney is now walking a little faster. I’m stumbling along behind him. My feet don’t quite trust the tour. Sidney stops. “We have arrived at your seat.” He puts my hand on the backrest. I touch and feel the chair and sit down.
The Kultur im Dunkeln (culture in the dark) series of events has been held at the school housed in Ilvesheim Palace since 2003. Lothar Friedrich von Hundheim, first minister of Elector Johann Wilhelm, once resided in the beautiful baroque building in the centre of the municipality. Today, it is a place where blind and visually impaired children learn. It is the only public school of its kind in Baden-Württemberg. Gunter Bratzel has been teaching here for over 30 years. It was his idea to hold this extraordinary series of events. “We had a café in the dark a few years ago. Both the pupils and the guests really liked it.” Bratzel was convinced that “what works on a culinary level would also work on a cultural level.” He knew a few artists and simply asked if they would like to perform without lights. “They all were enthusiastic about the idea straight away.” Since then Kultur im Dunkeln events have taken place every year and have offered a varied programme from September to March offering mainly concerts from pop to jazz, but also improvisation theatre and comedy. In complete darkness.
I start to get used to not seeing anything and concentrate on what I can hear. Two women are talking to each other next to me with one of the voices sounding very close. Someone must be sitting in the chair next to me. Gunter welcomes the guests and announces that he is now going to switch off the lights. Not everybody in the audience has opted for a blindfold; wearing one is voluntary. But everyone experiences the event itself in the dark. The lights go out—I can hear it in the murmur that goes through the hall. “If you want to leave, please say so out loud,” Gunter adds. “Don’t think you can do it on your own. We pulled a spectator out from behind the piano last month.”