The picnic as we know it today has a long history in England. The practice of carrying food in a hamper for personal consumption on a long journey was introduced in the eleventh century, during the time of William the Conqueror. The word hamper is thought to derive from the French hanapier, a case in which goblets were carried. Picnic first appeared in the English language during the mid-eighteenth century, but it referred to a social gathering to which all comers contributed a share of the food. From the middle ages onwards, formal outdoor hunting feasts were enjoyed by the aristocracy, but it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the notion of taking an informal meal outdoors became fashionable.
In the modern picnic set, plastics materials have replaced traditional china and glass components, and wicker hampers have been exchanged for temperature controlling boxes and bags. The introduction of more robust and lightweight materials, such as acrylic, melamine, polypropylene, polyester and polystyrene, and their respective production techniques have influenced style and design. Pack-ability and portability are bywords for the picnic set, making them easy to store and ready to go. Soft polyester fleeces with waterproof backings offer informal seating solutions. Lightweight yet impact resistant materials are used to encase the delicate inner workings of technology, enabling cameras and radios to be carried easily along with folding and flexible toys adding to the enjoyment of a picnic meal. Bento boxes and children's lunch boxes are available in many colours, shapes and sizes, for the specific purpose of transporting an individual meal safely and hygienically, and they can be washed and reused time and time again.
Bright and colourful, multifunctional, space saving, strong and portable, this exhibition celebrates plastics picnic ware and lunch boxes.