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Civic Impact

Tales from Regent Park take the stage at storytelling festival

When Dinny Biggs discovered the Toronto Storytelling Festival was hosting events at Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park, she realized it was important to have Regent Park residents themselves up on the festival stage.
“I knew the wealth of stories that were there among the residents,” says Biggs, a former teacher and community worker in Regent Park schools and the Pathways to Education Program. As project coordinator of Village of Storytellers: Regent Park, she helped set up a series of weekly visits where participants would practice telling their stories to small, friendly audiences. The result: About 15 participants will join professional storytellers from around the world during the 11-day event, which starts Thursday.
“Many participants are immigrants themselves and come from countries where storytelling is very much an active part of family life and community gatherings. We wanted this project to help rekindle that,” says Biggs.
In perhaps most overt celebrations of Regent Park’s multiculturalism, the Friday, March 20, program will feature stories from people with roots in Somalia, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Pakistan, told in five different languages, interpreted in English, then again interpreted in five languages different from the original languages. Stories that at first seem to be culturally specific can turn out to be universal.
“I’m looking forward to the pride that these emerging storytellers exhibit in being part of an exciting collection of people. We’ve had participants telling to each other, we’ve had in-house performances where they told to friends and family who were invited to come, but here they’re going to be on stage telling to the public and that takes a lot of courage,” says Biggs. Just two of this year’s Regent Park cohort told stories last year.
For stories where Regent Park itself plays a role, a free video event on Saturday, March 28, will present 30 two-minute stories from locals, gathered as part of the Regent Park Storymap project.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Dinny Biggs
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