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Toronto Gets A Decent Outdoors Music Fest

15 Jul

Toronto doesn’t have a big, outdoors, multi-day music festival to rival Coachella, SXSW or Osheaga, but it recently put on an event that might just come close…one day.

The first ever Toronto Urban Roots Festival ran from July 4 – 7 at Fort York, with a mainly folk-indie line up including Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, She & Him, The Cat Empire, Barr Brothers and my (new) Canadian faves, Whitehorse.

It was very much my musical cup of tea, so I was super happy to cover it for Torontoist.


There’s a bit of a debate raging underneath the Torontoist article as to whether She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel – yep, her off of New Girl – was being excessively diva-ish by banning photos and videos as she performed.

On balance, I probably side with “HotDang”, though I’d couch my views in slightly different terms. There’s definitely something to be said for living the moment, rather than documenting it, but it’s a difficult argument to make when you have 2.1m Instagram followers and once tweeted: “Being away from my dogs it feels my camera has no purpose.” Zooey suggests there’s a kind of purity to enjoying music “in 3D”, but isn’t above using Twitter to post links to She & Him music videos, or flog tickets to her gigs. It’s almost as if the camera ban’s just an attempt to control PR.

Ignoring all of that, it was a great festival; here’s hoping TURF becomes a permanent fixture on the Toronto summer calender.


Second Life for Toronto’s Trash

21 May

Crowdsourcing’s one of those promising concepts that’s often put to fairly uninspiring uses, whether it’s adding social media sparkle to lacklustre government policies, or advertising tortilla chips.

But last week I wrote about a crowdsourcing site with a social purpose that seems to be carrying out a genuinely useful function.

The article, for Torontoist, was about Trashswag, a website that maps out the location of unwanted wood, furniture and other salvageable bits and bobs left lying in Toronto’s streets.


Anyone who spies some potentially useful junk can add to the map by taking a picture of it and posting the photo on Instagram or tweeting it, using the hashtag #Trashswag.

Creative types are using the site to find materials they can turn into art, wardrobes, seats and tables. Brilliantly, this also means that less stuff is getting sent to landfill.

I wonder whether this has been done in other cities around the world? I hear the site’s founder, Gavin Cameron, was invited onto the Morning Show after producers read the Torontoist article; perhaps the growing momentum will help him expand his empire.

Have you done any “upcycling” via the site? Is it something you might find useful? If you’re not from Toronto, is there anything similar in your home town?

Shakespeare in High Park

22 Jul

“I hope this one’s easier to get – the last play we saw was in English or something?”

I, like, totally, understood where the nine-year-old girl on my left was coming from. It was Friday evening, it’d been a tough week, and I wasn’t in the mood for deciphering heroic couplets.

Luckily for us both, the version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream being shown every Tuesday to Sunday evening in High Park throughout the summer has been stripped back to 90 minutes of mounties, golf buggies, power walking and audience participation (don’t sit at the front if your lion impression isn’t up to scratch).

The language is still unmistakeably sixteenth century, but the bawdy humour is translated into actually funny, 21st century, jokes with the aid of comedy detachable-trousers and some racy physical comedy. Plenty of genuine LOLs all round, especially at anything involving unflattering underpants.

But what was the nine-year-old’s final verdict on a play in which the cast are literally ripping off each others’ clothes? “That was disgusting!”

I think she meant it in a good way.

Photos of the stage were banned, but here’s one I took of the seating area just before it started.


Drinks and snacks are available on site and you can even hire back rests and rugs. A perfect Friday evening; I’d recommend getting there at least an hour before the 8pm kick-off to grab the best seats.

John Howson

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