Earlier this week there was an apparent flashmob at Liverpool Street - several hundred people dancing in the railway station. But it wasn't a unlicensed gathering for the pleasure of dancing in public - it was in fact arranged by mobile phone company T-mobile to film an advert.
I must admit I tend to see flashmobs as a kind of free party-lite version of Reclaim the Streets. There's something rather apologetic about turning up somewhere, having a quick bop in near silence and then disappearing after half an hour. On the day in 1996 when Reclaim the Streets met up at Liverpool Street, thousands of us closed down the M41 Motorway for the afternoon, with big sound systems. We certainly didn't get a positive write up in the Daily Mail.
Still I guess the flashmob still offers the transgressive thrill of temporarily transforming a transport hub or a shopping centre into a party zone in the company of strangers. Liverpool Street station has seen some genuine flashmobs. There was last year's Tube Party as well as the event when hundreds of people wore Rick Astley masks and sung Never Gonna Give You Up (1980s pop hit - probably unknown to anybody reading this outside of the UK). In October 2006, there was a Mobile Clubbing flashmob, with a crowd dancing to their ipods.
But a choreographed telephone advert is a fake copy of something that has already been diluted.
There was a genuine flashmob today though at Heathrow airport, protesting against plans for a third runway. It doesn't seem to have involved much dancing, other than a large conga dance procession.