Well to start with first things first. What is a Flashmob?

According to trusty old Wikipedia:-

“A flash mob (or flashmob)[1] is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then disperse.[2] The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.[3][4][5][6][7][8] The term is generally not applied to events organized by public relations firms, protests, and publicity stunts.[5][9]”

Following our article about the two Edinburgh men who were moved along when taking photographs on Multrees Walk which you can read here, we were alerted to the Flashmob which appeared to have been stirred up by a variety of journalists and keen amateur photographers in town. It took place at 12.30 today on Multrees Walk and in Elder Street.

Shortly before this The Reporter was walking up Multrees Walk with a camera slung over as per usual, and went to meet a colleague on the Fourth Floor of Harvey Nichols. At that point there was a security man from Harvey Nichols following. All the way up to the Fourth Floor and back down again. There were also two other security men standing in the street outside Links. They were obviously aware something was up. So how did they know?
Well it became obvious when the former Guardian beatblogger Tom Allan appeared with a camera to film the goings on. He said that he had requested prior permission to film in the street for a video which will be shown on The Guardian Local site.

So if the essence of a flashmob is its sudden happening, then that had been taken away by the very proper behaviour of one journalist. The security guards were already on their mettle and the police in attendance, although the second two police constables said they were just passing and had not been summoned. The rest of us journalists were conducting interviews for the local paper, taking photographs of what was happening or, in my case, I was only recording audio for an audio slideshow while the photos were being shot separately.

It became clear that the whole premise on which the Flashmob had assembled was wrong, in that for some obscure reason the walkway may indeed be private. The Reporter spoke to one of the former lessees of a shop in Multrees Walk who said that the owner of the building employs the security and treats it all as if it is a private area, notwithstanding that the public do use it to go to The St James Centre.

Here are the interviews in the form of an audio slideshow carried out with both of the amateur photographers who already featured in the earlier YouTube footage – and their legal friend.


Photos by Martin McAdam


  1. It became clear that the whole premise on which the Flashmob had assembled was wrong, in that for some obscure reason the walkway may indeed be private.

    If the pedestrianised street Multrees Walk is “really” private, and the public aren’t allowed in, they need to block it off and have the shops inside operate on an appointment-only basis. That’s fine if they think they can rent shopping space on that basis. Or, if their window displays are private, they can board up their windows so no one outside the shops can see them.

    If LaSalle, who I understand are the owners, think they can have both the benefits of a public space – people walking through freely and being attracted to the window displays – but also try to claim the privileges of a private space, denying people the right to take snapshots, then they need to think different, that’s all.

    Two relevant news articles:


  2. I agree with Yonmei above. The main point of the ‘flashmob’, as I see it, was to call attention to the fact that the law allows this ambiguous notion of privatised public space. No one is particularly saying that the street isn’t private, rather that this ‘private’ status is actually somwhat ambiguous- at least from the point of view of the public- in terms of what it actually means.

  3. Phyllis, I’m afraid you’ve got you’re facts wrong. I had indeed asked for permission to film on Multrees Walk that day – I indicated around 11:00am to their management in London that I would be interviewing Stefan Karpa. However, I didn’t mention anything to do with a protest or a flashmob.

    Do you think it possible that someone from Multrees Walk or Lothian and Borders police might have spotted or been informed about one of the hundreds of tweets about the upcoming flashmob?

    It’s a shame you didn’t contact me before you wrote your article isn’t it?

  4. In fact, reading the rest of your article, it seems you’ve misunderstood the story entirely. Multrees Walk is private, and Stefan Karpa and the the protesters knew this. Stefan, as was shown in his video, was shown shooting a video from beyond the boundary of Multrees Walk – which security guards still tried to prevent him from doing. He was there on Monday to assert his right to take photos from that point.

    Other protesters decided to cross that line, and take photos on the private street too. Stefan, to the best of my knowledge, did not, although at one point he did “pose” for a photo. Whether photography is permitted on a privately owned street with 24hr public access (i.e. still a public thoroughfare) is a legally grey area, according to the land rights expert I spoke to for my article.

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