What to see at Toronto’s Luminato Festival in 2016

By: Waheeda Harris

May 26, 2016

Luminato Festival‘s memorable performances have contributed to Toronto‘s status as a global player in the arts landscape. With the festival’s 10th anniversary in June 2016, the next phase for Luminato is the reinvention of a former power station on the eastern edge of the city into the largest temporary arts residency in the world.

Opened in 1951 and decommissioned in 1983, the 400,000 square foot Hearn Generating Station has been a watcher on the wall for Toronto’s rapid urban development, and had a starring role in recent films Pacific Rim and Robocop.

For the past two years, Luminato has used the industrial space, three times larger than the Tate Modern, as the debut Canadian location for Krakow’s Unsound Festival. This year, the festival will host all its events within the Hearn, part of the swan song of Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt, who will pass the torch to his successor Josephine Ridge.

Toronto’s Luminato Festival
Inside The Hearn © Luminato Festival / George Pimentel


Working with architects PARTISANS and theatre and acoustic consultants Charcoalblue, Luminato will transform the Hearn into a place for art, music, dance, theatre and film during the 17 day festival, featuring over 20 partnerships with arts heavyweights such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Art Gallery of Ontario, National Film Board of Canada, Toronto International Film Festival, Design Exchange as well as performances by Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir!, Tafelmusik and Regent Park School of Music.

Toronto’s Luminato Festival | The James Plays
The James Plays © Luminato Festival / Tommy Ga-Ken Wan


The Hearn Theatre is the heart of this industrial space, a 1200 seat theatre created with shipping containers. This will be the distinct setting for The James Plays Trilogy, an acclaimed trio of plays by Scottish playwright Rona Munro, debuting for the first time in North America.

The Music Stage, which can convert from 2000 seats to standing room for 5000, will host a range of performances like monumental, a dance/music fusion of The Holy Body Tattoo dance group and Godspeed You! Black Emperor; Rufus Does Judy, musician Rufus Wainwright’s recreation of Judy Garland’s iconic performance in 1961 at Carnegie Hall; and the third edition of the Unsound Festival, featuring 20 electronic and experimental performers over two days.

Toronto’s Luminato Festival | Rufus Does Judy
Rufus Does Judy © Luminato Festival / Gus Powell


Arts patrons who want to taste the creative atmosphere can do so at Le Pavillon, a pop-up restaurant inspired by the 1939 World’s Fair, helmed by Montreal chefs Frederic Morin and John Bil, and at the Hearn’s Biergarten, overseen by Toronto resto Parts & Labour with libations provided by Mill Street Brewery. In between performances, visitors can take a walking tour of the Hearn and are encouraged to hang out at The Canteen, to meet Luminato Festival performers and participants.

Two memorable inclusions of this year’s festival are One Thousand Speculations, a 7.9 metre diameter mirror ball created by artist Michel de Broin, an installation first done in 2013 and repeated this year in the Hearn, and 66 Wheels, an exploration tour of Toronto from Trinity Bellwoods Park to the Hearn on bicycle. Led by Kid Koala, the tour will showcase his favourite food and music spots and will end with the mellow Music To Draw To, an all-ages colouring event.

Toronto’s Luminato Festival | Unsound Festival
Unsound Festival 2015 © Luminato Festival / David Leyes


Luminato Festival will take place at The Hearn from June 10th until June 26th 2016, so catch it while you can.

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Have you attended Luminato Festival in previous years? What are you most looking forward to about this year’s event? Let us know in the comments section below.


Waheeda Harris

Waheeda Harris is a Toronto-based freelance journalist who is regularly on a plane exploring our world as well as discovering her ever-changing city through art, style, design, culture and cuisine. She is a regular contributor to Travelweek, Canadian Traveller, Postmedia Inc. Newspapers, Lipstick Lifestyle, Paste Magazine and NUVO Magazine.

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