A flash mob is a type of performance art that consists of a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse. They first began in New York in May 2003 and are known to have been conducted in North America, China and the UK. It is not known if any flash mob activity has been conducted in Melbourne.
Two silent discos performed in England attracted the largest flash mob gatherings to date. A "silent rave" at Victoria Station, London involved 4,000 participants. On 30 November 2006 another big event took place at Paddington station with more than 3,500 people in attendance. On 11 April 2008, an estimated 400 people gathered in London's Liverpool Street Station to sing Rick Astley's song "Never Gonna Give You Up". In addition to being a flash mob, this event was a form of an activity known as rickrolling.
The first flash mob was organized in Manhattan in May 2003, by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper's Magazine. The origins of the flash mobs were unknown until Wasik published an article about his creation in March 2006. The first attempt was unsuccessful after the targeted retail store was tipped off about the plan for people to gather. Wasik avoided such problems during the second flash mob, which occurred in June 3, 2003 at Macy's department store, by sending participants to preliminary staging areas in four prearranged Manhattan bars where they received further instructions about the ultimate event and location just before the event began.
More than one hundred people converged upon a ninth floor rug department of a store, gathering around an expensive rug. Anyone approached by a sales assistant was advised to say that the gatherers lived together in a warehouse on the outskirts of New York, that they were shopping for a "love rug", and that they made all their purchase decisions as a group.
Subsequent flash mobs in New York have included 200 people flooding the lobby and mezzanine of the Hyatt hotel in synchronized applause for about fifteen seconds, and a shoe boutique in SoHo was invaded by participants pretending to be tourists on a bus trip.