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French White Dinner, Grünau style

in Arts/Food/Outdoors by

How do you find your friends in a busy park? Have everyone wear white. And then feed them. It was as simple as that!

It was June 1988. François Pasquier had been abroad and wanted to see his friends upon returning to France. He organised a picnic dinner at Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. It was so much fun that they decided to continue the following year, but each person would invite a few friends of their own. With 1,200 guests in 1991, they had outgrown the park, and the next year they started making the location secret. The event grew organically and today there are 10,000+ people.

Crazy how just wanting to meet up with your friends can turn into such a monumental thing. Now there are Dîner en Blanc parties all over the world. Although the basic premise is the same – sharing a nice dinner with friends, dressed in white, at a more-or-less secret location – each one has its own special character.

In 2015, Forbes magazine referred to the Dîner en Blanc as “the most coveted, secret dinner in white.” Kinda like a Gatsby party, but without having to wear an elaborate costume.

In Germany it’s called White Dinner for some reason. No idea why it went from French to English, but they’ve started and continue til September.

Here’s the official calendar for upcoming White Dinners in Germany.

I don’t remember the year I first heard about one in Leipzig. I do remember it was on the Sachsenbrücke and looked like lots of fun.

Just this past weekend, White Dinner hit Grünau. Yes, the plattenbau landscape replaced the traditional expansive park. Tablecloths covered concrete walls instead of tables. There was a guitar player instead of a band or DJ. There weren’t 10,000 people.

What there was, was a good atmosphere. People were happy. People were sharing. And they were, of course, wearing white. And judging by the photos taken by Michél Boetig, surely François Pasquier would have been proud.

This White Dinner was a collaboration between Andrea Büttner and the ladies from Leipziger Stadtteilexpeditionen. Artist Diana Wesser and Antje Rademacker have been doing the Leipziger Stadtteilexpeditionen project in which people get to experience different areas of town first-hand. The purpose is to support or dispel stereotypes.

During GDR, Grünau was the place to be with its new plattenbau (pre-fab tower blocks). People had heat and nice modern places to live. Very few wanted to live in the old run down buildings in the middle of Leipzig.

With the fall of the wall, developers came in and started renovating the old buildings and soon that’s where everyone wanted to live. They had had enough of the thin walls and low ceilings. Grünau grew into more of a hood than a utopia. Many people who lived there were either elderly or on benefit. Now there are problems with racism as more and more refugees move in. Or at least that’s the stereotype.

This Sat there will be a Leipziger Stadtteilexpeditionen in Grünau and you can find out for yourself.

Maeshelle West-Davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums. Sound, video, photography, dance, performance and public art are the tools she uses to convey her message. Her work is a response not only to a physical journey, but an emotional one, as with all of us who walk along or beside our individual paths.

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