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June 2010

Dufferin Grove Park Newsletter


Volume 11, Nr.5, June 2010


For an independent community email list service and discussion group, see dufferingrovefriends


June is a month of special events all over the city. This year, Toronto has the mega-event to top them all – the G-20 conference, in a hermetically sealed bubble downtown. If you want to turn your back on the checkpoints and the blockages, the week of the conference happens to be the same week when three wonderful events are scheduled at Dufferin Grove Park. Two performance events, the Day of Delight and the Cooking Fire Theatre Festival, have been going for many years. One event is brand new to the park: a storytelling celebration for National Aboriginal Day. Details below:

Wednesday June 23, though to Sunday June 27:


Cooking Fire Theatre Festival website

Dinner is served from 6:00 PM, performances begin at 7:00 PM

Each evening, host company The Spee Society will lead the audience from site to site throughout the park to see performances ranging from the tale of a giant carrot to an opera about the nature of place. Delicious organic meals will be served to the audience over cooking fires and from Dufferin Grove Park’s two wood-fired outdoor bake ovens.

Clyde Umnie Co (Toronto) and NACL (Highland Lake, NY) The Little Farm Show
The Little Farm Show tells the story of an eccentric farmer named Millicent, and a giant, over-grown carrot hepped up on hormones, who has escaped the industrial carrot farm because she is too big to sell. Realizing her destiny is to be broken up and sold as a bag of ‘mini-carrots’, the Carrot makes a break for it, but soon discovers her freakishness out in society.

Théâtre Populaire d’Acadie (Caraquet, NB) & Satellite Theatre (Montreal) GRUB
In a glorious feast touching sometimes upon the clown, sometimes upon the burlesque, yet always the urge of an empty stomach, Grub speaks of food and all its substitutes, linking it all by a simple but true fact: eating is killing. Like the digestive system and all its mechanics, every species serves the planetary lunch. In the great jungle, eat... or be eaten!

Theatre Smith-Gilmour (Toronto) GRIMM too
This poignant and stunning piece of absurd theatre finds its inspiration from the tall tales unearthed by the Brothers Grimm. Faithful to the original Grimm stories, GRIMM too is a whimsical and moving piece filled with romance, tragedy, and comedy. These strange, mythical stories speak to us about our own experiences of fear, courage, love, hope, joy and wonder in our daily lives

The Hinterlands (Milwaukee, WI) The Dead Road
Inspired by the language of Cormac McCarthy and William S. Burroughs as well as the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1950’s and 60’s, The Dead Road is equal parts Wild West Show and cultural scavenger hunt, balancing the stillness of the open range with the rowdiness of a barroom brawl, and weaving vaudevillian comedy, live music, campfire songs, puppetry, and the smell of frying bacon into a passion play for the North American frontier.

The Alchemical Opera Project (Easthampton, MA) Come and Sleep
Using music from Schubert's 1827 song cycle Winter's Journey and poetry by Mary Oliver, Come and Sleep is an operatic fantasy between voice, cello, and silence, using sources as wide-ranging as Japanese fox folklore and the writings of polar explorers to explore the relationship between identity and place, and the consequences of transformation.

Performances begin at 7:00 PM, admission is pay-what-you-can ($10 suggested donation).

Sunday June 20, 2 – 5 pm: Clay & Paper Theatre presents the eighth annual DAY OF DELIGHT.

From director David Anderson: “A celebration of love, courtship and desire in and for.” Pay-What-You-Can, $10 suggested. The afternoon will feature:
- musical rhythms of Samba Elegua
- the Bricoteer Puppetry Project's: Great Things Come in Pairs
- Stilt dancing by
Zita Nyarady and friends performing: The Sky Dress
- Aerialist arts of
Diane Mcgrath and friends presenting: Fantasia
- A dance piece by 
Paromita Kar and friends presenting: Detective Lizzard
- Puppetry performance of love swimming between a squid and a whale in:
Strangers in the Deep performed by
Marc Picanto & Delia Farno.
Fibre arts installation and modern dance collaboration by
Fibre Artists Emily Cook, - Emily Comeau and dance artist Eden Kahill
- A worldly dance of love performed by Rainos Mutamba and Rehana Tejpar in Shadows of Desire
- The Georgian music of love by Darbazi
- A whimsical version of Midsummers Night's Dream starring kitchen appliances
- A giant bicycle puppet parade, Cardboardia
- A silent auction and performances by Clay & Paper Theatre's very own Cyclops: Cycling Oriented Puppet Squad celebrating it's second year of bringing theatre to cyclists and cyclists to the theatre.

''For more info and to volunteer, please contact

Monday June 21, National Aboriginal Day:


Program produced by RED BEAR. From organizer Jim Adams: “the second (and hopefully annual) storytelling event celebrating National Aboriginal Awareness Day.”

6:30 – 7:30 am: Sunrise Ceremony. A traditional elder and singer(s) will conduct a sunrise ceremony to open the event and more importantly to honour those who have gone before. A sacred fire will be lit and all in attendance will have the opportunity to partake in the ceremony through a smudging/purification circle. The elder in attendance will have a teaching to share with all who attend and anyone who carries a drum is welcome to join in the drumming and singing.

7:30 – 9:30 am: Traditional Breakfast. Cedar tea, bannock bread and venison.
7:30 – 8:30: Breakfast Stories. Nature based stories told by gifted Red Bear storyteller Jim Adams.
10:00 – 11:30: Storytelling from the Western Door / Northern Door: Cree storyteller and singer Melvin John will transform the urban setting into a shifting landscape of vast prairie expanse and dense northern forest where moose and buffalo trade places with coyote and bear as the stories of our past are brought to life again.
10:00 to 4:00 pm.: Drum Making/Shaker Making/ Moccasin Making/ Bannock Baking/ Cedar Tea/Maple Syrup.
11:30 am – 12:45 pm: Delicacies from the cooking pots of many nations. Particular attention will be made to observe the traditions and ceremonies associated with the preparing of each dish. Stories about the food and its cultural and historical impact on First Nations’ people will be shared with the diners.
1:30 – 3:00 pm: Storytelling from the Eastern Door / Southern Door. Red Bear storyteller Jim Adams will share stories from the eastern and southern directions. Mandan, Creek and Mohawk stories will capture the imagination of the listeners and take them on a journey to a time when all the inhabitants of Turtle Island could speak the same language and shared a common goal. Red Bear dancers Julia and Terrill will add visual colour to the stories being shared by storyteller Jim Adams.
4:30 pm. Closing Ceremony: The visiting elder will close off the day with a traditional prayer and blessing.


Four years ago, Georgie Donais called a meeting of playground users and told them of an unusual offer she had received from a businessman who admires the park. He had little nephews and nieces who played in the playground for many hours, and he had noticed the lack of a nearby toilet. He knew that a regular toilet building would cost a lot. Having seen and admired the community-built outdoor cob kitchen that spearheaded by Georgie, he told her he wanted to donate a modern industrial-strength composting toilet to the park. This toilet would not require additional water lines and sewer lines, so it would be much cheaper to instal. In addition, it would be an interesting – small-scale – experiment for reducing the amount of waste going into the sewers. And the structure to house it could be built by the community.

The playground users were enthusiastic. Inquiries to Parks and Recreation management were met with encouragement, and so Georgie applied to the city for some arts funding for a second community-built cob structure. The bio-toilet unit, which cost the donor $8,300, arrived. The arts funding was approved. A location was chosen at a site meeting with Parks staff. Because the footprint would be less than the hundred square feet which is the building-permit minimum, there was no paperwork, and community volunteers began working on the foundation.

That’s as far as the project got. Opposition from park neighbours, worried about the new technology, shut it down. The foundation wall was made into a bench, and the hole where the composting chamber was to be located was covered with a false floor.

Fast forward to 2010. Bio-toilets are increasingly common in other public spaces (the Bronx Zoo, the Markham Fairground, Conservation Authority offices, downtown Edmonton, UBC in Vancouver',....). Meantime, Toronto has a plan for new single-seater self-cleaning public toilets costing $400,000 each, to be paid for with advertising. The city is renting chemical toilets for playgrounds because there’s no money for permanent ones (which would cost $600,000). Our donated bio-toilet unit is gathering dust in storage. Time to revisit the plan?


The picnic table and bench supply in city parks goes up and down. Lately it’s mostly going down. For example, from 45 picnic tables in 2006, Dufferin Grove Park is now down to 29. What’s more, many of the tables are in bad shape.

Requests for repairs and replacements have seen no results lately, so we asked
– what’s the city’s budget line for picnic table and bench repairs?
It turns out there isn’t any.
That response was a puzzle. We checked the Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating budget, and found that in 2006, when we had 45 tables, the budget was $292 million. This year, when we have only 29 banged-up tables, the budget is $359 million. A $67 million budget increase in four years and no money for picnic tables!

So where’s the money going? Part of it is for more staff: in the last four years, the staff count has grown by 253 to 4258 “full-time-equivalents” (e.g. two part-time staff could make one “FTE”). None of the new staff are carpenters. We were told there is only enough money for two carpenters in the Toronto/East York district, and they don’t work on picnic tables.

But even whether the 253 new positions are Parks plumbers or central strategy planners, their pay wouldn’t cost an extra $67 million.

The lion’s share of the budget increase is spent on pay increases for existing staff. The increases work out to about 3 per cent a year, and that applies to management as well as union wages.

Within Parks, Forestry and Recreation there is a large wage differential, since that Division hires so many cheap part-time recreation workers with low wages and minimal benefits. Their 3% doesn’t add all that much. But for the full-time and management positions, the wage increases mount up fast. So for instance the 2010 “sunshine list” shows 65 Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff making over $100,000 a year. Some are supervisors of grass cutting and litter picking; some are managers in charge of outdoor rinks or of fitness citywide. Many have seen their incomes jump by $20,000 in the last four years. Add the non-management full-time workers and their negotiated wage increases, and we get what the City budget report stresses every year: “a situation that is not sustainable.”

Among the management staff, the central preoccupation has become how to find the money to cover the ballooning budget. Their focus is on programs with fees attached – fees which can be raised, and help to cover the budget for another year. This means that there’s not much attention left for those elements of our public spaces that are covered only by our taxes, not by extra fees.

Like picnic tables in the parks. About 50,000 people live in Ward 18. The total number of picnic tables in all the Ward 18 parks, according to the Parks foreman’s count, is 47. Something has to change.


May 24, the Queen's birthday holiday, was a hot sunny day, and people went outside looking for fun. But Toronto's Parks-and-Recreation facilities were closed, citywide, to save paying any city staff time-and-a-half. This happens on many public holidays -- public facilities are locked, or they have very restricted hours -- exactly when most Torontonians are free to enjoy them.

But surely there are ways to open more of these facilities on public holidays.

Here's one way. At the Dufferin Grove Park playground there's an outdoor kitchen and café, public-health approved, built in 2005, by many community volunteers, with substantial help from city staff. (Collaboration, what a concept...)

This year on Victoria Day it was 29 degrees. Two of the city's part-time recreation workers came to the park and turned on the wading pool sprinklers at the playground. Then they took off their city hats (remember, no staff were supposed to work on the holiday) and became non-city-staff cooks. They began preparing some food in the park clubhouse. The clubhouse has a city-built community kitchen. The cooks made salads, mac-and-cheese, veggie-burgers in pita bread, muffins, and cookies. They brought these down to the playground café -- and fruit juices, and pop (yes!) and Fair Trade coffee, and organic hot dogs, and sliced watermelon. They served up the food, at very low prices. They also introduced people to each other, and found lost children, and listened to neighbourhood gossip, and gave out band-aids for scrapes.

They sold enough food and drink -- because the park was filled with families -- to pay for the groceries and the cooks' and servers' time, from 10 am to 6 pm. And they were like a helpful staff presence in the park.

Dufferin Grove Park's community kitchen has been used for preparing good food, to make the park lively, for eight years, both summer and winter. The group administering the funds raised this way is called the "Centre for local research into public space" (CELOS). Our research is about how to make parks work better.

We think our research on food in parks is finished, the results are in -- small non-franchise cafés in busy park playgrounds (and in outdoor-rink clubhouses in winter) work well!

We have other research we need to work on. So we've been asking the city to take this over, and maybe even to open a few playground or community-rink cafés in other parks. It's not rocket science. The Dufferin Grove cooks and servers could put their city hats back on. The money earned can go into the big municipal pot downtown, and be allocated back to pay part-time recreation workers for this tasty way of helping to make parks lively.  At the same time, these recreation workers can keep an eye on the park. So far, city management has been reluctant – but a discussion has begun.


From garden-club coordinator Rachel Weston: “We had the opportunity to partner up with Clement Kent and his Pollinator Gardens Project (check out his blog: who donated some plants to start one up and helped us plant as well.  We have an awful lot of fabulous native species growing at the park already, but these new arrivals are exciting because they are especially attractive to birds, butterflies (and butterfly larva), bees and other insects that we need to keep the whole pollination scene abuzz (so to speak).”  

The park’s “garden club” is open to everyone. They meet on Wednesdays and Sundays, and work in the park gardens together. To find out more, e-mail


The surface of the wading pool was coated with a cement/plastic layer last spring, as part of a renovation. Although it looks nice, parents quickly noticed that it was slippery, and many kids were falling. This spring there are long cracks in the coating, and at the beginning it was even more slippery than last year. The recreation staff scrubbed it down with concentrated chlorine, and that helped. On Friday June 11, city staff will meet at the playground to consider additional remedies.


The website is run by CELOS (pronounced “see-loss”), the Centre for Local Research into Public Space. This is a small group that began in Dufferin Grove Park and subsequently broadened its inquiries to address other park issues citywide. CELOS has two other websites:, for all 49 of the city’s outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks, and, for documenting CELOS research. In late May, a new feature, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was added to the CELOS website – a database of legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines showing how the law hinders or helps citizens to shape our public spaces. Lots of good stuff.


Market manager Anne Freeman sends weekly market news to market list subscribers every Wednesday. To sign up, visit the market page at


Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason

Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Published by: CELOS

Web sites: Henrik Bechmann, Aseel Al Najim,

Park phone: 416 392-0913

Park web site:


Newsletter sponsored by: Edward Cayley

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