You might have heard of the famously exclusive Diner en Blanc pop up picnics that started over 25 years ago in Paris by François Pasquier. What started as a gathering of a small group of friends has grown to over 15,000 people in Paris each year and has since expanded to cities around the world.
The rules are simple, yet strictly enforced and specify that you must dress elegantly in head to toe white, bring a table of a certain size, 2 white chairs, white table linens, white dishes and cutlery, and your own food for an elegant picnic. The location is only revealed just before the picnic begins and has historically been held at iconic locations in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower site, the Louvre Pyramid, the Château de Versailles, and the Champs-Élysées. The highly coveted invitations first go to friends of the organisers and their recommendations, then are open to the public waiting list, which reached over 30,000 just a few hours after registration opened for the New York City event.
Thanks to my dad’s obsession with Twitter, I found out about Australia’s first Diner en Blanc event in Brisbane early enough to get my name on the waiting list and buy tickets through the general registration. I now know that it was a stroke of luck that I was able to get through the online ticket purchasing process since it sold out in 20 minutes and ended up with a waiting list of almost 7,000.
After several weeks of anticipation and preparation gathering all of our white essentials, the big day arrived on the first day of Spring. We were assigned one of the 5 transport locations in Brisbane where we had to meet a bus that would take us to the secret location. When we arrived there were 3 white buses and a swarm of white clad picnic goers buzzing around trying to guess the secret location we were about to descend upon like a flash mob. We were only told once en route that we were heading for the Queensland Performing Arts Complex Forecourt at Southbank (an easy guess) – right on the Brisbane River across from the city skyline with the white Wheel of Brisbane as the backdrop and views of the white Victoria Bridge, an iconic location and the perfect spot for Brisbane’s first Diner en Blanc.
When we arrived at Southbank we disembarked the buses and were instructed by our table leader to our row and began setting up our tables and chairs in an organised formation on the lawn while confused onlookers and theatre goers tried to figure out what was happening.
The protocol is that everyone must wait for all of the tables to be set up for the start of the dinner, which took about 10 minutes from the time we arrived and was signalled by everyone waiving their white napkins in the air.
We spent the diner meeting the people on our table row, swapping interesting nibbles, and admiring the effort that everyone had gone through to decorate their table. There were full silver services, 3 tiered stands, meringue towers, elegant candelabras, even white painted sticks that formed a canopy over two tables (see picture).
There was live music that meandered through the rows of tables serenading the guests and people mingling, eager to see who else had received one of the coveted 1,000 places at the event.
At 9pm we all lit sparklers, which signalled the beginning of the dancing, which brought everyone together for an eclectic all white dance party under the stars with a backdrop of the Brisbane city skyline. It was unforgettable.
After the last song was played everyone disassembled their temporary elegant creations, packed up their belongings and left the location, leaving no trace behind.
It was a magical evening that I encourage everyone to seek out and attend wherever possible.
For information on Diner en Blanc visit their website.