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Civic Impact

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

The Element Choir performs a house concert.

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.
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