Jane’s Walks are back in Toronto from May 5 to 7 — perhaps not “stronger than ever,” but heading in that direction after the letdown of the pandemic period.
During those years of fear and isolation, the festival of walking tours, like most events, moved to virtual formats.
“Last year when we switched back to in-person walks, the numbers were a bit low,” says Kate Fane, communications manager for Jane’s Walk Toronto Festival.
But this year, judging by the enthusiasm organizers have picked up from communities, the participation rate is expected to continue bouncing back.
Privatization on walkers’ minds
Helping the resurgence is the increase in the number of walks from 82 last year to 113 this time. That higher figure too is still not equal to the festival’s pre-pandemic peak , but “we’re still working our way back”, Fane says.
It also helps that privatization of public spaces, such as Ontario Place, has become a major issue on city residents’ minds.
“I think people are tapping into advocacy for public space,” Fane says. “There are deep connections people feel toward their public spaces.”
Appropriately, one of the new and interesting walks she points out this year is the “Ontario Place West Island Walk,” which addresses the issue of “Public Space or Private Spa?” according to its online description.
Jane’s Walks is also addressing Indigenous matters with a land acknowledgement prominent on its website and two walks led from Indigenous authors.
Also new this year, Fane notes, is “Canary in the Pan Am,” a look at how the Canary district has lived up to its legacy since the area was used as an athletes’ village during the Pan American Games eight years ago.
Novel too is “Little Portugal in Transition: The Death and Life of the Porch,” which tours Little Portugal’s streets and explores how the porch shapes collective experiences of public spaces.
Also returning are some perennially favourite walking tours that both guides and participants seem to enjoy. Walking tour range widely in topic and cover neighbourhoods right across Toronto.
Although inspired by author and urban activist Jane Jacobs, the walking tour festival, after all, is led and staffed by members of the community.
Most of the people who work to put on Jane’s Walks each year are volunteers, Fane says.
She herself started as a volunteer nine years ago before becoming a manager last year.
Find the full lists of tours and other information on the Jane’s Walk Festival Toronto website.