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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Smart mob storms London
Flash mob in London
In London, they gathered at a sofa store
The flash mob phenomenon has hit London.

Since June spontaneous crowds summoned up via the internet have been assembling in cities around the world and taking part in a form of performance art.

The idea began in New York and last night London's flash mobsters got their first chance to meet.

About 200 people brought confusion and a small slice of net culture to a corner of the capital.

Crowd control

The crowd got its instructions of where to meet via the mailing list of the London flash mob website.

The mobsters met up in one of three Soho pubs and awaited instructions about where the final mob was to rally and what it was to do.

Final instructions involved descending on the Sofa UK store on Tottenham Court Road, appreciating the furniture on show and then ringing a friend on a mobile phone and talking about it without using the letter "o".

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Disaster almost struck as Sofa UK had closed early but its owner Derrick Robinson returned to open up when he saw a crowd forming outside his store.

"My first reaction was I thought there was a fight. Then I thought it was a celebrity," Mr Robinson said once the mob had disappeared.

"It works because there is no ideological point behind it," said Zee, the 40-year-old Londoner behind the capital crowd-puller.

"You just chill out and have fun. It's too hot for anything else."

As an outgrowth of internet culture, the event was captured and dissected on many web logs, or blogs. Writer Warren Ellis posted photos from the event on his blog as the mob happened.

Growing trend

Europe's first mob took place in Rome when mobbers gathered in a book shop and asked staff about books that did not exist.

Boston flash mobbers, AP
Boston mobsters swamp a card shop
The latest New York flash mob caused consternation in the Toys R Us store where flash mobsters gathered for their sixth outing.

Participants were told to stare fixedly at the store's giant animatronic dinosaur for three minutes then fall to their knees and react to its roars by moaning and cowering for another four minutes.

But panicked staff quickly shut off the dinosaur and called the police barely a minute into the mass-moaning.

Since June flash mobs have sprung up in around 30-40 locations and one seems to be taking place somewhere in the world every few days.

But some fear the craze could die out as soon as it started thanks to the over-interested media and over-reaction by the police.

A mob in Toronto had to be cancelled because there was a danger that mobsters could be outnumbered by law enforcement and the media.

The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Whoever is behind this cult phase is keeping a low profile"

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