The success of the the TAG (Thorncliffe Action Group) Cultural Café project, fostered through a creative exploration process, not only inspired the women of the group and other community members, but also led to a greater degree of collaboration between Diasporic Genius and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO). Seeing the positive impact that putting specificity of concept and excellence in design and presentation had on the Cafe inspired TNO Manager Catharine McNeely to propose a collaboration. Catherine, the Program Manager of Community Economic Development, and her team including Esha Kidwai, invited us to expand the TAG Café in R.V. Burgess Park into 4 weeks of a Market in the Park. The Market included 6 members of TNO’s Women’s Business Development group each week, vending crafts, clothes, skin creams and more. Each market also included a cultural element programmed by DG.
The Market program culminated in the 4th Annual Harvest Festival, which was the most fully-realized Festival we’ve had yet, since our first Festival of Story in the Spring of 2012. Diasporic Genius joined together with Thorncliffe residents as well as professional artists from the city to celebrate the season in cross-cultural style. Featuring food, the Market, workshops, family art-making and pumpkin carving, a drum circle, cross-cultural music and dance performances from top professional World music artists and community members.
Throughout the afternoon over 250 residents of Thorncliffe Park, along with a small number of friends from the wider city drumming, listened, danced, juggled, learned how to hoop-dance, ate, painted, carved pumpkins, and bought beautiful things made by their neighbours. As the sun set over Thorncliffe Park, Brazilian Maracatu-on-Stilts group Maracatall appeared and led a participatory parade around the park, to the obvious delight of community members and Festival attendees.
In 2017, both the Markets and the Festival will be expanded significantly, and we are working on the possibility of beginning to export this model to communities in North York and Scarborough.