ZEISS’ Norwegian solstice – a facilitator's perspective

180 degree capture of the location: misty sea with a wooden footbridge and a little wooden hut

by Lynn Cox

What an offer, to experience the midnight sun 300KM within the Arctic Circle on 21 June, the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. In return, simply run some fun sensory workshops in the dark, to promote Zeiss's new UV protection sun glasses. A bit of a no-brainer!

We were truly an International team with members from Hamburg, Vienna and London. Some of us had worked together on projects, whilst others were new to each other. However, as usual the Dialogue family soon established itself into mutually supportive partners.

From London, it took me around half a day to get to the idyllic Sommarøy island where we were to be based for the workshops. Sommarøy, was peaceful, full of chattering/calling wetland birds and very little motorised traffic. I really noticed that there were no air planes overhead.

On the evening of our arrival we familiarised ourselves with the dark space, a former metal cool room which was used as part of the previous fishing industry. I’ve never worked in a large metal box before; its acoustics were interesting. On that evening, we went through the workshop elements for the next day too.

It was planned that we would work with 140 of Zeiss’s most valued promoters throughout the world. Running 8, 30 minute workshops in the dark. That concentrated on illustrating how people use their senses. We had an activity based on taste identification, another on appreciating different weights, and the third was concerned with recognising the first letter of different scents and re-arranging them into a word. Underlying these tasks were issues around communication, active listening, and structuring etc, so pretty much using the usual skills in the dark, but it was wrapped up within a relaxing atmosphere.

The challenge for these workshops was that our participants were truly global. We had groups from China, Philippines, Brazil, Italy, India, Spain, Portugal; just to name a few. This potentially made communication trickier.

Our participants flight was delayed and had to be diverted to Strasbourg for the evening, so they arrived nearly a day late. This meant that instead of running our workshops from 10AM to 5PM, we ended up running the shortened workshops from 9PM until just after midnight on the evening of 21-22 June – over the solstice itself.

Our team worked with 110 participants in 6 workshops of 25 minutes each. We enabled everyone to experience an entry into the dark, sorting themselves out into alphabetical order and undertaking one of the sensory tasks before exiting themselves from the dark. It was vital that we kept the experience relaxed and fun, whilst still ensuring the participants took away subliminal learnings about the dark experience. Language communications weren’t an issue in the end as with translators, Zeiss and ourselves, we could cover all the languages encountered.

The aspect of the event that I will remember most of all was that the whole of our team, pulled together logistically, supportively and practically to give each participant a real sense of the dark and how enriching the experience can be, if you let yourself enjoy it.

The whole team also experienced a 100KM speedboat ride around the island of Sommarøy at 1:30 in the morning and we had a 3AM barbecue on the beach in the light too.

The one thing you can say about working for DID/DSE is that you never get boring jobs. Challenging and rewarding all the way!