Pedestrians, cyclists and buskers reclaim the streets in Kensington Market – By John Bonnar
Carfree, Kensington Market, Pedestrian Sundays, People, Spring
By 1:00 p.m. the barricades were up, streets were swept clean of cars, replaced with pedestrians, cyclists, buskers and street vendors. Just outside St. Stephen’s Community House on Augusta Avenue, two children sat on the grass covered hood of a car.
Couples emerged from the monstrous shadows that stretched across the street, cast by the over-hanging trees. A parking law enforcement officer paced back and forth on the sidewalk beside a black SUV, as he waited for a tow truck to “relocate” the obtrusive car.
From May to October, Pedestrian Sundays are held the last Sunday of every month from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Kensington Market, where the streets become a cultural playground celebrating community, culture and ecology.
“What should we sing about?” asked the Improv Song on Demand gesticulating puppet to a group of children and parents. “We shall sing about your hoody.” The coins clinked together as the audience dropped them into the metal container after the performance.
Businesses moved their products on to the sidewalks outside their stores and restaurants. Shoppers browsed the offerings as they walked up and down the streets. Three teenaged girls stopped at one vendor and tried on pairs of sunglasses while taking turns admiring themselves in the mirror. Calypso music reverberated through the sun-sweetened air. The aroma of beef and chicken empanadas drifted through the billowing breeze of a late May afternoon.
On Baldwin Avenue, two young boys were busy selling pop and water for $1.00 a bottle next to tubs filled with army surplus clothing. Nearby, organic burgers sizzled on the fresh wood grill while chefs and customers did their best to avoid the acrid smoke rising from the barbecue. Across the street, the aroma of barbecued sardines mixed with the swirling air.
Further down the street, an animated hip-hop poet was forced to compete with the clanging wind chimes on a blustery corner in Kensington Market. Outside Sanci’s on Kensington Avenue, a blues guitarist performed for the passersby as the leaves rustled in the nearby trees. Further down, children wrapped hula hoops around their waists and shook their hips back and forth while adults twirled hoops with their index fingers.
At the bottom of the street, an electric bubble blowing machine sent sparkling bubbles flying through the air. Children chased the bubbles trying to burst them with their fingers; others tried to catch them in their hands. A budding portrait artist, no older than ten, sketched a group portrait of three young men who patiently sat in front of him, as he put the finishing touches on their drawing.
Despite the unseasonably cool weather, patrons filled the patios of the local bars and restaurants.
At the top of the street, a stilt walker wearing an oversized jean jacket made his way down Kensington Avenue – his black pants flapping in the wind – before disappearing inside one of the retail shops. Back on Baldwin, in front of a graffiti stained wall, a young violinist’s graceful music mingled with the shrill voice of another poet at the end of the crowded street.
Some pedestrians ventured into the alleys off Augusta Avenue, elaborately decorated by the neighbourhood graffiti artists. At the intersection of Augusta and Nassau, the stilt walker reappeared, dancing to the delicious sounds of Calypso music. Nearby, bicycle mechanics were busy lifting bikes on and off racks to perform minor repairs for riders.
“Would you like a song about monkeys?” asked the Improv Song puppet, further up the street.
“Yeah,” said the children.
“Hurray, Hurray,” said the puppet. “Then we shall sing you a song about monkeys.”
The children stood, wide eyed, mouths hanging open as they listened to the song.
Next door, a woman scored 42 points with one word on the giant Scrabble board, then suggested her opponent admit defeat. “Sounds like a challenge,” he said, as he prepared to make his next move.
Nearby, a diminutive man with a bushy red beard, wearing glasses and a toque twisted balloons into a pink flower with a green stem and handed it to a little girl.
Later, at the giant Scrabble board, four children were scattered all over the tiles, trying to form as many words as possible, with little regard for scoring or taking turns.
At the corner of Augusta and Baldwin, dozens of spectators encircled a group of adults who were playing Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, games, music and dance. Participants form a circle, and take turns playing musical instruments (such as the Berimbau), singing, or ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The sparring is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of sweeps, kicks, and head butts, without physical contact.
At 3:20 p.m., Maracatu Nunca Antes, an Afro-Brazilian percussion group made its way from College and Augusta into Kensington Market. The group was led by four dancers in elaborately coloured costumes who twirled back and forth as they made their way down the street. The lead dancer, wearing a lemon coloured dress, gold hoop earrings and a yellow floral headdress held a miniature figurine, similarly dressed, over her left hand and wrist.
Pedestrians cleared the street to make room for the percussion group, but a few couldn’t fight the urge to join the dancers. As the drummers approached, clad in bright red shirts, roughly two dozen pairs of drumsticks striking drum skins gave forth a distinctive Brazilian sound that could be heard in all directions.