British Columbia

Diner en Blanc has an alternative: Ce Soir Noir

Alternative to the invite-only Diner en Blanc takes place at Downtown Eastside park

Picnic at Downtown Eastside park for those who aren't going to exclusive white-themed dinner

More than 2,000 people have RSVP'd to Ce Soir Noir, taking place at Crab Park on Tuesday at 5 p.m. (Graeme Berglund)

The differences between two public picnics taking place today in Vancouver are literally as different as black and white.

One is the fourth annual Diner en Blanc, a chic, invite-only picnic starting at 5 p.m. where everyone wears white.

Organizer George Vergette says Ce Soir Noir is "a tongue-in-cheek response" to exclusive chic-picnic Diner En Blanc. (Gavin Fisher/CBC)

The other is Ce Soir Noir, cheekily described by its organizers as a "free, democratic gathering" at Crab Park in the Downtown Eastside, where everyone is welcome — as long as they dress head-to-toe in their blackest clothes.

"We wanted to do something that was a tongue-in-cheek response to Diner en Blanc," said George Vergette, one of two Vancouver artists organizing the event starting at 5 p.m.

"We're wearing black, because I think people tend to look better in black anyway," he laughed.

Enthusiastic response

While participants at Diner en Blanc are told of the location only shortly before the dinner begins, and eat on white china on white tables, the concept of Ce Soir Noir is more stripped down.

"You already know where you're going," Vergette said. "We're going to just have picnic blankets and people will sit on the ground. We don't want it to be a cumbersome thing where people have to bring a lot with them."

The Facebook page for the event describes the event as an "ad-hoc, barely-even-organized, family-friendly event."

So far about 2,200 people have indicated on that Facebook page that they will be going to the event.

"We'd be perfectly happy with 250 people down there," said Vergette.

Not anti Diner en Blanc

Vergette said that it is easy to poke fun at the heavily-Instagrammed Diner en Blanc — after all, the event website describes diners behaving "with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette", wondering "whether it's not all a dream…"

But he said Ce Soir Noir is not the anti Diner en Blanc.

"I've been to Diner en Blanc and I enjoyed it, but this is something that I think is a little bit more up my alley, and the same for some of my friends."

He said that the growing popularity of Diner en Blanc — and the support his event has received — indicates that there is a demand for these types of public events.

"People are hungry for cultural events to do in the city," he said.

Vergette said that he is open to continuing the event in the future.

"It doesn't need to happen the same night as Diner en Blanc. I think for us the first year to do it this way just prove a point a little, that there was an appetite for this," he said.

"We've been contacted by people in other cities who are interested in doing this, so it definitely could take off."


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