A Q&A with HarbourKIDS programmer, Allison Cummings

The Toronto International Circus Festival is coming up soon! On Victoria Day weekend, May 16-18, HarbourKIDS and Zero Gravity Circus will team up to bring a weekend full of family-friendly circus-themed fun to our lakeshore site. We asked HarbourKIDS programmer Allison Cummings what families can expect from the weekend-long celebration of all things fun.

Tell us about this year’s HarbourKIDS: The Toronto International Circus Festival? What are you excited about?
At this year’s festival, we’ll bring back the popular acrobatic, magic, and juggling acts programmed by Zero Gravity Circus, and also explore the theme of the traditional sideshow. We have brought in a diverse range of professional artists to animate our spaces. The main attraction will be HarbourKIDS Sideshow Alley in the Brigantine Room. Artists Kaleb Robertson, Amira Emma Routledge, Chris Stanton, Kelsey Carriere, and Jane Sanden are transforming the room into a massive sideshow where kids get to explore and show off their eccentricities. The whole festival is designed to celebrate individuality and self.

What ages does the festival cover?
This year we have a special circus show made especially for infants 0-18 months old. We are so excited to bring Vau Vanne Baby Circus and their show Wow Hoop all the way from Finland. In between shows, the Lakeside Terrace will turn into a baby and toddler circus heaven where kids 0-4 years old can play to their hearts’ content. All of the other programming is designed for everyone to enjoy, so this year the festival covers activities for kids and kids-at-heart!

What do you want parents and children to experience?
I want those who come down to the festival to have the opportunity to engage in the circus in a hands-on, contemporary way. In the same space they’ll witness feats that circus artists have practiced and worked on for years as well as participate in an installation that will encourage thought and discussion later on around the dinner table.

Could you talk about your vision as a curator?
I believe that bringing in artists to create works and scenarios that instigate dialogue between artist and child will build an understanding of artistic practice and creativity on a more personal level. This year, the focus on the sideshow and the child as a divine individual touches on a part of the circus that is rarely explored in festivals oriented toward children. I am so excited to introduce this darker element of circus to kids in a positive and celebratory way.

The festival falls on the first long weekend of the summer. This is a great chance for families to come and enjoy the sunshine, the waterfront, and of course, all the circus offerings. There will be so much going on that they may have to split their visit into a couple of days over the weekend. They may need a day to watch the big tent shows on the WestJet Stage, and another day to wander through the installations. There will also be magicians and performers roaming through the site, which will guarantee that there will never be a dull moment at Harbourfront Centre.