Preview: Toronto International BuskerFest (Epilepsy Toronto)

20151208_IMG_20151028_001715The 17th annual Toronto International BuskerFest for Epilepsy takes place Labour Day Weekend at Woodbine Park. Proceeds support Epilepsy Toronto, an organization that represents the approximately 4000 people in Toronto living with epilepsy. I did know this, but 1 in 100 people has epilepsy.

The festival features a superb musical lineup, including Juno award-winner Adam Solomon. Music is only a fraction of the attractions the festival has to offer. Acrobats, clowns, midway rides, stilt walkers, flaming hula hoops, and mimes will all play a part in the weekends delights. The festival will also include a car show for the first time this year.

I have attended the festival several times, and it is one of the highlights of the end of summer. We asked the folks at BuskerFest a few questions about changes to the festival, and what the weekend has in store.

20160719_20140822IMG_4286mAm I right in thinking that Busker fest used to be downtown on Yonge Street? When did the move happen, and why?

We moved BuskerFest to Woodbine Park this year, which is actually the 4th location for the festival in its 17 years. Woodbine Parks gave us the opportunity to have a blank slate to program, including some new features like a beer garden, and it’s going to give visitors a very relaxed atmosphere, so they can sit on  the grass and watch a show.

The festival features diverse performers from the European busking tradition. Can you briefly describe the selection or curation process for such a diverse array of performances?

 We try to find different types of acts, both different styles and from different locations, so visitors who come to the festival can walk around and see a variety of performances. The performers come from different traditions; Ace K from Japan is fast, with acrobatics and juggling while Barrada Street is full of music and comedy. And the diversity includes local performers too, like Bex in Motion who combines fire and hula hoop tricks.

20160719__TAN9390-2 Although Busking is a European tradition, do any of the performances draw on traditions and cultures outside of Europe?

Absolutely. Pancho Libre from Mexico, Victor Rubilar from Argentina, Magic Man from South Africa, Cirque No Problem from Israel, all bring something from their own cultures and traditions to their acts. MaracaTALL are stilt-walking afro-Brazilian drummers with members from Brazil and Canada who combine folkloric traditions and Maracatu drums.

The festival happens in support of Epilepsy. How are the funds raised used to improve the lives of people living with Epilepsy?

Epilepsy Toronto supports the 1-in-100 people living with epilepsy and their families in Toronto. Whether its support for someone newly diagnosed with epilepsy, a child who is being bullied because of their seizures and needs help, or someone who needs employment counselling to overcome the stigma of living with epilepsy and find a job, Epilepsy Toronto works to provide them with whatever support they need.

What sort of programming is there for kids and families?

We have a new feature this year: the Be A Busker Zone. It’s an interactive area for kids to get some hands on experience in a few of the many arts that buskers perform. Our Family Fun Zone has face-painting, balloon twisting, and giant games. We also have a Midway with fun rides and games.


  • Toronto International BuskerFest takes place from September 2 – 5 at Woodbine Park (1695 Queen Street East)
  • Shows run September 2, Noon-11 PM, September 3, 11 AM – 11 PM, September 4, 11 AM – 10 PM, and September 5, 11 AM – 8 PM
  • Tickets are $5 for 2 tickets, $10 for 4 tickets, and $20 for 8 tickets.
  • Advance passes are available  online.

Photos of Ace-K, Flame Oz and Pancho Libre provided by The Toronto International BuskerFest