Life Remember all those months ago when bewildered furniture shop owners turning up on morning television trying to get to grips with the few moments when their place of work was the most popular for a five mile radius and yet somehow managed no sales? Or when a mass of people turned up at a department store in New York to worship a T-Rex? That was flashmobbing, and wierdly its a trend which seems to have disappeared as quickly as it started. A check through the main news sites reveals that nothing has happened since at least Christmas and in some cases earlier than that.

What happened? Boredom possibly. The shock of the new giving way to over subscription? The anonymity of the event ruined because too many people knew what was happening? A prime example would be an event organised for David Blane in his box in which more people turned up to watch the mob happen than to actually take part. The fact that some wanted to turn these events into a source for direct action to be making a point about something they believed in -- a protest -- which wasn't the point at all. So what happened to the people who were too late for the fun, who joined the bandwagon after it was over? Who turned up for the only flashmob to happen in Liverpool?

I saw the afformentioned interview on the tv show RI:SE and later reports on the local news, visited the websites and signed up to the two Yahoo Groups dedicated to Liverpool Flashmobbing. For about a month the message board was filled with traffic from people who were eager to take part. Two issues were abundantly clear. Most members didn't really know what the point was. They kept offering suggestions which indeed involved making a point about something -- like turning up somewhere which is no-smoking and lighting up on purpose (repulsive) or going to a company which had screwed people on some back end car insurance deal and waving your driving license (not subtle and excludes public transport junkies). Watching other successful flashes elsewhere was disheartening as I realised that again I'd be missing something interesting because of madness and apathy.

Then the organisers began to offer vague hints that something was going to happen. Until from nowhere they said that we should be expecting something. And so on the 22/08/2003 at 4:03pm the following email arrived...

You are cordially invited to the historic event that is, Liverpool's
First Flash Mob!

Firstly I want to remind all what Flash Mobbing is all about; it is
about having fun in a harmless unique way. I ask you to uphold all
normal morals and respect the properties we pass on the way.


So please follow the instructions no matter how random they seem and
please enjoy it.

Here are the Key points to Saturdays Flash Mob.

1. At some point Friday evening/Saturday Morning synchronize your
watch by using either the speaking clock or the following web site:

2. Between 11:20-11:40am on the 23rd August and based on the door
number you live at you should locate yourself in one of the following
City Centre Locations. Act casual and don't group up too much

If your house or flat is an odd number go and wait outside the Gap
Store on Whitechapel

If your house or flat is an Even Number go and wait outside the Job
Centre in Williamson Square (opposite the Playhouse)

3. ALL of you must bring a plastic cup the kind you get at kid's
parties or on the side of a water cooler and if you own one a digital
watch. Also please bring some spare change, less than a pound will do!

4. At some point a MOB rep will arrive, you must approach them saying
in your worst Russian Accent 'Have you got the film?' the rep will
then give you the printed instructions. If you are part of the Flash
mob and are asked this by someone you must reply with the phrase 'The
Film is safe' Read the instructions carefully and then keep the
instructions about your person.

5. These final instructions will provide the destination of the MOB
site, and you should arrive at that destination at the time that it
states. Aim to get there on time, if you are early; stall, if you are
late hurry! Although no one will need to rush.

6. The instructions will contain everything you need to know MOST
importantly the time to leave the MOB site by. The dispersal is just
as important to the success of this MOB as is the arrival. Everyone
should leave as quickly and orderly as they can and truly disperse.

7. After the Flash Mob, carry on with your lives as per normal; await
instructions for the next Flash Mob.

8. At all times remember to have fun and respect the places you visit
and pass.

9. If this goes well I promise that the next one will be the first
ever Celebrity Flash Mob.

This was the stuff, cloak and dagger, mystery, suspense and the future promise of point nine. What was with the plastic cup? Some kind of organised begging or something else? Was the spy-type behaviour in point four part of the theme? So many questions ...

Friday night came and in the absence of a digital watch I synchronised my mobile phone clock. On the Saturday I turned up in town far too early and found myself trying not to look suspicious as I waited for the person with the instructions to arrive. I'd watched a bit of The Hunt For Red October to try and perfect the very worst of Russian accents. At just about the right time, someone who looked even more out of sorts than me arrived with a large bag and stood outside the job centre. I watched tall gangly man approach and follow the instructions and then stepped forward myself. I'd once shouted a slogan at a clerk in Burger King for a free Whopper so I knew the form. Sean Connery would have been proud of my performance and I got the instructions of where to go and what to do. As I dashed off towards the venue, somewhere which couldn't have been more appropriate, all kinds of possibilities seemed to be open ...

To be continued.

End of Part One. Next episode: Room To Maneuver

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