Harvest Noir: Q&A with Greg Searle


Greg Searle runs the Mysterious Events Company by night with his beautiful co-conspirator Samantha Biron – by day, he is the Executive Director of BioRegional North America, an environmental organization. Greg has lived in Ottawa, Rome, London UK, Boston, and now resides on the banks of the Gatineau river in Chelsea QC just outside of Ottawa. He loves the local food scene in Ottawa, and the work done by great local groups like JustFood.ca.

So, we’re really excited about Harvest Noir. For those who don’t know, what’s this event all about?

Harvest Noir is a chic “dress your best in retro black costume” picnic feast celebrating the autumn harvest with food from local farms. It includes many surprises and live musical performances by a dance-oriented parade band, followed by a dance reception with fabulous DJs, world-class circus performers and other innovative surprises.

Harvest Noir is inspired by a 23-year tradition of genteel annual picnic dining and partying that originated in Paris and has been imported to Lyon, Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, Berlin, New York City and Montreal.

It is a “destination unknown” event – attendees will only learn where they are going a few hours before the event.

Why the mystery?

If you think about it, we grew up with a ton of surprises as kids. Now that we’ve arrived at adulthood, almost nothing is a mystery. Human beings thrive on mystery – the fact that you cannot prove the beliefs of the world’s 6,000 religions is proof enough of that! Harvest Noir, flashmobs, and chic picnics are part of a growing movement of unusual participatory entertainment formats where guests don’t know 100% of what is in store for them, from the venue right down to some of the night’s activities.

It seems that Harvest Noir has a local/sustainability focus. Why?

If there’s anything that SHOULDN’T be mysterious, it’s our food. Modern society with all its advantages and 24-hour convenience has utterly lost touch with farms, fields, and where our food comes from. Most of us seem pretty content to have our food come to us shrink-wrapped anonymously in plastic from far-away places and farms we’ll never, ever visit, sometimes grown under dubious chemical conditions and harvested by people we’ll never meet who may or may not make a decent wage. Local food is more nutritious, it’s fresher, it’s way better for the environment, and when we buy it we invest in local farmers and in our own regional economy. It’s real.

Harvest Noir is taking place this Saturday, at a mystery location

What have you learned about Ottawa in planning this event?

I’ve learned that there are at least 600 adventurous people in Ottawa who have paid good money to attend an event without knowing very much about what will happen. It shows that there is an underbelly of imagination, style and creativity to a city that is branded as boring and was voted as the 8th worst-dressed city in the world by some fool at MSN.ca. And probably the best thing about Harvest Noir is that I’ll get to turn some of these 600 fascinating bon vivants into friends.

I’ve also learned that while we may lag behind other of the world’s great cities in lots of different departments, we have a really awesome local food movement – a big shout out to JustFood.ca for all their great work in helping ordinary people find shops and farms that offer healthier local food choices.

Finally, I learned that Ottawa’s DJ scene is surprisingly underground compared to Toronto or Montreal, and I have to thank Steve Martin at freshbeats.ca for helping us find our way to where the real talent lies.

What can attendees expect?

Tennessee Williams once said: “I don’t want realism. I want magic!”

What are you hoping will be the impact /takeaway?

We’d like to have people saying that nothing like this has ever happened in Ottawa before, and that they had so much fun they want more! I believe that something amazing happens at the intersection of flash mobs, fancy dress parties, audience participation, and really great DJs, and I want to make 600 people feel the same way!

We’d also like to prove that you can host a big event that has a positive impact on the environment, and that people will take a little better understanding of how to lessen their ecological footprints away with them after a night of fantastic partying.

Thanks Greg! We’re excited. Are you excited?