Toronto Tailor-made for Shoestring Budgets

Having lived in London and spent time in many of the World’s largest cities, I can honestly say that I have found nowhere as accessible as Toronto for quality cheap or next to nothing entertainment.
This list is by no means exhaustive and I will add as I learn more.
Knock yourself Out!

Theatre & Comedy
National Theatre of the World – look out for NTOW’s Baram and Sniekus who practice their particular brand of improvised comedy all over Toronto but can often be found on Friday evenings at the John Candy Theatre (Second City training theatre) on Peter Street – Pwyc

Shakespeare in the Ruff puts on amazing Shakespeare adaptations every summer in Withrow Park

Same goes for Canadian Stage’s High Park Shakespeare Productions running June 26 through to September 1.

Jazz & Blues
The following primarily operate on a tip- jar payment system so essentially pwyc
Gate 403

The Rex Hotel

The Winchester Kitchen

The Monarch Pub at the Eaton Chelsea pub has music – jazz and blues every night. No cover
See website for details

Want to play a board game, do a jigsaw, play pinball on a vintage machine, draw something?
Unlike many of other “Board Game cafes” 3030 does not charge a cover for you to exercise your creativity – help yourself on first-come first-serve basis. Just buy a drink or two and your evening’s entertainment is sorted for the price of that drink

For $7 return take a Ferry over to Toronto Islands.
Ward and Algonquin Island for boardwalk cute cottage community and gardens, Hanlan’s Point for beaches and shady dappled trails. Centre Island for Amusement Park/Bike hire, pier, busy kid friendly beaches etc.
TIP: The best way to avoid the enormous queues in the summer and if there are a few of you likely to be visiting the Islands a couple of times a year. Buy a string of 10 tickets for $63 and march straight through the lines and onto the ferry.

Summerlicious and Winterlicious foodie events ensure that the most cash strapped amongst us can enjoy a slap-up meal in a host of Toronto’s more high-end restaurant.
lunch is best value with a fixed price
menu for generally $25 for 2/3 courses and dinner more expensive at $35/$40.

Visit the AGO for free on Wednesday evenings after 5pm

Visit the ROM at a reduced price on Friday nights after 4pm

Ripleys Aquarium
If you live in town and you love Aquariums then the most cost effective way of visiting again and again is to buy an annual membership for $100
Whilst this is hardly “shoestring ” speak; when you consider that the cost of an individual ticket is almost $40 – you do the math…..
Subscribe to their newsletter too as they frequently have deals for students…

Hart House offers free tours of their eclectic art collection – check website

Go for an Art Gallery crawl along Tecumseth Street or Queen Street West – many gallery owners are happy to show interested parties around the work they are profiling in their spaces.

Last but not least sign up for Groupon, Buytopia, Yipit and Travel zoo to get huge discounts and deals on local restaurants , museums and experiences ( and of course products)

Over and Out



“Bowie Is”

Hot on the heels of a”Residency”
at London’s “Victoria and Albert” Museum and starring in an all-encompassing multi-media Exhibition at The Art Gallery of Ontario


Bowie Is:

The most mind blowing exquisitely layered multi-media exhibition I’ve seen to date. Both a sonic and visual spectacle that immerses the “viewer” in surround-sound.

A sublime curation of a diverse body of work from probably one of the most underrated “Pop” icons of our time

An exhilarating reminder of how it’s possible to reinvent yourself over and over whilst constantly exploring all your aspects of creativity as a piece of a larger artistic picture.

A re-definition of “Art “in its broadest sense (and therefore a brave and forward thinking stance from the AGO)

A showcase for all the “behind-the-scenes” notes/drawings/doodles/sketches and designs that hallmarked his involvement with every part of the creative process whether it be on stage, in a video, or as a recording.

A celebration of the life and prolific output of a true trendsetter.”A glamorous pioneer of invented identities”

A comprehensive chronologically presented archive of the life of a man who is unafraid to express himself at every artistic level and to challenge the social boundaries of the various “ages” through which he has trail-blazed.a questioner of social norms and gender

Absolutely nothing to do with tabloid rubbish or his private persona

Exhibit Notes:
Get ready to experience the amazing directional viewing/listening concept delivered through your complimentary headset. The soundtrack and narration merge and fade in and out as you move from exhibit to exhibit.
First gallery:
Here we find the contextual pieces and the influences that framed his early life. Bowies own voice and memories accompany you through this gallery.
Born David Jones in Brixton UK in 1947
Began singing in various bands from the age of 16 – pootled around with acting roles and trained as a professional mime artist but until 1969 failed to make a significant commercial breakthrough.
Then came “Space Oddity” – which gets its own exhibit here. This incorporates memorabilia, notes, the video etc of the 1969 career-changing release of this iconic record just prior to the Apollo 12 moon landing.
A “Star Man” booth features costumes and a cosmic split screen kaleidoscope style video of a 1972 “Top of the Pops” appearance with the “too gorgeous” Mick Ronson. Amusing quote with the video, stating that Bowie “outraged and enthralled” viewers of the prime time music show with his alien appearance on colour television (remembering that colour tv was a new concept) and his homoerotic stage-play with Mick Ronson”!

One whole gallery is devoted to Bowie’s Andy Warhol influence/connection.

Up the spiral Gehry staircase to the second floor of the exhibition

Multi media on speed in here.
Where to look?
How to move around it?

Video cubes hang from the ceiling
Acrylic Display cases house masks, clothing and footwear and draft music/show design concepts.
Small TVs screen recordings and documentary pieces – notably some 1973 “Nationwide” archival footage capturing the public reaction to “Ziggyman”, with the very straight, very BBC Bernard Falk describing Bowie as follows:
“A bizarre self-constructed freak with a painted face and carefully adjusted lipstick. This 26 year old man earns about half million pounds a year and can afford to have a personal makeup artist to coat his nails in silver – features confused Newcastle pensioners who have been caught up in the crowds of screaming girls outside

On the walls, paper records, photos and artwork by the man himself

Turn one way and you hear “Gene Genie “
Turn another and “Star Man” blasts into your headset.
My favourite exhibit – a TV screen “looping” the amazing NBC Saturday night live video (1979) where he is carried on stage (because of the restrictive nature of his self-designed costume) backed by The cult German performer Klaus Nomi – who subsequently adopted this style and made it his own – singing “The Man who sold the World” Flanked by story boards detailing the avant garde cabaret influence of 1920’s Europe on his video, and the fact that Bowie’s costume designs and robotic movements were inspired by two specific pieces of Dadaist theatre – performance of Tristian Tzara’s “The Gas Heart with costume by Sonia Delaney and a 1916 recitation by Hugo Bell (he wore a similarly restrictive costume)

Also a small Booth with background info on his latest release “The Next Day”

Excellent “Boys keep swinging” exhibit – with all the costumes – plus his gender bending appearance as the three accompanying backing singers. At the end of the video two of these “characters” pose at the entrance of the catwalk, pause to camera, pull off the wig with attitude and dramatically wipe/smear off the lipstick revealing the gorgeous Bowie glowering onto the lens. Pretty intense confusing messaging for a 1970’s audience.

A separate screening area shows a montage of every film appearance including “The Prestige”, “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”, “The man who fell to earth” etc

Move to a room with chequerboard tv monitors and chequerboard tiled floor. Stand on the tile that corresponds to the screen you are watching and hey presto – the soundtrack – stellar!

Look out for his art/cartoons and mime pieces here too.

The masterpiece for me however is the last gallery with its massive floor to ceiling screens playing a vast selection of Bowie’s music videos and stills
Leave at least 20 minutes for this gallery


A Multi Sensory Tour of the Art Gallery of Ontario


So once again the marvellous AGO has surprised me!
I stepped in for a member’s preview of the Patti Smith photography exhibit and ended up doing a wonderful guided “ Multi-sensory tour

Designed for sight impaired folk this tour gives you a chance to touch some of the sculpture noticeably two definitive Rodin pieces and partially “sense” a clay sculpture of Count Robert de Montesquieo-Fezensac by Prince Paolo Troubetsky.

We approach Rodin’s huge 7ft cast bronze figure of Adam.

Even as a sighted person closing your eyes to feel beneath your hands ; the creation ;that was Rodin’s original depiction of Adam is powerful stuff.-he full-onn touching experience only marginally reduced by thenecessity of wearing purple plastic gloves .

This is indeed a unique experience/privilege as ordinarily and obviously you are not anle to ;”touch” anything in the museum.

So with your eyes tightly shut, listen to the guide tell the stories behind these figures and rely upon your sense of touch to experience art in a whole new dimension.

;Is ;it cold or warm? – clue – it is bronze cast.

“Walk” your hands over the musculature of his arms – the attitude of each upper limb borrowed from Michelangelo art (see below) – both smooth and rough under your fingers, this dichotomy due to the fact that Rodin was not afraid to leave evidence of the bronze caste process AND
Rodin himself was visually challenged so the fine detail his present and fashionable in the sculptures of his contemporaries is not present – he was criticised heavily for this ;trait during his lifetime – ;but there is ;detail enough to be able to trace the human form simply by using the hands

Run your hands up the neck over the stretched and contorted sinews; if you can’t see, you would most certainly be able to feel the angst, the twisted contortion of Adam’s pose.

So to those arms!
The right Arm alludes to Micelangelo’s “The Creation of Man” in the Sistine Chapel fresco and
Left arm directly lifted from the dead Christ of the Pita in the Cathedral of Florence – Michelangelo..

So now a physical exercise: try putting yourself into that exact position. It’s a bit like trying to position yourself ;into ;the twisted, ;shoulders front, feet and head in profile stance of an ancient Egyptian figure in a tomb painting – virtually impossible. ; ;Rodin managed to conevy the whole passage of life in one sculpure – the figure has been ;framed by the beginning and end of life in.a pose that suggests a “shooting” upwards from the moment of birth with the torture of life in between and then the contorted ;agony of dying;

Now you need your eyes or your hands again ;- look at/feel feet and hands – huge and out of proportion- Rodin’s nod to depicting the humanity of his figures and a bit of a trademark.

Notice the green patina – this was often achieved by urinating on the freshly cast bronze!!!!

Over to a more modest size bronze also based on Adam.
Much smaller and famously known throughout the world as “the Thinker” but this was never the meaning attached by Rodin to the sculpture. He ;was commissioned by the Directorate of Fine Arts in Paris to create a massive scene of “Dante’s Inferno” which was to be the “welcoming” structure/gate for ;a new Decoratif ;Arts Museum. ;The museum never materialised. even though Rodin had worked on and off on pieces for it until his death. The product of his life’s work can be found in the Musee Rodin in Paris.

He had several variously sized casts made of this sculpture; one was for his tomb; one is in the Detroit Institure for the Arts and one in Paris

Back in the AGO we ere also treated to vivid and detailed descriptions of other artworks in the European Gallery (where the Rodins are situated) – so that if you were sight- impaired you could build a minds-eye view if what the docent was describing.

The “tour” then took us ; on a “through the ages” quest visiting connecting artworks -mainly depictions of Christ‘s Crucifixtion in order to explore the Church’s obsession – during the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance ages – with making the artistic allegorical connection between Christ and Adam in the artworks of the time.


Over and Ou