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First Canadian Place gives big to Canada’s community food centres

On December 7, Community Food Centres Canada and First Canadian Place took a major step towards curbing Canadian food insecurity. From November 29 to December 4, First Canadian Place pledged to match 10% of sales in their newly redesigned and relaunched Food Terrace. The result? A $25,000 gift, split between CFCC and the Regent Park Community Food Centre.

Christina Palassio, Director of Communications at Community Food Centres Canada, says that partnering with the Food Terrace was a great fit for CFCC. “They were really trying to create a warm, hospitable welcoming place for food in the heart of downtown, and had really incorporated that kind of type of thinking in their space,” she says. “That’s something that we do in our community centres as well.” The terrace, which now includes the French-style cafe Maman and Thai food from Ruby Thai, was reopened earlier this year after renovations.

Regent Park Community Food Centre’s share of the gift will go towards their front-line programming, including community kitchens, gardens, and free healthy meals. CFCC will direct their portion of the First Canadian Place gift towards furthering their national mandate

The gift helps CFCC make significant headway towards their holiday fundraising campaign goal of $75,000. Funds raised during this campaign will go towards supporting community food centres across Canada. CFCC currently supports six established centres—including two in Toronto—and two that are still in development. “We provide with them with stable funding for five years, and a whole bunch of support in program development and evaluation, fundraising, and communication,” says Palassio.

Community food centres offer more than just food, Palassio says, citing the 3.9 million Canadians who are currently food insecure. “They also provide peer support and ways for people to be involved in their communities. Connections to affordable housing supports, for example, or finding ways to talk about issues that face them as individuals and as a community. They provide different access points for people to be empowered and get connected to their community.”

Alternative Gift Shop provides the Danforth with a new way to Christmas shop—er, swap

Imagine walking into a store to do your Christmas shopping, but instead of putting down cash, or your credit card, at the checkout, you could “pay” with items you already own. That’s the idea behind the Alternative Gift Shop, where people can trade their household items and time. This year, the event grew from a one-day fair to a four-day market.

“People assume that everything is scarce and there’s not enough to go around, but we are living in abundance,” says Ryan Dyment, Executive Director of the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy. “But actually, the thing that there’s not enough of is money. We can share our abundance in other ways, and have a different kind of economy.” With the help of community organizer Stephanie Nakitsas and Gay Stephenson of Woodgreen, the fair found a pop-up home in the storefront above the Toronto Tool Library’s Danforth location, one of the IRBE’s main projects. From December 17 to 20, people brought in new or lightly used items and trade them for the same number of goods.

“People love potlucks, and clothing swaps,” says Dyment. Previous scores have included board games, lamps, flowerpots, even an iPod. People will be on-site at the swap to help ensure that items are in good condition. “It’s young people, families with kids,” says Dyment, adding that “lots of toys” are usually up for swapping.

Dyment also encouraged people to donate time, such as an hour of snow-shovelling, in exchange for goods. “f people don’t have items they want to get rid of, they can offer an hour of something—ukulele lessons, cooking lessons, whatever,” he says.

Last year’s one-day swap saw nearly 300 people through the doors, and this year’s expanded event included a launch party on December 17, with beer donated by local brewery Left Field. While Dyment sees the Alternative Gift Shop as a way to both reinvigorate community, as well as save money, there’s also the thrill of the hunt. “Going to a swap meet can be like going to a goldmine. People get very excited about finding hidden gems. It’s sharing with your community and seeing the abundance we have.”

Local sponsors prepare for Syrian refugee families

Just before the first wave of Syrian refugee families landed in Toronto earlier this month, The Toronto East Quadrant Local Immigration Partnership, the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, the City of Toronto’s Newcomer Office, and local partners joined together. As part of a series of information nights across the city, event organizers invited the families and individuals sponsoring refugees to meet the agencies and organizations who can provide help; their last session, on December 17, sought to connect refugees with Scarborough sponsors about who they can rely on.

“It’s to reassure sponsors that there is support across Toronto. It’s also for them to be prepared when families arrive, so they’re sort of a settlement process in place,” said Vera Dodic, Project Manager at the Toronto Newcomer Office, in advance of the occasion. Agencies like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross were on-hand to provide general information; other agencies offering health, education, housing and employment resources were also available. In addition to the chance to connect directly with agencies and community partners, the Scarborough event also featured a presentation by the Arab Community Centre of Toronto about Syrian culture, and an introduction to the city’s existing Syrian community.

Dodic says the aim of the events, which will continue across the city for “as long as there’s a need,” also remind sponsors of lesser-known resources, such as the library and local community centres. “It’s also a chance for them to ask questions. It’s a community-building opportunity, because the agencies and the sponsors can build their support networks,” she says. “Information is power, and we want to empower them. We want these sponsorships to be successful.”

“For most of these people, this the first time they’ve sponsored, so they’re not as familiar with services that can help with the settlement,” Dodic explains. “It’s an overwhelming task, sponsoring a family, but there are many services available.”

Ontario Arts Council takes on violence and harassment with a new fund

“Art in any form can be a really accessible way for people to connect, or relate, to the world,” says Loree Lawrence, Program Officer for the Ontario Arts Council. Lawrence heads up the Multi and Inter-Arts, Community-Engaged Arts and Community Arts Councils, which is currently offering up to $75,000 in grants to community- and arts-based organizations working on issues of sexual violence and harassment in Ontario. Administered on behalf of the Women’s Directorate as part of the Ontario government’s Never Okay action plan, the OAC’s Creative Engagement Fund to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment in Ontario take aim at a variety of issues facing Ontarians today.

“Basically, they want to raise public awareness about gender norms and healthy relationships, support survivors, strengthen laws, and improve safety,” Lawrence explains.

Lawrence anticipates a healthy amount of interest from the theatre and filmaking communities, but says that arts groups from all over the province are coming forward in advance of the December 15 deadline. “There are a lot of organizations across the province that are already working on these issues, and it’s a great opportunity for them to access a larger amount of funding and bring the work they’re already doing to a larger audience,” she says. The final products will often spark conversations in community spaces, film festivals, and on college and university campuses.

The fund has also earmarked 15% of their grants to Aboriginal organizations, which Lawrence says was prompted by the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. “This fund wants to be very specific about ensuring that 15% of the fund goes to shining light on the issues that Aboriginal women face in the province. Everyone is affected by sexual violence and harassment, men and women of all ages, but this is a critical issue.”

Lawrence encourages applicants to think not only about their finished projects, but also about the partnerships that will be created along the way. “Projects should be designed with consultation with the communities that are being engaged,” she stresses, citing the need for organizations to work closely with survivors when designing their projects. Over the next  three years, the OAC hopes to create a culture of intervention and interest. “It’s creating a storm of discussion about these issue,” she says.

Toronto students lend a hand at the public library’s first "hand-a-thon"

On Saturday, December 5, forty Toronto-area students teamed up with the Toronto Public Library and Enabling the Future for the city’s first “hand-a-thon.” Twenty students each from Jarvis Collegiate and Jackman Avenue Public School worked in pairs or trios at the Reference Library branch to assemble a 3D-printed prosthetic hand called the Raptor Reloaded.

Soon, these hands will make their way to the US-based non-profit Enabling the Future, which partners with volunteer printers and assemblers around the world to create prosthetic hands for kids. So far, over two thousand hands have been created and distributed to children in more than 45 different countries.

Ab Velasco, the Digital Innovation project leader at the Toronto Public Library, sees this partnership between the library, the schools, and the non-profit as a perfect example of how the library can explore the many uses of innovative technology like 3D printing. “What really appealed to us about this program was that it was an opportunity to showcase the technology’s social good, and that was important us,” he says. “It showed the students that this technology can be used to to benefit kids and people around the world.”

Toronto’s student groups completed about eight hands, and worked on nearly a half-dozen more. “I was really impressed with how quickly the kids grasped it, how quickly they got it,” he says. The parts were printed ahead of time by Objex Unlimited, who donated 300 hours of printer time towards the project, so that all the teams came into a “level playing field.” The hands will now will be shipped to Enabling the Future to be assessed and fine-tuned before being sent out to the end user.

Velasco says that, once the hands are matched, the library and the students will both receive an update on their hard work. “We want to know about matches at the library, but we also want to let the kids know,” he says. “It was about giving access to technology learning, and social innovation, and bringing that message to children. We were very happy with how that went.”
 

TRIEC's mentoring program gets a bang—and some bank—for its bucks

“One of the the things that we say is central to our organization is that when immigrants prosper, we all prosper,” says Margaret Eaton, Executive Director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. TRIEC now has the numbers to back up that belief: a recently completed study by the Boston Consulting Group showed that, for every dollar invested in immigrant and newcomer mentoring, society sees a $10.50 return.

TRIEC partners with agencies across the GTA to identify unemployed and underemployed newcomers to Canada, who are then matched with mentors in their field. “They learn what it’s like in the Canadian workplace,” says Eaton, with mock interviews and resume reviews. The mentors also help newcomers grow their professional networks. “They must connect their mentee with five connections in their field. 80% of the job market is that hidden job market, so we try to the immigrant that advantage,” Eaton explains.

“We try to address the issue that too many skilled immigrants are working in jobs that aren’t appropriate to their skills and experience. Those people people tend to be unemployed at twice the rate of people who have similar educational backgrounds in Canada,” says Eaton, adding that immigrants from China, the Philippines, and India are particularly disadvantaged.

However, once newcomers land employment in their field, the program’s benefits become clear. Their income rises substantially, increasing the amount of taxes they pay. They also connect their newcomer networks to their professional networks, thus doubling down on the program’s impact. TRIEC also looked at less tangible outcomes, such as boosted confidence, and the affect that it has on the mentor, as well. “The person doing the mentoring is 89% more likely to hire a skilled immigrant after having been through the program, and we want to see that,” Eaton says.

TRIEC currently works with about 1,400 mentor matches at 25 different partner agencies. They hope that this study will help them “scale up,” as Eaton says, who says that over 40,000 newcomers arrive in the GTA each year. “75% of people in the program get jobs in their field within a year, and that’s a contribution that affects all of us. Having these numbers helps us make the case for those future investments in the program.

United Way looks for the next generation of youth leaders

United Way Toronto and York Region is looking for the next generation of youth leaders.

The organization is currently recruiting for its GenNext Cabinet, an elite group of volunteers who will govern the Millennial-focused GenNext program and provide it with strategic leadership and visioning over the next year. “It is a highly coveted and competitive volunteer role comprising dedicated young professionals who are deeply committed to making our region a better place for everyone to live and work in,” explains Dana Stanescu, Manager of the GenNext program at United Way.

The cabinet will be made up of twenty volunteers, who Stanescu describes as “highly accomplished and engaged volunteers, from diverse sectors and business lines, who have been identified as emerging leaders in our region,” and divided into four teams. The Ambassador Network will help grow United Way into new workplaces, and provide training throughout the year; The Community and Agency Engagement Team will look for what Stanescu calls “meaningful volunteer opportunities targeting our GenNext demographic to allow them to be more deeply connected to the work we do in the region”; the Fundraising and Awareness Events Team will organize major events throughout the year; and the Leadership and Legacy team will focus on “creating unique opportunities to further demonstrate impact for our GenNext leader donors.”

The GenNext program encourages people in their 20s and 30s to become involved with United Way. Volunteers work on several different initiatives, including outreach in the workplace, and United Way TYR’s annual event Rouge. The group also organizes events such as speakers’ series and networking opportunities, and works on projects like 100 In 1 Day and youth mentorships.

Becoming involved with GenNext, says, Stanescu, allows young people “to more fully understand the issues that confront people in our region, to actively connect with and contribute to the community, and to influence positive change through meaningful volunteering and giving opportunities."

A new kind of doors open in Toronto's Festival of House Culture

Toronto has many world-class concert venues, ranging from the Canadian Opera Company’s majestic home at the Four Seasons Centre, to the historic Massey Hall, to the dozens of smaller, rock ‘n’ roll-friendly establishments that host local and international acts. Now, Michael Holt wants to add another great venue to Toronto’s culture scene: your own living room.

Holt is the founder and main organizer of the Festival of House Culture, now in its second year. The festival, which takes place December 3 to 6, asks local residents to open their doors and host cultural and musical events for their neighbours. “A house concert is much more face-to-face, so it helps people connect with other and culture in a much more alive, real, and meaningful way than we normally do in our society,” says Holt. Programming includes a puppet jamboree, a “silent disco” held entirely on headphones, and several potlucks. There is a suggested donation of ten to twenty dollars for each event, with all the proceeds going to the artists.

Holt encourages new neighbourhoods to join the fun. While the festival began in the Roncesvalles/Junction area, it expanded this year to include Little Italy. Each area is responsible for programming its own events, and Holt welcomes the new faces. “They’re a younger bunch, and it’s exciting that young people have gotten involved in this and are running with it. House culture is more familiar to them than people my age—they’re already doing it. It’s just part of their lives, to do interesting cool artistic things in their houses, often because it’s cheaper than going out.”

He knows that some people will be hesitant to invite strangers into their homes, or to commit to hosting a three-hour event. But, he asks, “How do we build community without interacting with strangers?” Holt sees the festival as a part of the slow movement, and want participants to engage with both the cultural events, as well as the people in their neighbourhoods and beyond. “We’re hoping to encourage Torontonians in general to do more things at each other’s houses, and hang out with each other face-to-face. By doing this, the idea can spread and impact people that weren’t at the festival.

City of Craft connect shoppers and local vendors now and throughout the year

“City of Craft is ultimately a celebration of everything handmade in Toronto,” says Kalpna Patel. “It’s about growing the independent craft community, and providing an opportunity to all crafter at all stages in their careers.”

Patel, a local "craftician" in her own right, is the organizer of the 2015 City of Craft, a three-day marketplace that will kick off December 11. Now in its ninth year, City of Craft is a well-oiled machine featuring sixty vendors, a small handful of staff, more than fifty volunteers, and a half-dozen workshops throughout the weekend. As a result, Patel expects more than five thousand shoppers will pass through The Theatre Centre on Queen Street West.

Like the popular One of a Kind Show, City of Craft features hand-made and locally designed wares from artists, printmakers, jewellery-makers, ceramic artists, and clothing designers. But these aren’t the usual suspects: half the vendors have never before shown at City of Craft, and Patel says for many of them, this marks their first-ever show. “Because of these are makers operating on a smaller scale, they aren’t doing huge batches, and their work is really unique. We go out of our way to find people who don’t have stuff readily available all over the city, to make the experience more special.” The workshops, which are pay-what-you-can, will include a make-your-own-DNA necklace and instructions in calligraphy.

This year also features a longer-term collaboration between the Theatre Centre and the City of Craft vendors, called Side Streets. “We curate a series of installations in their lobby, and every two months a vendor is chose to animate the space and sell their wares. It becomes about experimenting, and people get a shot to try to new things. This opens up a new avenue to play in, says Patel. Ian Phillips, who designed the City of Craft’s covetable tote bags (which will be stuffed with goodies donated from Uppercase magazine, Coriander Girl, Bad Dog Theatre, and more) and poster, currently has the space until January.

Ultimately, Patel hopes that the event creates a dialogue between the maker and the shoppers. “It’s a bit more of an accessible audience. Our crowd tends to be younger and more downtown, so vendors can feature experimental work,” she says. “People coming to shop leave with more than just physical things. They leave inspired to see what’s possible. People in the show are much more than just makers. They run workshops, they’re part of collectives. This is the first point of contact, but it opens up these other ways of interacting.”
 

Next Big Idea contest partners Canadian and UK tech startups

For start-ups looking to take their next big step, the international marketplace is a natural progression. But knowing where to start, and what connections to make, can be a daunting process. Enter the Next Big Idea contest, a unique partnership between Toronto and Birmingham, UK, aimed at giving tech start-ups a leg up.

The contest, which is open until December 15 to any Canadian tech start-up headquartered in Ontario, will select two winners from both Toronto and the UK. Those start-ups will be sent on a mission across the Atlantic to help build home-grown traction in an international setting. “On day one, they’ll be welcomed into a thriving ecosystem, and they’ll spend two weeks immersed in that environment, surrounded by other entrepreneurs in a friendly, collaborative environment,”  says Brendan Dellandrea, Director of Communications and Marketing at Ryerson’s DMZ. The DMZ has partnered with UK-based Innovation Birmingham Campus to provide winners with airfare, accommodations, tailored mentorship programs, workspaces, and carefully curated networking opportunities.

The program, which has already partnered with innovation zones in India, is working with Birmingham for the first time.  “Birmingham has a lot in common with Ontario. It’s one of the most entrepreneurial areas in the UK, and the strongest growth and economic output outside of London. They’re one of the most diverse cities in the UK, so there’s a nice parallel with Toronto in that respect,” says Dellandrea. “We want to lower the barriers to international growth by lowering the barriers and making that international transition as painless as possible.”

Dellandrea sees the contest, and the partnership with Birmingham Innovation Campus, as a natural extension of the DMZ’s strengths. “We’re looking to build on a strong partnership foundation, to help create connection to enable our entrepreneurs to go global. Marketplaces are increasingly global, and competitions and opportunities are global. We’re hoping to inspire the entrepreneurs here, and across Ontario, about where their businesses can go on the next few years."

More Arts in More Parks: Toronto Arts Council launches new artists initiative

Dance, drama, literature, media art, community-based art, all presented on the grasses and playgrounds of Toronto’s parks? Get ready to see more of it in 2016, as Toronto Arts Council prepares to launch a new grant program to animate green spaces all over the GTA.

"Parks play a very important role in the lives of people in the city: hugely important part of the public realm, and people should take ownership of their park spaces,” says Erika Hannebury, Program Officer at the Toronto Arts Council.

While downtown residents already have opportunities to see the arts in public spaces—think of The Dream in High Park—this new initiative will focus on parks outside the city’s core. All of the 23 parks are “all located in the inner suburbs,” explains Hannebury. “We’re really concentrating outside the downtown core, and really trying to more equitable access to this type of project funding.”

In its inaugural year, the program offers up to $15,000 in funding per park, and is part of the larger Arts In the Park strategy. Hannebury anticipates that the majority of applicants will already have a history of making park-based art, and that part of the program’s aim to ensure that those artists are properly paid for their work. “People have been doing this for years, so we’re also hoping to continue to work with those companies and organizations,” she says, adding, “We really want to support and enable artists who have been making art in parks all over the GTA.”

Interested applicants must attend one of four information session before they can submit their grant proposal. The information session on December 5 links up with the On the Ground Symposium, presented by the Toronto Arts Council and Maybell Arts, a day-long exploration of park- and public-space-based art across the GTA. “There are so many different things that we have to be aware of. They can be sensitive natural areas, and we don’t want to love these parks to death. We want to engage them."

If I Ruled T.O. asks GTA youth to ponder the questions of leadership

On November 28th, over 500 GTA-area youth will gather at the Allstream Centre to discuss the issues that affect them. The If I Ruled T.O. conference, now in its fifth year, is an annual presentation of the City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing, focusing on youth issues: mental health, the creation of community spaces, their relationship with police, and more.

“Our hope is to establish a dialogue with youth to understand the limitations and gaps that exist within local communities to increase safety in their communities by understanding their core issues, concerns, and needs,” says Iftu Tahir, Acting Youth Program Technical Specialist for Toronto Community Housing.

The one day session will open with a plenary, followed by breakout conversations in eight different workshops. Young people aged 14 to 29 will be asked to consider questions like, “If you were the Chief of Police or on the Police Board, what would you do to improve police and community relations?” and “If you were in charge of explaining mental health, what would you say?” The idea, says Tahir, is to pass their answers on to industry professionals, including local police staff, politicians, and members of Toronto Community Housing.

The event closes with a keynote from Leo Barbe of Think Don’t Shoot, a local organization devoted to fighting gun violence and promoting healing. The day will also include a chance to network with local organizations. As Tahir says, “We are also excited to host a trade show component to the event where various community agencies can share information on resources and opportunities.”

If I Ruled T.O. will also help youth better understand the systems that serve them and surround them. “We are creating a platform for youth to come together, share their thoughts and opinions and create a dialogue with decision makers,” says Tahir. “We’re also creating a space for youth to better understand systems and processes and how to challenge them to impact change.”

ELNstudio focuses on how to improve Toronto's public spaces

On Saturday November 7, over 200 emerging leaders, community builders, and public space enthusiasts gathered on the University of Toronto campus to discuss the future of the GTHA’s public spaces. As part of CivicAction’s ELNstudio event, Globe and Mail Focus Editor Hamutal Dotan moderated a panel discussion of a half-dozen local experts—including Denise Pinto, the global director of Jane’s Walk, and Ken Tanenbaum, who was instrumental in the construction of Toronto’s Pan Am Athlete’s Village—that asked participants to consider the unique challenges facing the region’s public spaces.

Over the past five years, the percentage of people in Toronto living in apartments jumped by 42%, which has placed an added onus on public spaces to be identifiable and accessible. Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction, says that public space is just one of several key issues the organization is working on after this spring's Better City Bootcamp “This was the summit theme that was most interesting at the ELN,” she says. “The panel created the bookends of knowledge to allow the people in the room to have a shared understanding of the issues of public spaces today.”

After the panel discussion, participants broke out into groups to identify and work on challenges around public space use. At the end of the day, the event refocused and participants had a chance to present their discussions to the larger group. Some of the ideas that were shared included a youth-focused app that would allow young people to more easily identify public spaces, and a “New Canadians Cafe,” a mobile unit that would connect immigrants to much-needed resources.

For Palvetzian, this sharing was the first step towards action. “We’re CivicAction, and that action side is core to who we are. We want those projects that were catalyzed on saturday actually realized,” she explains. Some of these ideas will be the focus of the DiverseCity fellows, who may then bring their developed ideas to the ELN pitch showcase next spring.

Palvetzian also stressed the intangible benefits of events like the ELNstudio. “We provide awareness. We had great leaders who were able to reinforce how sometimes little it takes for there to be a big impact on the city,” she said. “City-building can run the gamut from complex issues with heavy lifting and lots of players, but it doesn’t have to. Having leaders who have had success on both sides of the spectrum raises awareness of how people can do what they want as city builders.”
 

The Road Ahead: How Ryerson is tackling the issues of post-graduation unemployment rates

On Thursday, November 12, the Ryerson Career Centre and Magnet - a social initiative co-founded by Ryerson and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce - will partner for a one-day “mico-conference” on the future of post-secondary graduate employment in the GTA. Titled "The Road Ahead," the one-day conference brings together private sector experts, entrepreneurs, student career educators, recent graduates, and other stakeholders to examine best practices in the post-graduation employment landscape.

With youth unemployment hovering around 18%—and up to 69% in some demographics, such as among disabled youth—Caroline Konrad hopes that this conference will start addressing some of the knowledge gaps among the sector. Konrad, the director of the Ryerson Career Centre, says, “It’s about taking this conversation out of sector- or industry-specific dialogues. We wanted to bring to all of those players into one room and start recognizing we have a lot to learn from each other.”

The conference will focus on a variety of topics, such as disability-friendly recruitment practice, and how older graduates can tap into a job market that often favours fresher faces. It will also acknowledge the ways in which job-hunting has changed for recent grads. Representatives from institutions like the University of Toronto, Centennial College and Ryerson will be on-hand to discuss how they’ve adapted their career development centres to meet changing employment norms. “We have to get away from the idea that students come in their final year to get their resumes checked. It’s about networking, it’s about building yourself throughout your education, about how you’re articulating yourself alongside your academic studies,” Konrad explains.

Ultimately, the conference will be about looking to the future of career development and recruitment. Konrad points to Edmonton’s 30-year learning strategy for post-secondary students as a possible template for the GTA. “Our main focus was to get everybody who’s vested in this to come together. That’s how Toronto will start to reduce this 1-in-5 youth unemployment rate. It’s not going to be any of us on our own. It will have to be collaborative.”
 

Pressgang Theatre announces new site-specific storytelling event

“The Fringe season is a time when Toronto’s theatre audience gets out like no other,” says Graham Isador, Artistic Director of Pressgang Theatre. Despite the fact that the Fringe festival won’t kick off for another seven months, Pressgang is already gearing up for a new kind of event in next year’s showcase.

Pressgang Storytelling has been a bimonthly event for the last five years. Each night revolves around a theme—identity, love, sex, parents—and storytellers both emerging and established share slices of their personal histories. Past performers include Precious Chong (daughter of Tommy); Faisal Butts, a past Just for Laughs performer and winner of the 2014 Sirius FM “Top Comic” competition; and Sam Mullins, who has twice won the Canadian Comedy Award. They will share the stage with local actors, storytellers, and performers. “While it’s always nice to have people who are professionals and who are good on stage, what matters most is the ability for people to share their experience,” says Isador.

The event’s eleven-night run will be held at Kensington watering hole Handlebar, which has hosted Pressgang storytelling nights for the past few years. As a result, some of the stories that will be told next summer will feature Handlebar in a guest-star role. “There are a handful of stories that will be told at Handlebar that actually happened at Handlebar,” laughs Isador. He’s no stranger to site-specific theatre: his show, Served, which played at the 2015 Fringe Festival, was staged in the Queen West restaurant the Epicure Café.

This time around, the focus will be on celebrating Toronto’s burgeoning storytelling scene. Isador, who will emcee the Fringe show, has invited other storytelling night curators to contribute to the event. “The hope is that we can highlight the scene that’s been growing here, and that we can grow that scene,” he explains. “What we’ve been trying to do is make sure each show reaches a diversity of Toronto. We’re having people of colour on, LGBTQ, different cultural experience, and the hope is that they can share their stories with an audience they might otherwise not reach.”
 
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