Above: Speakers take the stage during the keynote presentation.
L to R:  Diane Longboat, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Nathan Carey, Rachel Parent, Shiv Chopra & Jodi Koberinski)


About the Event

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Food for Thought was a dynamic event which explored “our relationship with the food system through the convergence of music, art and conversation”.

This 14-hour long experience took place at Daniels Spectrum in Toronto in November 2014 and featured over 12 presenters with expertise in the food sovereignty or environmental movements, including world-renowned activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. Other guests included food safety activist Shiv Chopra, “environmental mogul” John Bennett, GMO food-labeling activist Rachel Parent and Ecoholic author Adria Vasil among many other distinguished participants. At night, our event transformed into a party which featured several DJs, live musicians and VJs, enhanced sound from AlienInFlux and deco by Calabra. And since you can’t sit around just talking about food all day, we also served our guests a complimentary meal.

Above: At night, the stage was transformed for the party. Stage deco and assembly provided by Calabra. Photo by Loreto Di Cesare

The Opportunity

Ideas have the power to change the world. This dynamic event was an opportunity to engage the public by generating conversations and creating connections with the intention of invigorating Toronto’s food sovereignty movement. It was also an opportunity to throw a really great party. After all, it is music and food that sustains us!

My contribution before the event included venue scouting, art direction, curating, booking talent, promotional strategy, executing design artifacts (such as web banners, posters, postcards) and producing the Festival’s 2014 website [note: since been updated for 2015].

I also helped with event logistics, which were tricky given the need to transform the main hall space during a short intermission. I helped plan and communicate a solution that allowed the main stage to be efficiently and beautifully transformed from day to night. This involved conceptualizing the space and working as a liason between the venue’s technical staff and the external sound and deco teams we hired. During the event, I also offered stage management support and performed a closing DJ set.

A Few Challenges…

Producing an event of this calibre and complexity required a solid vision, a committed team and the time to carefully plan and promote the event. We had less than three months to plan and promote the Festival, with the additional challenge of our executive producer being across the world (with a nine-hour time difference and a sketchy internet connection!).

Our first hurdle was finding a venue that would work with our budget and had the facilities to support 400 guests, allow us to serve and prepare food and  beverages, had an additional multi-purpose space for lounging, plus offer professional quality staging and audio/visual services. Artscape’s Daniels Spectrum was the perfect fit.

Promoting the Event

Creating promotional material which would grab attention was also essential, especially since we didn’t have much time or budget to promote the event. To achieve this, we enlisted the services of a talented illustrator, Caitlin Taguibao. I briefed her on the Festival’s vision and my desire to offset the weight of the event title with playful imagery (“How about a dancing beet!?”). To save time and money, I asked Caitlin if it was ok to re-purpose some of her existing work (such as the garlic and seeds). She was not only gracious and accommodating, but nailed the concept beautifully.

Above: The Festival Of Dangerous Ideas wordmark, by Caitlin Taguibao

Conveying the scope of the event on posters and flyers was also tricky, especially since some of the programming details were not available at press-time. I wrangled what I could and re-purposed the wordmark to create a variety of design artifacts, such web banners, posters and a handbill. I also provided the copy-writing for artwork, website, event listings, including the event title tagline “Food For Thought”.

The Festival Of Dangerous Ideas 2014 poster
The Festival Of Dangerous Ideas “100 Mile Party” web banner.

To get the word out, we leveraged our social media and professional connections and activated a “street team” to distribute posters and flyers, led by Avery DeAbreau. We made sure the event was listed in local media. We also generated excitement and access to the event by providing group discounts and mentoring opportunities.

The Results

Planning, optimism and agility were essential to our success. Our core team of  producers identified the different areas we would specialize in and worked collaboratively to ensure that we had our bases covered.

Ultimately, we couldn’t have pulled off  the event without a huge team of dedicated and capable volunteers, led by  co-producer Tracy Machado.

Overall, our event was a tremendous success. Our guests enjoyed the content, shared a meal, made new connections and left feeling inspired.  The local movement has forged new alliances, created new action groups and we encourage conversations through our active use of social media.

Dr. Vandana Shiva  at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas:Food For Thought