Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Picnic and 'community' Victorian picnics were often feats of military-style organisation and endurance. They established the picnic as a grand social event rather like the 18th century ball, made possible by the servants, at which the manoeuvres of social interests (marriage and money) were played out. But being Victorian English, eccentricity had its place, depicted by Dickens and Surtees among others. Francis Kilvert in his diary for 1870 records one example: ‘We had tea all across the road, completely obstructing the thoroughfare…’ I'm writing an essay about picnic and community, following the Wellcome event back in June. As far as I can discover, the large-scale picnic was never a strategic instrument to stimulate trade from the global tourism industry (although Dorothy Wordsworth probably came very close). But this is is the twenty-first century, and big cities can turn to 'community' as a device to attract attention, strategically, within that global market. In Sydney they closed the harbour bridge for a picnic - turf laid especially, entertainment ditto, breakfast all across the road. In the Beeb's coverage, one of the first words you hear from a participant is 'community': 'It's a sense of community. Everyone's here having a good time.' A politician appears. Sydney needs the boost, we're told. So picnic is a device for 'community' which in turn is a device for economic prosperity. Hence the spectacularisation. And you thought you were just packin' a snack.

Recent Comments