Re-Inventing The Walking Tour

Jane’s Walk is back for its 9th festival weekend this May 1st, 2nd and 3rd! Free walking tours that are led by anyone and everyone. You just show up where the walk starts. That’s it! Awesome eh?

Jane’s Walk started in Toronto, but has now active in more than 130+ cities, from Tokyo to Vienna to Jerusalem to Córdoba, Spain.  This year in Toronto, there are more than 160 free public walks! That’s a lot!

As I work for Jane’s Walk, I often get asked what walks people should check out. My quick reply has always been…”It depends what you like!”. There are so many different kinds of walks.  Nature walks, food walks, history walks, urban planning walks, night walks, bike rides, art walks. Not only that, but it also depends on how you expect to participate. There are walks that are completely improvised by strangers where you inform the conversation and route, while others are planned months in advance by professional historians where you follow along to their every word and step.

But I can still point you in the right direction. I’m a big fan of walks that provoke, challenge, and force you to reflect and act. I’ve even written a blog about this style of walk. Generally, I love anything that doesn’t look like a walking lecture. With that in mind, here are my picks for Jane’s Walks in Toronto that re-invent and re-interpret the entire idea of the walking tour.

Please note! The dates, times and descriptions are all taken from the Jane’s Walk Toronto website. Please check their site for exact time and location details.

Access in the City – May 2, 2015 | 11:00 AM

Our walk will focus on accessibility, safety, health and well being, identifying barriers, public spaces, green spaces, car and foot traffic. This is a community group effort, community members planning this walk are from The Anne Johnston Health Station Consumer Advisory Committees, they are volunteers. Community members who have lived experience with a variety of disabilities will share their stories and ask you to give some thought to what accessibility means to you? ….It’s more than just curb cuts and ramps. The sidewalk width and grade, shop entrances and aisle widths can make huge differences. Smooth pavements, traffic light signal timing and good lighting, all add to how easily and safely a person moves around their neighbourhood. Walkers will also be familiarized to who Anne Johnston is and why the Health Station is named after her, a brief history of the neighbourhood will also be shared along with examples of accessibility and how the neighbourhood has seen changes over the years, drawing attention to the current state and future goals of accessibility and people friendliness in the community. We hope to see you at our Jane’s Walk this year!

Cosmopolis Toronto: The World in One City – May 2, 2015 | 11:00 AM

Where do you call home? Where do you feel the greatest sense of belonging? This is something 195 Torontonians from different places around the world needed to consider when I photographed them for Cosmopolis Toronto ( Together we will explore some of the places they called home… whether it is a favourite restaurant or a community centre that welcomed their family after migrating to the city. I was fortunate to have spent a year meeting the individuals that make up Toronto’s incredible diversity, and I am really looking forward to revisiting many of these stories with the actual participants while on this Jane’s Walk. This event promises to create dialogue, reflection and introspection. See you there!

Wrestling with change in today’s Parkdale: The forces that divide and community initiatives that hold us together – May 2, 2015 | 11:00 AM

These days, the common story of Parkdale is about gentrification, social exclusion and poverty. But there’s two sides to every story, and Parkdale is no exception. Together we’ll explore the dichotomies that try to separate this neighbourhood as well as community initiatives that are bringing neighbours together to overcome them. These include the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust (PNLT), Co-op Cred Program, Parkdale Community Economic Development Project, the Food Flow Project and more. Through the following themes, we’ll explore the issues affecting people who live, work and build community in Parkdale: – Exclusion vs. Inclusion – Gentrification vs. Community assets – Poverty vs. Community wealth We’ll also talk about what a land trust is, we’ll hear from the partners involved in building one in Parkdale, and we’ll explore the opportunities and challenges before us in building a successful land trust in Parkdale. *The walk will be lead by members of PNLT, Greenest City, PARC, and more.

All the Libraries Toronto- well, some of them – May 2, 2015 | 11:00 AM May 3, 2015 | 10:30 AM

In 2014, I visited and drew every branch of the Toronto Public Library. This walk will explore some of those branches to think about the dynamic growth of the system and appreciate the fact that Free Public Libraries are a relatively modern concept, only starting in Toronto in 1883 (50 years after Toronto was incorporated as a city). We’ll start at the beloved Lillian H Smith, visit the original Reference Library and make our way north to the city’s oldest and biggest branches, stopping at some branches within U of T’s extensive library system along the way. Some discussions I hope to provoke: Why is the library so important? Why did the concept of a free library come so late, and why do we take it for granted today? Are libraries going to be relevant in the 21st century city? What will the 21st century library look like? Do we need to spend money on free book systems when there is access to so much free information on the internet? I also hope to evoke memories of walkers’ favourite branches, including the ones we will visit, but also branches further away. If successful, the walk will turn into a Library Love-in.

Oakwood: the school that built a community  – May 2, 2015 | 01:00 PM

Before there was a neighbourhood here, streets or public transit, there was a school. Since 1911 Oakwood Collegiate Institute has been at the heart of our community. Join us as we explore the school’s history, its contributions and alumni, and the role the school plays as an important community meeting and green space. Together we will imagine what more we want for and from our local schools in Toronto. Supported by: Trustee Marit Stiles. With: Oakwood CI School Advisory Council.

POLICE CARDING: Not a black and white issue – May 2, 2015 | 02:30 PM

Police carding has been debated primarily as a racial profiling issue between the black community and police officers. While race is inarguably a factor, it is a thread in an intricate web of arbitrary intelligence gathering, profiling, and data collection, regularly occurring in the public realm. By employing a holistic urban placemaking, public engagement, and city-building approach (rather than exploring this issue from the perspective of a single marginalized group), this walk seeks to uncover multiple forms of problematic public space policing. Through the re-telling of site-specific narratives gathered through interviews, a public space policy review, and references to popular conversations, we will uncover the negative impact of targeting a wide range of groups in public spaces like: restrooms, parks, retail establishments, beaches, schools, detention centres, and transit. This walk will begin to connect the issue of police carding across history, geography, and public space user groups, to underscore the ways this, and similar policies, threaten our collective safety in the public realm. *Please note that this walk is participatory and inclusive.

Watah Walk – Steps of self knowledge May 2, 2015 | 06:00 PM

Let’s explore the space of the distillery district from a truly unique perspective; a holistic and art affirming one. The Watah Theatre Institute Transdisciplinary Artists in Residence (TAP) are excited to collaborate with Jane’s Walk to produce this storytelling journey. Artists will be telling their stories of who they are, how they came to create art, and their relationship to the space of the Distillery District. This walk will include spaces that Watah residents have explored as they prepared for festivals, created art, and reflected on their artistic journey. Finally, the walk will end at the Watah Theatre Institute where participants will get the chance to look around and arrive to a special treat!

Diversity in a Block – May 3, 2015 | 11:00 AM

We will be talking about the diversity within our community. It is the most densely populated in a square block within Canada. We will be talking about some of the history of St James Town and the development of the community (condominiums). We will also be talking about the negative connotations that outsiders have about this community and the perspectives of residents. This will be an opportunity to meet youth leaders within St James Town as they lead you through this tour.

Jane’s Walk the Line – May 3, 2015 | 01:00 PM

We will be celebrating the use of this provincially-owned Hydro Corridor as a public recreation space; instead of a dangerous profit centre for Enbridge. We will be exploring the threat to the local community posed by this dangerous pipeline, with interactive displays, music, and discussions about possible solutions. The Walk will begin at the west end (at Talbot Rd.) of the TTC parking lot (free parking) situated at the northwest corner of Hendon Ave. and Yonge St. The Walk will take us west to Bathurst St. with stops along the way. The route is accessible.

Critical Eyes on the Street – May 3, 2015 | 01:30 PM

Jane Jacobs believed that greater powers of observation lead to greater demand for healthier places. As a group we’ll critique what we see from a cultural, economic, physical, political and psychological perspective. Our facilitated walking discussion will begin with these simple questions: What do you see? How does this affect your state of mind? What makes this a healthy or unhealthy place? How might it be healthier?

Myths about Mothers Experiencing Child Welfare Involvement – Walk With So Called “Bad” Moms – May 2, 2015 | 02:00 PM

Can our current system intervene in a way that prevents abuse? What happens to children in “care”? How do we keep families and children safe? How do we support families in crisis? Mothers can be blamed, shamed and demonized as the cause of family breakdown and harm. Are moms alone responsible for family well-being? We will share our stories, challenge myths about “bad” moms and invite a new conversation about how to keep families and communities safe. Community Action for Families is a grassroots organization mobilizing to create community based alternatives to child welfare intervention in our families. We are a community of mothers and allies. We are women and adult children who have survived violence, impoverishment, racism and sexism and have been pushed to the margins as a result of our survival responses. We aim to develop a voice and that is collective and strong, which challenges the belief that separating & controlling families fosters healthy communities. We believe that food, shelter, freedom, availability of necessary transformative services, supportive communities and access to personal autonomy are the pieces that truly create strong families.

Scarborough Poetry Walk – May 3, 2015 | 02:00 PM

What better way to celebrate the arrival of May than to read poetry in a park?  The Scarborough Poetry Walk will begin inside the Agincourt Public Library where walkers will be introduced to the recently launchedToronto Poetry Map. The walk will proceed outdoors in a loop: first we’ll head westward on Bonis Avenue, then we’ll walk northward through Ron Watson Park, then we’ll make our way eastward on the path that runs along West Highland Creek south of Tam O’Shanter Golf Course, then we’ll return to the library via Kennedy Road and Bonis Avenue. Along the way we’ll make stops to hear nature poems from The Weight of Dreams written by Scarborough and League of Canadian Poets poet Jeevan Bhagwat as well as selections written by other poets featured on the Toronto Poetry Map including Margaret Avison, Dionne Brand, Glen Downie and Toronto’s fourth poet laureate George Elliott Clarke. We’ll also pay homage to Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) by reading excerpts from his poem Tam o’Shanter. Walkers are encouraged to bring a favourite poem or even one they’ve written themselves to share with the group. Be inspired to discover our poetic city and perhaps even wax poetic yourself!

Walking with Refugees in the West Bend  May 3, 2015 | 02:00 PM

Can you imagine life as a refugee? What would it be like to suddenly have to leave your home behind: your country, family, friends, and know no-one, not knowing whether the Canadian government will protect you where others have failed? This walk is organised by community members of Romero House, a refugee transitional housing and settlement organization at the intersection of Bloor and Dundas West. It features stops at some of the key places of support for refugees in the neighbourhood and area known as the “West Bend”, including the facilities and programs of Romero House itself, the Four Villages Community Health Centre, and the First Contact program at the Red Cross. At each of these stops, members of the Romero House community – particularly people with lived experience as refugees – will give a short presentation about the location’s significance.

The City’s Best Hiding Places: A Geocaching Tour! May 1, 2015 | 04:00 PM

Geocaching is a new-ish hobby of mine, and it always teaches me something new about the city. The premise is simple: people hide little trinkets, stories, toys and other interesting things and mark the general location on a map Every hidden “cache” has a hint, sometimes a riddle or poem, that you can use to find it. I’m going to start my tour at Danforth & Donlands, and then we’ll hunt for treasures, making our way east. I’ll likely hide a few things before the tour, but please bring some of your trinkets to leave for others. The best caches teach us something about the place they’re in, so I’ll be logging a few stories about the things I know about my neighbourhood, and sharing them with you when we find each cache.

Celebrating Helen! May 3, 2015 | 02:00 PM

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Helen Weinzweig’s birth, we are taking a Sunday stroll through the neighbourhood of her youth – the College-Bathurst-Spadina area. We’ll visit a number of sites that were important in the life of this wonderful novelist – and even see where she was courted by her husband-to-be, John Weinzweig. The walk will head east and end up at the First Narayever Congregation at 187 Brunswick Avenue. There, actors Esther Arbeid and Bella Larsen will perform a short dramatization of one of Helen’s most moving stories. The walk is approximately 12 city blocks and begins at 2 pm at 599 College Street (southwest corner of Clinton, kiddy corner to Cafe Diplomatico). It will continue east and eventually end up at 187 Brunswick Avenue, which is a few doors north of Harbord.

Hot City: see what is literally hot and cool in Toronto May 4, 2015 | 07:00 PM

DIALOG invites you to see the downtown core like you’ve never seen it before. We’ll discuss the development of design and building technology in our fair city by looking at some of Toronto’s most iconic architecture. Using a thermal imaging camera, we’ll show you how buildings perform by looking at the heat loss of their envelopes and discuss what that means in the context of city building. Join us and see what is literally hot and cool in Toronto. (Note: additional stops can be added if time permits)

Fresh Perspectives on Public Spaces in Thorncliffe & Flemingdon – May 3, 2015 | 01:00 PM

Local teens challenge the view that young people don’t get involved in their communities. These inspiring young people share how the community in which they live has changed while giving a sneak peak to some of their “down-low” hangout spaces, ideas on public spaces, and public art projects they have lead and are planning for 2015! Active Neighbourhoods Canada (ANC) look at the connections between the Don Valley ravine and the neighbourhoods of Thorncliffe and Flemingdon which have been a major focus of the Participatory Urban Planning project ‘Active Neighbourhoods Canada’. In the Janes Walk this year, we will collaborate with local youth to tell the story of the ravine and how the connections can be improved in simple ways to make them more inviting and accessible for residents.****LAST ONE!  (This one looks more like traditional historical walking tour, but I think the topic needs your attention)

Labour Opposes War Walking Tour – May 3, 2015 | 10:00 AM

A walking tour of downtown Toronto will explore labour’s stand (100 years ago) against conscription and the conditions working people faced during the years of World War I. Canadian labour fought against workers being used as cannon fodder while huge profits were being made and well-to-do officers participated in the war in much safer conditions. The tour will highlight the key events and experience of working class men and women during those dynamic days. David Kidd will provide the historical background while Paul Bilodeau and Cheryl Robb will provide the actual words of labour leaders and other participants of the time. The walk is taking place on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 10 am. The meeting place is Southwest corner of Shuter Street and Church Street, across from 167 Church Street. This walk is co-presented by Jane’s Walk, George Brown School of Labour and Christian Peacemaker Teams Canada and co-sponsored by Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) National. Invite your friends to join you on this walking tour:

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Taken from this year’s 2015 Jane’s Walk Poster


Tactical Urbanism

Tactical Urbanism

Tactical Urbanism by the Atlantic

I recently ran into the term “Tactical Urbanism”. In a way, this concept fits nicely with many of the other projects I have worked on since living in Toronto and many more I would love to see (Chairbombing anyone?). I might consider leading a further discussion on this issue as there are many parallel projects happening in Toronto that I am connected to these days.