The Blind Cafe was started by Brian Rocheleau, known by Rosh, with his friend Rick Hammond and Chef Marcus Mccauley in 2010. After experiencing a cafe in the dark in Iceland while on tour as a performing singer-songwriter, Rosh felt inspired to use the concept of darkness, to initiate positive social change experiences for people, in hopes they would have an opportunity to re-relate with their world in a more meaningful and compassionate way.
Rosh wanting to see what it was like to use the darkness as a way to build community and also to perform music, providing an experience of listening to live music in the dark for his community, without the distraction of their cells phones, social etiquette and visual conditioning.
He partnered up with a foodie friend Chef Marcus McCauley who was inspired to create a sensory tasting experience. He then met his friend Rick Hammond, a spoken word artist who happens to be blind and introduced the idea of creating a Blind Cafe Experience, where the attendees would have the opportunity to experience: 1) a social community dinner ( everyone break bread together at 6 - 8 person tables ), 2) a heart to heart discussion as a group in the form of a Question and Answer with the blind staff and the sighted audience about blindness and 3) a live music listening experience, all in complete darkness.
The experience rings people in via something they are comfortable with, dinner. But with a twist, it’s in complete darkness. The guests ( 50 - 120 ppl ) literally break bread together in the dark at community tables. This instantly takes a crowd of people who otherwise didn’t know each and would likely not interact as much or mindfully, in the light; become part of a collected experience as they are all going through the same darkness ordeal of no vision.
The darkness breaks down a lot of social barriers as everyone has a collected experience without being seen. In the dark it doesn't matter if your black, white, tall, short, blind, wearing grateful dead clothes or in a business suit. It's a powerful forum to create a social impact on people.
Then comes the educational component, where a tibetan singing bowl is rung to bring everyone’s attention together. The audience is taught to participate in an ‘active listening experience’ where they learn to listen and engage as a group. This is the blind awareness component of the event, where the legally blind waitstaff ( or ambassadors ) share their personal stories about their blindness and the audience is engaged in a question and answer forum. This is the heart to heart experience in the dark where people ask questions they would never ask in a lighted setting. The blind staff open up about their lives, it’s very intimate, personal and vulnerable. The fact that everyone is in the complete darkness, the impact of the Q & A is ten fold, due to the fact that no one has the distraction of their cell phones, or visual cues. They are intentionally setup through the active listening, to receive a more compassionate and impactful experience from the Q & A.
Next comes the live music in the dark experience. Now that they have shared food in community with one another and shared a discussion about blindness, the music gets them into their emotional bodies. Rosh & the Blind Cafe Orchestra, perform a set of 5 - 9 singer-songwriter songs accompanied by a quartet, with a varying line up of guitar, male /female vocals, cello, viola, violin and piano. Experiencing music in the dark at this point in the event is very powerful as people are allowed to be fully feel the emotional impact of music without the self conscious glances of being seen by others.
“I actually cried during your song ‘Transcend’ which is not something I would have let myself do, if I knew that people could see me. But knowing that I was invisible, it was much easier to let my emotions flow and that felt SO healthy! It was also nice to end on a higher emotional note with everyone singing and standing together. Our table was all holding hands and swaying too! I walked out of there with such a happy full heart!”
— Katie Maginnis, Seattle