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Lobby of the Hearn | © PARTISANS and Norm Li/Courtesy of Luminato
Lobby of the Hearn | © PARTISANS and Norm Li/Courtesy of Luminato

10 Must-See Events At Toronto's Luminato 2016

Picture of Stephanie Pereira
Updated: 5 January 2017
With the launch of this year’s Luminato Festival only a few days away (running June 10th to the 26th), we’ve composed a list of the top ten events you should definitely make a priority to check out. Featuring the best in all forms of art – from performance to visual art to music, theatre, dance, magic, and more – Luminato is an experience for the adventurous. Their events range from free to ticketed and also includes several professional workshops for artists – and for the first time in nine years, all the events take place under one roof, the Hearn Generating Station. One of Canada‘s most unique industrial landmarks, the Hearn was originally a coal-fired electric plant when it first opened in 1951 – an event space which adequately represents the artistic energy brought together by the culture experience that is Luminato.

The Hearns Trail

To start off your Luminato experience, learn about what makes the Hearn space unique through the free bespoke tours running from the 12th to the 26th. With both guided and independent tours, you can explore not only the past but also the present and the future of the industrial space – open to the public for the first time in 30 years – by following the boot prints, presented by Timberland. Share your discoveries with the hashtags #TurnOnTheHearn and #moderntrail to join a community-wide movement in welcoming the space as part of the city’s cultural landscape.

Control Room at Hearn Generating Station | © Jonathan Castellino / Courtesy of Luminato

Control Room at Hearn Generating Station | © Jonathan Castellino/Courtesy of Luminato

The James Plays Trilogy

Its only North American tour stop, this epic theatre trilogy makes its debut in the new 1200-seat Hearn Generating Station Theatre June 16th through 26th, with tickets as low as $39. Written by Rona Munro, it features a narrative on Scottish nationhood. Based on the men who ruled the nation from 1406 to 1488 (with insight into the political climate of the country today), the play has been described as ‘better than Shakespeare’ and ‘Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones.’

The James Plays | © Tommy Ga-Ken Wan / Courtesy of Luminato

The James Plays | © Tommy Ga-Ken Wan/Courtesy of Luminato

Neighbourhood Food Festival

What more can we say other than be sure to check out this (free!) two-day food festival at Union Station on Front Street, hosted by Joshna Maharaj. On Saturday from 12-8 and Sunday 12-6, 15 restaurants from across the city will be featuring their cuisine (each dish is $6), with chef demonstrations all day. For entertainment, there’s giant Chess and Jenga, a bar by Parts & Labour, and music by DJs medicineman and Phil V. The event is also vegan-friendly and includes many locally sourced treats.


Unsound Toronto

Taking place June 10th and 11th with tickets starting at $25, Unsound Toronto is a unique music festival that turns the Hearn into a ‘sonic playground’ – though the performance is more of an experimental sound experience than a concert. The six-hour, two-day performance seeks to create a multi-sensory sound journey of complementary ambient soundscapes and heart-stopping contemporary techno. Curated by Mat Schulz and Malgorzata Plysa, it features artists hailing from all corners of the globe, including Lotic, Jlin, Alessandro Cortini, Ancient Methods, Amnesia Scanner, and more.

Unsound Toronto | © David Leyes / Courtesy of Luminato

Unsound Toronto | © David Leyes/Courtesy of Luminato

Rufus Does Judy

In one of the most iconic events at Luminato, you can watch Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright recreate Judy Garland’s award-winning, revolutionary 1961 Carnegie Hall show in Rufus Does Judy. Following his 2006 sold-out shows in all the same venues Garland previously performed in, Rufus brings his show to Toronto audiences on June 23-24; with outstanding hits like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Chicago,’ it’s a show you don’t want to miss a second time around. Some tickets are still available online, starting at $39, though they are most definitely expected to sell out.

Rufus Wainwright | © Matthew Welch / Courtesy of Luminato

Rufus Wainwright | © Matthew Welch/Courtesy of Luminato

One Thousand Speculations

If you’re interested in seeing the world’s largest mirror ball, you’ve come to the right place. For the second time at Luminato, Michel de Broin’s One Thousand Speculations installment will be featured for 16 days. Moving from its previous position (dangling from a crane at David Pecaut Square), the ball will be hung inside the Hearn Generating Station, transforming the ambiance of the space and highlighting every unique detail of the Hearn.



For those looking for a cathartic artistic experience, monumental is an ‘explosion of contemporary dance and post-rock music’ from Vancouver’s The Holy Body Tattoo and Montreal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Following a series of sold-out Vancouver shoes, the show comes to Toronto with the goal of uprooting the foundations of capitalist culture. As quoted by the Ottawa Citizen, monumental is a ‘raw, fearless, sometimes harrowing trip into the darkest corners of our urban, urbane, post-9/11 psyches.’ The show itself features nine dancers atop illuminated podiums with a cityscape backdrop and an eight-piece band – it’s sure to leave audience members with food for thought.

monumental | © Yannick Grandmont / Courtesy of Luminato

monumental | © Yannick Grandmont/Courtesy of Luminato

Iftar at the Hearn

Paying homage to the thousands of Syrian refugees that have been welcomed into the city of Toronto, Luminato will be hosting Iftar at the Hearn on June 22nd. The free event welcomes all members of the community, regardless of religion, and will include music from the Nai Children’s Choir, greetings from Indigenous Elder Duke Redbird, dance and musical performances, and last but not least, traditional Syrian and Middle Eastern food and refreshments for all to enjoy.



For the true Torontonian, Trove was created with the following thought in mind: what are the most important works of art in the city? Trove: A View of Toronto in 50 of Its Treasures is a 10th anniversary Luminato project that brings forth what makes Toronto unique in a gallery photographed by Scott McFarland and in partnership with PARTISANS architecture firm. There will be 14 galleries within the project, which launches June 10th, and will be running until the end of Luminato on the 26th. While in the space, all 50 images are ‘fused’ together to create a cohesive existence and subjective representation of the city; they are also scattered across the city to create a multi-dimensional artistic experience.


New Canadian Music Stage

For the music buffs, this event shines a light on the up-and-comers of Canada’s highly talented music scene. Co-curated by Slaight Music and Luminato Festival’s music programmer Derek Andrews, end your day at the Hearn by grabbing a drink and bite to eat while enjoying a daily showcase of performers at the Biergarten. Some participating artists include Emma-Lee, Jessica Mitchell, DIA, Zuze, and more.