Lighting the longest, darkest night in Kensington Market


As a photographer who loves shooting in low light, winter is usually something I look forward to – longer nights, later sunrises and moody weather. What’s not to love? As winter takes hold, the one event I make sure to never miss is the Winter Solstice festival in Kensington Market.

Kensington Market is one of those iconic neighbourhoods where it seems that just about anything can happen. Come winter, events like the Winter Solstice festival help reveal this amazing spirit that is driving the heart of the community. The festival starts off with a parade, but this isn’t one you watch, it’s one you join. With paper lanterns, drums, puppets and shakers, you’ll find yourself dancing your way through the neighbourhood. At any point, you’ll be snaking your way past shadow puppet shows, raccoons playing trumpets and just about anything else you can imagine on this darkest night of the year.

Finally, once the parade reaches the edge of Kensington Market along Dundas, the crowds begin marching towards Alexandra Park. If you’ve never been to the festival before, what awaits you here is nothing short of awesome.

Transforming a baseball diamond, a towering sculpture and fire dancers have been patiently waiting. Changing with each year, the sculpture on display typically riffs on the themes of rebirth and renewal. As the crowd gathers round, the band plays on as the fire dancers volt and weave in and around each other while the sculpture becomes engulfed in flames. No matter how many times I see this, the Kensington Market Winter Solstice festival never fails to enchant.

Kensington Market: Parades and Place Making

On this darkest night, you can’t ignore the feeling that Kensington Market is being pulled by the balancing forces of the fire that consumes and the fire that restores. After 27 years, I can only wonder what kind of change has shaped Kensington Market to become what it is. And what about its future? What kind of balance will be struck between the forces of gentrification and urban renewal?

Whatever the answer may be, I hope it’s a future that will allow the spirit of Kensington to thrive. Believe it or not, despite the feeling of spring knocking on our doors, I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival.

Check out the Winter Solstice portfolio page and head on over the collection on Society6.

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