Welcoming John Fox and Sue Gill to Toronto!

“Compared with… life-and-death disruptions of reality, theatre seems a hollow distraction…. Even the most cathartic public theatre production could not emulate… one small private ceremony. After a decade of researching many practical modes of theatrical intervention, I was asking whether most theatre work, including our own, was too generalised, unconnected and given to mainly enervating containment and gladiatorial titillation. ” 

This quote from John Fox’s Eyes on Stalks really gets at something that we at Making Room have been coming to understand in increasingly crucial and visceral ways:  that ceremony, ritual, and celebration are such powerful forms for us precisely because they are not theatre, not play-acting, but in fact something that is actually happening. This idea comes also from Ruth Howard, who attended a Rites of Passage workshop with John Fox some years ago and shared a similar thought with us.


As we delve further into our explorations of ritual as an artistic team, we have returned to the work of John Fox and Sue Gill, of the legendary celebratory theatre arts company Welfare State International, for inspiration. Thus we are delighted that Jumblie Theatre, our parent company, is inviting the pair to Toronto for a public workshop. Below, find a fascinating short documentary about their work, followed by information about the event on October 28th in Toronto.

Longline : Welfare State International from Tomas Suski on Vimeo.

Celebratory Arts for the next generation
a public presentation by JOHN FOX and SUE GILL

• all the way from Ulverston, U.K.
• internationally renowned visionary and pioneering artists
• authors of Engineers of the Imagination, Eyes on Stalks, Dead Good Guides and more
• founders of Welfare State International – now of Dead Good Guides
• returning to Toronto for the first time since producing the Tempest on Snake Island (on Toronto Island) in 1981: a production that inspired the founding of Toronto’s Shadowland Theatre and Vancouver’s Public Dreams Society.

Tuesday October 28th, 7:00 to 9:00
at Davenport Perth Neighbourhood & Community Health Centre
1900 Davenport Road (West of Lansdowne)

PWYC Admission, Suggested $5 to $10
Light refreshments will be provided.

For more info, please contact: info@jumbliestheatre.org

This special visit and presentation is made possible through funding contributions from the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, the TAPA TRIP Program and the Queen’s University Stage and Screen Department; and support from our partners at Shadowland Theatre, Making Room Community Arts and Arts4All.

John Fox MBE. is a painter, printmaker, poet, and cultural provocateur. In the 70’s he laid down the foundations for forms of theatre that abandoned conventional notions almost entirely” (Robert Hewison). With Sue Gill, he founded Welfare State
International (1968-2006) raised the Titanic in Limehouse, London, shifted the Trident Submarine Sheds in Barrow in Furness and built Lanternhouse, a £2m centre for the Celebratory Arts in Ulverston, Cumbria, UK. Welfare State International prototypes of fireshows, community lantern parades and site-specific events are copied globally. After archiving Welfare State International on April Fools Day 2006 he and Sue Gill started Dead Good Guides to pioneer work with ecological concerns and new ceremonies for secular rites of passage.

Sue Gill was born in Yorkshire and educated in Hull and Cambridge. After working as Head Teacher of the smallest village school in remote North Yorkshire and lecturing in Bradford Art College Sue evolved to become an author, performer, secular celebrant, cook, saxophonist, truck driver, co-founder of Welfare State International (1968-2006) and grandmother. After WSI was archived she was, for one year, Director of Ceremonies for Lanternhouse International. From 1998-2006, she was course leader for WSI’s groundbreaking MA in Cultural Performance created in partnership with Bristol University and Honorary Fellow of the University of Cumbria. She is co-author of the Dead Good Guides – books on Funerals and Baby Namings and presently leads Rites of Passage Summer Schools across the UK with Gilly Adams, and works as a secular celebrant for weddings and naming ceremonies and funeral officiant, particularly for woodland burials.

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