Here you will find some of the written and spoken responses from the participants of the Silent Dinners.
Podcast: The Art of Social Change with Honi Ryan, Abi Tariq, Alix de la Chapelle, and Gaby Salomon, 2021.
Podcast: Hereness with Honi Ryan and Sarah Breen Lovett, 2020.
What guests have had to say about their experiences with Silent Dinner Parties:
“the “conversation” became remarkably open – any pretence or affectation just falls away when you are reduced to communicating at a really basic level.”
“You will be astonished at your own creativity – it is possible to convey quite complex ideas using only facial expressions and hand gestures, and of course any embarrassment you feel because of the way you’re waving your hands around wildly and pulling the most ridiculous faces soon dissipates when you realise every other person around you is doing the exact same thing.”
“From this simple idea was born one of the funniest shows I have attended.”
SDP participant, Adelaide, Australia 2012.
“It was a fascinating experience, and I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out like I thought, because i was worried it might be too confronting or awkward. I think it was both confronting and a little awkward (for me at least) but I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to be there. So thank you so much for having offered it.
I think the experience reminded me that I (and maybe most people) throw words around a little bit too much, because it’s easy or it fills the air and makes us feel less naked and vulnerable. So a lot if the time it’s not because we have anything much to say that we speak.It’s amazing to see how spoiled for choice we are if we are able to speak. So having to be silent felt like a strange mix of being free from a surfeit of options and then really challenging having to navigate a whole other realm of communication. I was surprised to see that some people can be so loud and extroverted without saying anything. And to see the playfulness and child-like humor that is really exaggerated and almost essential to communicate when you don’t have words (or sign language). I suppose depressing charades is kind of an oxymoron.”
Briony Throssell, Melbourne, Australia 2012
“What an insane way to wake up to a reality we have facing us everyday. The comfort of language, of sound, of communication… If we can continually tap into our energy and know who we are inside, I don’t really think we need a base of audible communication to propel us forward, Thank you so much Honi for this experience and I look forward so much to seeing you again and would love to take part in another dinner! FOR SURE FOR SURE FOR SURE!!!!”
SDP Guest, Shanghai, 2009
“I am really thankful for the experience, I would do it again in a flash.”
SDP guest, Shanghai, 2009
“I felt like our Silent Dinner Party was the loudest party on the block”
SDP Guest, Sydney, 2007
“It was a very intimate time for me and it was all in complete silence. Complete silence. So simple. So pure. So true and so real.”
SDP Guest, Shanghai, 2009
“No media made the people get active!”
SDP Guest, Germany, 2007
“Making that choice to interact in the space of silence put me in touch with faith and free will. I encourage others to join a silent dinner party simply to exercise the free will to say “I choose” to interact with others even if there are difficulties or misunderstandings.”
SDP Guest, Shanghai 2009
“I thought it would be less, there was so much going on and somehow I just wanted to sit there with the people but alone with my head”
SDP Guest, Germany, 2007
“I was expecting to endure the longest bout of boredom I will have ever gone
though (I was so sad when I discovered I was not allowed to bring a book and
read during the whole thing). Though when the party started, I could tell
from the first minute that this was not going to be the case. I have been to
dinner parties before and communicated much, much less than this one (and
laughed a lot less for that matter, if you call reeling over and trying not
make a sound while your body is convulsing in humorous fits laughing).”
SDP Guest Shanghai 2009
“Without talking, everyone was forced to be more in the moment, as without talking you can’t readily convey anything about past or future. You also don’t get stuck in that whole what you do? where you’re from? etc type of conversation to find out about people and judging people on that basis rather than who they are as a person.”
SDP Guest, Sydney, 2009
“As the dinner party commenced it seemed as though all peoples inhibitions were cast out the window instantly, considering the absurdity of not being able to talk, communication had to be through your character and gesture, which turned out to be more than enough equipment to work with”
SDP Guest, sydney 2009
“The two points I walked away with were these.
– Words allow us to create a mask
– Keeping quiet is very exhausting ”
SDP Guest, Sydney 2009
“I have had the privilege of attending four SDPs, two in Shanghai, one in Beirut and one in Dubai.
Despite each of these having entirely different groups of people with the most diverse ethnicity you could imagine, each turned out to be an extremely enjoyable and highly memorable evening, even though I never spoke a word to anyone!
Having lived as an expatriate for 6 years (in countries where not only am I unable to speak the local language but am surrounded by other expats from across the globe with different mother tongues) it was such a refreshing, culturally educational and entertaining experience for me as the normal “Language Barrier” that you would encounter when different cultures collide was smashed into pieces and everyone was on the same communicative playing field; everyone gets involved instead of not joining into the conversation because you are linguistically unable to.
When speech and language – your primal method of communication and what principally defines us within our culture identity – is taken away, your basic human need to communicate finds some very clever and always entertaining methods of expressing itself.
My personal most memorable moment was after the Beirut SDP where someone (who came alone after seeing a flier on a lamp post) said that where normally her naturally shy character would inhibit her from really getting involved in conversation when she didn’t know anyone, kind of forcing her to feel on the outside at one of these sort of events, she actually really had such a great time as the lack of speech allowed her to feel more on an equal level with everyone and really felt part of the party – amazing!
At the end of each night I always come to the same conclusion: we are all exactly the same. Seriously, forget racial and cultural segregation; we all have the same needs, same humour and same souls when it comes right down to it.
A radio show on Silence, including a segment on the SDPs and snippets of recordings from a Silent Dinner in Sydney 2011. Produced by Katherine Lim for FBI radio’s award winning show “All The Best”. Download the audio. The section on the SDPs is toward the end of the show.
Listen to a radio interview with RRR in Melbourne 2012 for the Melbourne Fringe events. The silent dinner chat starts about 30 seconds into the audio.