On what was a beautiful Saturday evening this past weekend, we were greeted by a strange sight as we waited for the ferry to the city. The wharf was packed with over 50 people all dressed in white. Our first thought was – wedding. Then we realised that EVERYONE was in white and they appeared to be carrying their own chairs and tables and bags and boxes, so that would be quite a peculiar wedding. I’ll be honest, my hope was for something rather more exciting than a wedding – I was thinking cult members or maybe an alien invasion.
Alas, the real world again failed to live up to my imagination – when those of us dressed in darker colours dared to approach the white folk and ask WTF they were doing, we were let in on the secret. To quote the pretty north shore dolly that I heard explaining the concept: “Well, it’s called Diner en Blanc and it’s, like, a flash mob dinner thing, like, this French idea where you, like, have to wear white and you turn up to a secret location and, like, eat your dinner with a bunch of randoms and then pack up and go home.” Of course, she had me at FLASH MOB DINNER THING.
Disappointed though I was that they were not cult members or preparing for an alien invasion (at least, not that they were prepared to admit), I was impressed when the ferry turned up at Circular Quay and the public space in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art appeared to have been taken over by hundreds and hundreds of whiteys (technically, blanc-ys, I guess). As we later found out, there were almost 1500 people enjoying this flash mob dining experience under the stars alongside Sydney harbour. Of course, as a curious cat I wanted to know more about this phenomenon, so here is what I found out…
The first secret dinner was held, naturally, in Paris. Over 20 years ago, the concept started out on a relatively small scale, but now sees 15,000 people occupying a public space for their evening picnic at this annual event. How does it work? I’ll let the official website tell the story: At the last minute, the location is given to thousands of friends and acquaintances who have been patiently waiting to learn the “Dîner en Blanc’s” secret place. Thousand of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space.
That last sentence made me think that perhaps this wasn’t quite my cup of tea, after all. It sounds like quite a brilliant feat of organisation though – there are table leaders who are responsible for organising their troops prior to the event, and the whole event is set up and then packed up by the guests (with the intention of not leaving a trace of their occupation behind). According to the official website, the select guest list are automatically re-invited the following year, unless of course they have “transgressed the rules or desisted at the last moment, deterred by ominous clouds”, in which case ” their name and email will be put on a black list, prohibiting them from registering for future editions.” Ooh la la.
I like the idea, but my ideal flash mob dinner thing would feature a more casual dress code (though probably with compulsory wigs or hats) and a less formal setup. Actually, you may already know my flash mob dinner thing as a casual summer picnic with friends. Maybe I should try it on a larger scale though, sending out a cryptic message via this blog for a Pique-nique en EverydaySparks. We could eat and drink and speak nonsense for an evening. Allons-y! (I think that is ‘let’s go’, from my high school French classes – apologies to Madame de Reland if that is incorrect.)