Yesterday, as I meandered on-foot through Central London, I skirted across the top of Trafalgar Square. In among the people dressed as Yoda, standing on poles to look like they’re floating and the people not dressed as Yoda (and definitely not floating), I encountered something different.

BlookA small group of people in bright red t-shirts, with red bags slung over their shoulders, sporting equally red beanie hats, stood out from the silver-painted buskers and streams of half-term tourists. Following the lead of an endearingly enthusiastic girl, they embarked on some kind of choreographed routine, all of them sporting the word Blook in white on their attire.

As I paused next to one of their number who was watching from the sidelines and another who was filming the events unfold, those performing moved into a grid-like formation. From their bags they whipped red pieces of cloth, somewhere between a flannel and a tea towel. I think the cloths had the number 42 embroided in a corner — either that or I convinced myself they did.

The group held the cloths out, while the lead-girl shouted something along the lines of:

42. The ultimate number. The meaning of life, the universe and everything. Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I turned to beanie man next to me. ‘What’s this for?’ I asked.

He kind of shrugged. ‘It’s just a promotional thing for some new startup. I’m not sure what they do.’

At that moment, my informant was called into the group. He grabbed his bag, threw it over his shoulder and headed in. Lead-girl, who’s enthusiasm I found fasciating, continued to shout instructions.

Come and join in if you like — we’re just going to pass books backwards!

They moved into a few lines, each grabbed a paperback from their bag and literally did just that — passed the book backwards over their head to the next person. I felt my feet twitch a little, no other member of the public had joined in and they were receiving less attention than the multitude of Yodas. A lot of effort and planning had gone into this, even if it seemed to make no sense.

Should I join in?

The twitch reached my knees and I felt myself go to walk, but right then Lead-girl instigated a round of cheers and whoops. They all dropped their bags and started pulling orange balloons from them, blowing them up and handing them to children.

One guy was left with a balloon, unable to locate a child in the rapidly dispersing cluster. ‘Does anyone want a balloon?’ he seemed to ask no one in particular, hoping more than offering. Thinking it might help me unlock the secret of Blook and what this was actually all about, I took one.


I remained none the wiser.

The #blookmob (another thing they had emblazoned on their attire) seemed to be re-grouping and were instructing and chatting, so rather than interrogate, I decided to carry on my way and ponder what this all might mean.

balloon toiletA while later I left the orange balloon in a toilet, hoping that it might inspire someone else into confused wonder at something colourful and somewhat inexplicable, in a place you wouldn’t expect it to be.

This morning, I got round to searching #blookmob on Twitter. It looks like they had a great day yesterday, although I’m still not sure I understand what it was all about.

I think that’s why I like it and wish them luck with whatever it is they’re doing.

By Andy Swann on October 31, 2014.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.