Look who’s not coming to Diner en Blanc

Ce Soir Noir offers cheeky alternative to exclusive picnic

Having trouble finding an affordable community event in “no fun city”? Two Vancouverites have an answer.

East Vancouver artists Graeme Berglund and George Vergette are the creators of Ce Soir Noir, a fun tongue-in-cheek alternative to the exclusive Diner en Blanc, both of which take place Aug. 25. Whereas Diner en Blanc is a chic picnic that originated in Paris where attendees wear all white, Ce Soir Noir is a free public picnic at Crab Park with no waitlist and attendees are asked to dress all in black.

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“I’ve known of Diner en Blanc for years and watched it grow in size with a desire for more cultural events in the city,” explains Berglund of the inspiration behind the event.

And there does seem to be an appetite, judging from the 500 people who signed up to attend Ce Soir Noir just 24 hours after it was posted online. Now approximately 1,300 people say they will be going, according to the event’s Facebook page.

“There’s something powerful about simply opening doors to allow people of any class in the city to do what people generally do in the park; sit on a blanket and have snacks,” says Berglund.

Unlike Ce Soir Noir, Diner en Blanc’s location is kept secret until the last minute and tickets are coveted. Last year the waitlist in Vancouver was more than 30,000 names long. This year 4,500 guests will be attending.

“The ironic position of paying x amount of dollars to attend dinner in a public space fenced off from the public where you bring your own food is strange messaging,” says Berglund, who hopes Ce Soir Noir will generate discussion about community and cultural events in Vancouver.

“Creating conversation around the two pieces is really quite important in a city that has struggled in the cultural growth sector,” explains Berglund.

Although the picnic is an alternative to Diner, Berglund notes it is not against the popular annual event.

“Diner en Blanc struck a chord with a lot of people in the city. That’s a really, really positive thing,” he says “I get the whole Diner en Blanc and George does too. We just wanted to create an alternative with a more inclusive vibe that’s more community oriented.”

The Ce Soir Noir event’s Facebook page is very explicit about the inclusivity of the event. It comically warns, “There will be gay people here. And Latinos. Lots of them. Some Persian folks. Native people. Students with massive debt. A handful of Greek people. The dreaded Quebecois. Some Swedes. A smattering of Peruvians and even worse, some white people that work in IT.”

“We’re creating a public platform and forcing people together,” says Berglund. “It’s a different sense of communion within an otherwise socially disparate city.”

The organizers have also partnered with the community program Backpack Buddies, which helps to feed children in need. Attendees are asked to bring food donations if they are able.

While Berglund plans on keeping the event simple this year, he says the unexpected response means it could expand in the future. He has even been contacted by someone in Calgary who is interested in hosting a similar event.

“I’m not sure how much this is actually going to proliferate but we got such a massive and immediate response that it’s made us think about where this could grow,” he says.

Ce Soir Noir will take place at Crab Park, Aug. 25, 5 to 11 p.m.  Guests are asked to bring food, drink and a blanket.

You can find more information on the event’s Facebook page:  facebook.com/events/498512620306244/.

emily_blake@live.com

@BlakeEmily

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