Where do flash mobs start? Q&A with Morph-man organiser

Posted on April 6, 2011


The London 2011 Pillow Fight attracted twice the number of people as the previous year. But what organisation does it take for a ‘flash mob’ to come together?

I put questions to Morph-man aka the co-organiser and participant of International Pillow Fight Day in London and flash mobs in and around London every year. You may recognise him from a severe pillow beating as seen in my video.

Q: What are the rules by which flash mobs are set?

A: Well technically, this wasn’t a flashmob – at least this is what flashmob snobs and veterans would say. I went through great lengths to ensure everybody knew the location weeks in advance. A true flashmob will always have a “secret location” until hours before the event.

However, it was a flashmob as far as I’m concerned because it had the same fundamental make up:
a) a large number of us doing something weird (out of place)
b) surprised by-standers who knew nothing about it
c) a party atmosphere
I’d say it was even more exciting because we were well organized enough to have people in giant people costumes, souvenir pillows and even t-shirts to mark the date being sold online (all for charity of course).

Q: I had no idea there were such things as flash mob snobs – are their any groups in particular you can think of who might turn their nose up at the notion of a pre-arranged flash mob?

A: Not per se. I don’t think anybody can really look down at a flashmob just because the location is pre-determined anymore. The world has moved on, flashmobs have evolved and got bigger. That’s just the way it is now.

But you do get the odd person who’s been going to flashmobs for years who says “in my day we would get a text message an hour before the event and have to rush to the location” – I think that does alienates people and it’s not what flashmobs are about today – the more the merrier.

Q: I suppose the obvious question is why organise events like this at all?

A: I do quite a lot of these “odd” things and my answer to that question always is: Why not?

But really, when you think about it, we’re a bunch of “yes people” who throw ourselves into an activity and squeeze as much fun out of it as we can. The atmosphere is contagious (as you witnessed) and everybody has such a good time. It’s fun to let yourself go and do something silly…

Q: Do you think about possible disruption that it can cause?

A: Yes, we do. We try to contact whoever is responsible. But the biggest worry (depending on the event) is our own safety. The thing is, in a flashmob, we are in control.

We’re in control of our actions and our interaction with the environment around them (the location) and the public. So the most important thing, in my opinion, is to direct and urge your participants not to ruin it for everyone else.

Luckily, the people who *actually* attend such gatherings (the ones who turn up, not the ones who say they will) are predispositioned to be conscientious to those around them.

In the MorphMeet for example, we are warning our guests NOT to climb the lions – one tried last year, fell badly and ended up in hospital!

So in short, yes, we consider disruption, but being in large numbers means disruptions are largely in our control and can be avoided with good manners and common sense.

Q: And what kind of person do you try to appeal to, to join in these events?

A: “Yes” people. People who don’t ask “why?”, people who think “I can have fun with this”.

Q: Do you think that there is a finite amount of such events that can be held each year without it becoming over-done?

A: Absolutely. There is a novelty aspect to this and if the same thing happens on the time it gets silly.

However, this year I’ve taken part in the pillow fight (as you know), next week I’ll be in the MorphMeet (as you know), then I intend to take part in a Chirstathon (people dressed as Jesus), Santacon (people dressed as Santa), a “dickhead” pub crawl and a pub crawl to celebrate Charlie Sheen’s birthday – in the Sheen area of London.

All random. All entirely separate.

Q: By the way…. Where on earth do you buy a morph costume from? I imagine it is a very specialised market!

A: http://www.morphsuits.com/

It used to be a specialised market (early last year), but now you are guaranteed to see morphsuits in pretty much every large gathering…. music festivals, sport events, etc….

A friend of mine wore a green suit to the official St Patricks Day parade (he’s not Irish). Another will be wearing orange to the Dutch celebrations at Trafalgar Square (he’s not Dutch)…

I mean…. why not?

Q: I lost my souvenir pillow in the melee of the day. Can I get another one?

A: What a shame! But you can still get stuff if you want a souvenir: http://bit.ly/LDNPillowFightT (all money is going to the Japan Tsunami Appeal)

Before you leave

Before we finished our conversation, Blue Morph-man added that he would not like to take credit for the success of the London Pillow Fight 2011, but that it was down to the people who attended.

If you would like to add your photos, videos or comments on the event page, visit their Facebook page. Otherwise take a look at the next event, taking place this Saturday! Or a Thorpe Park trip!

Posted in: The Odd Box