A Summer Celebration of
Music, Dance, Food & Film


John Filion, Toronto City Councillor and Founder of Cultura Festival

Cultura Festival - John FillionIn 2009, John Filion had a vision to produce an event that would bring the Willowdale community together on Friday nights in the summer. As Cultura has grown into one of the city’s top Summer events, John is assisted by many individual volunteers, sponsors, and arts organizations to produce a high calibre, free and accessible cultural festival.

Established in 2010, Cultura is a weekly Friday night Summer festival that celebrates music, food, performance, art and film at North York’s Mel Lastman Square.  The free event showcases award-winning musicians, international food vendors, world-class buskers, and crowd-pleasing feature films. Cultura’s programming is a new experience each week. Festival goers have come to expect the unexpected!

Cultura is supported through community and corporate sponsorship. It has become a highly anticipated community event in North York, supporting local, national and international talent and attracting large crowds from the  surrounding Willowdale neighbourhoods and across the GTA.

Cultura Festival 2010 – The Beginning

Cultura’s first year event ran for seven consecutive Fridays, June 25 to August 6 and featured a wide variety of independent, cultural and community artists. A very grass roots initiative, the festival quickly gained a following in the immediate Willowdale community.  Cultura Festival helped raise awareness and over $4,000 for the seven charities.

Charities: Lansing United Church (June 25), Wednesday Drop-Inn at Newtonbrook United Church (July 2), Carefree Lodge – Fresh Fruits & Vegetables (July 9), Second Harvest (July 16), North York Senior Centre (July 23), The Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation “A life for Elisa” (July 30) WWF World Wildlife Fund (Aug 6)
Films: Shrek, Night at the Museum, Ice Age, Raiders of the Lost Ark (PG 13), Mission Impossible I, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Happy Feet
Music: Stephanie Braganza (Pop/ R&B), Song of Songs (Traditional Korean Music), The Magical Bunch (R/B, Nu-Jazz, Afro-beat), Natalie Di Liluccio (Classical/Pop), Ho Deng Music Ensemble (Chinese Cultural Music), SoulAdikts (Latin), Sax Band (Saxophone), Happy Hour (Jazz), Mary Jayne Taivi (Folk Harmonies), Ron Westray Trio (Modern Jazz), Dave McLaughlin (Saxophone), James Plouffe (Urban Pop), Jef Kearn & Stevie Gee (Soul Jazz), The Seasonal (Pop/Rock), Havana Express (Latin), Times Neue Roman (Electronic), Maylee Todd (Indie/Pop), Tanika Charles, (Pop/Jazz), Jacob Moon (Folk/Pop), Jeff Kearns (Folk)
Buskers and other Performers: The Fire Guy, Dylan Studebaker,  Art Battle, Chalk Artist Jo, Spur of the Moment – Scenes from Shakespeare
Dancers: Bayview School of Ballet, Hoza, Maximum Efficiency
Visual Artists: Bev Fieghen, William Suarez, Javid, Venus Lukic, Vladimir Iablokov, Cheryl Lobe Therias, Ann Katz , Marta Alvarez, Victoria Berdichevsky, Dominick Petrungaro, Aliyyah Fazil, Susie Park, Nadia To, Cagil Atas Dogan, Irene Hung , Sarah Booth, Angela Hill, Gazak Amin, Aparna Yadav, Gigi Horvath, Steve Bendek, Alicia Deng, Peggy Sui, Joel Tellier, Maria Grossbaum
Audience Participation: Latin Zumba Lessons, Ripple Rhythms
Food Vendors: A Taste of Afghanistan (Afghan), A Taste of Paradise (Sri Lankan), Hearty Catering (Organic), Kathmandu (Indian/ Nepalese), La Fiesta (Ecuadorian), Pondi Cherry (Malaysian), Naniwa Taro (Japanese), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), Thai Angels (Thai), Vesta Lunch (Latin / Greek), Viv’s Jamaican Catering (Jamaican)

Cultura 2011 – Year Two

Cultura’s sophomore festival also ran for seven consecutive Fridays, July 8 to August 11 and featured a wide variety of independent, cultural and community artists.  Cultura Festival helped raise awareness and close to $5,500 for the seven charities.

Charities: Toronto City Mission (July 8), The Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation “A life for Elisa” (July 15), Second Harvest (July 22), Lansing United Food Bank (July 29), Tour for Kids (August 5), WWF World Wildlife Fund (Aug 12)
Films: The Kings Speech, Planes,Trains, and Auto-mobiles, Blind Side, Batman, How to Train Your Dragon, March of the Penguins
Music: Haylee Stark (Folk Duo), Amanda Martinez (Latin), Maneli Jamal (Guitarist), Dominic Mancuso (Italian/Jazz), NVOZ (Columbian), Brian Blain (Folk), Kobo Town (Trinidadian calypso / reggae), Madagascar Slim (World Music), Sarv Ensemble (Persian), Suzie Vinnick (Blues)
Buskers and other Performers: The Fire Guy, Kate Mior, The Trulee Odd Show, PunkMagic, Hoop Toronto, Toronto Batman 
Dancers: Maximum Efficiency
Audience Participation: Soul Drums, Hoop Toronto
Food Vendors: Hearty Catering (Organic), La Fiesta (Ecuadorian), Pondi Cherry (Malaysian), Naniwa Taro (Japanese), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), Thai Angels (Thai), MotiMahal (Indian), Capriccio Café (Gelato & Iced Coffee), The Real Jerk (Caribbean), The Portobello Burger (Vegetarian)

Cultura 2012 – Year Three, Re-Branding

Cultura’s began to expand the programming but condense the festival to six evenings, which ran July 6 to August 24. The final scheduled Cultura day was August 10th, but due to rain the programming was pushed back to August 24th so the community would not miss out. Cultura Festival helped raise awareness and just over $4,000 for the six charities.

Charities: St. John’s Ambulance (July 6), The Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation “A life for Elisa” (July 13), Second Harvest (July 20), Tour for Kids (July 27), Toronto City Mission (August 3), Ontario Historical Society (Aug 24)
Films: Hugo, The First Grader, One Week, Life in a Day, Rio, The Artist
Music: David Rudder (Calypso), Drew Gonsalves (Caribbean), Autorickshaw (World Music), Le Vent Du Nord (Francophone/Folk), Jayme Stone’s Room of Wonders (Folk/Banjo), Silk Road (Qiu Xia He, Pipa & Andre Thibault, Flamenco Guitar), Sarv Ensemble (Persian), Matra Project (Caribbean), Joanna Moon Duo (Latin/Jazz), Suzie Vinnick (Blues), Yongli Xue (World Music)
Buskers and Other Performers: Poppy Paints Facepainter, Boobily the Clown, Darren Bedford, Madame Buskerfly, James Poi, Darren Bedford, Fire Guy, Fire Power, El Jaguar, Street Fiesta Mexican Wrestler, Billions Cobra, Ben Burland, John Park
Dancers: Random Acts of Dance
Audience Participation and Other Programming: Poppy Paints Facepainter, Shara Claire/Finding Rhythm, Gibson House, Toronto Public Library, Walking “Tours” of MLS
Food Vendors: La Fiesta (Ecuadorian), Pondi Cherry (Malaysian), Naniwa Taro (Japanese), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), MotiMahal (Indian), The Portobello Burger (Vegetarian), Yasaman Catering (Persian), Agave y Aguacate (Mexican)

Cultura 2013 – Year Four

Now with a few years under its belt, Cultura condensed the event down to four festival evenings which ran, July 5 to July 26. This defined the festival as ‘every Friday night in July’. The level of cultural programming was heightened to make the event more of a premier Festival.  Cultura Festival helped raise awareness and just over $3,000 in 2013 for the four charities.

Charities: Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation (July 5), MusiCounts (July 12), Newton Brook Drop In (July 19), Toronto City Mission (July 26)
Films: Life of Pi, Midnight in Paris, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Invictus
Main Stage – Long Shen Dao (Chinese/Reggae), La Bottine Souriante (Francophone/Folk), Chic Gamine (Francophone/Folk), Amanda Martinez (Latin),
Parading – Baque de Bamba, The Woodshed Orchestra, The Heavyweights Brass Band, The Magnolia Brass Band
Buskers and Other Performers:  Boobily the Clown, The Funny Waiter, Fire Guy, Hercenia Arts, Seb Whippits, Pyromeo, Little Joe,
Dancers: Gadfly, Stuntz
Art: Oh Dear Exhibit (Reflecting Pool)
Audience Participation and Other Programming: Gibson House, Toronto Public Library, Family Hoops, Darren Bedford, Finding Rhythm Drum Circle, Habitat for Humanity
Food Vendors: Pondi Cherry (Malaysian), La Fiesta (Ecuadorian), Banjara (Indian), Gushi Japanese Street Food (Japanese), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), New Life International (Fish ball), Sunrise Jerk Sensation (Caribbean), Lucesita’s Colombian Empanadas (Columbian)

Cultura 2014 – Fifth Anniversary

Cultura celebrated its fifth year anniversary in July 2014 with a now established festival.  Having established itself as a destination for cultural programming in North York, the event reached a much larger audience including drawing people from all over the GTA. July 4 to July 25, Mel Lastman square came alive with community and culture. Cultura Festival helped raise awareness and just over $3,300 for the four 2014 charities.

Charities: North York Harvest Food Bank (July 4), Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation (July 11), IC Youth Organization (July 18), Newton Brook Drop In (July 25)
Films: Gravity, 20 Feet from Stardom, Lego Movie, Stories We Tell
Main Stage – Gypsy Kumbia, Lula All-Stars and Lula dancers, Canailles, Delhi 2 Dublin
Parading – Gypsy Kumbia, Baque de Bamba, Magnolia Brass Band, Turbo Street Funk
Buskers and Other Performers:  Brant the Fire Guy, Manifesto Dancers, Scott Jackson, Billions Cobra, Spandy Andy, Dynamike, Lacey Lucidity, Kobbler Jay, Hercinia Arts

Dancers:  Manifesto Dancers
Art: STEPS Initiative (onsite installation), Art Park Display – City of Toronto
Interactive Art: Karma Creative, Face Painting, Butterfly Collective, Puppetmongers
Audience Participation and Other Programming: Gibson House, Toronto Public Library, Family Hoops, Nori Okumura – Diablo Workshop, Juggling Workshop – Kobbler Jay
Food Vendors: Malaysian Kitchen (Malaysian), Banjara (Indian), Gushi Japanese Street Food (Japanese), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), New Life International (Fish ball), Soul Smokin’ (BBQ), Crepes A Go-Go, Gilaneh (Persian)

Cultura 2015 – Food! Glorious Food!

In its sixth year, Cultura Festival continued its evolution with an expanded and enhanced food vendor program. The Cultura Festival Food Village showcased 10 food vendors from restaurants across the GTA, with cuisines from around the globe.  This one stop shop for culinary experiences was a highlight for many festival goers, while taking in the exciting programming that for which Cultura is known.

Charities: Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation (July 3), North York Harvest Food Bank (July 10), North York Women’s Shelter (July 17), Cummer Avenue United Church (July 24)
Films: Where the Wild Things Are, Searching for Sugarman, The Book of Life, Paddington
Main Stage – Divine Brown, Alex Cuba, Danny Michel & the Garifuna Collective, Les Tireux d’Roches
Parading – Pan Fantasy, Mexico Amigo, Turbo Street Funk, Shuffle Demons
Buskers and Other Performers:  Equilibrium Circus, Lukas Stark, Mighty Mike, Dazzling Darren, Hercinia Arts
Dancers:  Open Fortress, Esie Mensah, AIM
Interactive Art: Creative Complexions, Karma Creative, Toronto Recycling Arts
Audience Participation and Other Programming: Gibson House, Toronto Public Library, Family Hoops, Lucy Loop – Poi, Toronto Juggling Club, Royal Ontario Museum
Food Vendors: Malaysian Kitchen (Malaysian), Banjara (Indian), Gushi Japanese Street Food (Japanese), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), New Life International (Fish ball), Mnandi Pies (Zimbabwean), Taco Fusion (latin), Caplansky’s,(Jewish)

Cultura 2017 – Year Eight

Charities: Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation, North York Harvest Food Bank, Health Mission Outreach, Toronto Grandmothers in Grace
Films: Hidden Figures, Arrival, La La Land, Moana
Main Stage – Coreyah, New Canadian Global Music Orchestra, Okavango African Orchestra, Donnell Leahy
Parading –Samul Nori Canada, Baque de Bamba, North Atlantic Drift
Buskers and Other Performers:  Fire Guy, Aygul, Bex in Motion, The Hip Hop Violinist, Duke Dreamer, Funny Waiter, Arty the Circus Drummer, David Ito
Dancers:  Milonga with Tango Soul
Audience Participation and Other Programming: YYZ Gallery, Gibson House, Toronto Public Library, Family Hoops,
Food Vendors: Malaysian Kitchen (Malaysian), Banjara (Indian), Sunshine Shakes (Caribbean), Chifles on the Go (Latin), Mis Amigos (Latin)

©2019 Cultura Festival. Design by Janine Stoll Media.