There is something magical about the stillness and silence of a winter night, with the moon reflecting on the bright white of the snow.
That magic is not only captured, but amplified by the Calliope Collective’s winter tradition, ‘The Longest Night.’ Taking place on the eve of the Winter Solstice, The Longest Night serves as an event to bring together community, reflect with some introspection, and take in an immersive performance involving, storytelling, theatre, puppetry, and flow arts – the ancient art of Maori poi spinning, or fire dancing.
“People’s experiences will begin the moment they arrive at the park. They’ll go through a bit of a portal, if you will, and get to enjoy traditional storytelling while enjoying a cup of cider or hot chocolate around a fire, and have a moment to sit in the dark – The Longest Night, the eve of the Winter Solstice, is an opportunity to sit and focus on what it is that we want to release, what is it that is no longer serving us that we really want to remove from our past,” said Tricia Knowles, Artistic Director and Event Producer for Calliope Collective.
“And then we have a theatrical with actors, contemporary dancers, giant puppets, fire performers and a whole lot more – some great surprises for this year as it’s our final year doing The Longest Night celebration.”
The event, which is both entertaining and moving for those of all ages, tells a story featuring characters inspired by many different mythologies, and customs which honour earth-based traditions. The story centres around The Oak King and the Holly King, representing the light and the darkness throughout the year, and the two Kingston fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. The Oak King conquers the Holly King and then reigns until Midsummer, or the Summer Solstice. The Longest Night marks the rebirth of King Oak.
Last year, with the sudden onset of 35 mm of rain, The Longest Night was forced to move inside. And while over 300 people attended the event – which was split into two showings due to capacity regulation – the Calliope Collective felt the event had to be staged again so it could be experienced as it was intended to be: outdoors, under the dark and stars, allowing attendees to reflect on and connect with their relationship to nature and the seasons.
“It was so incredibly humbling and amazing to see the response from the community, and really hear feedback from them that this is an event that people wanted to see happen, they wanted that opportunity to sit and explore within, and release the darks to make room for the light,” Knowles shared.
“So we wanted to make sure that we could produce the event as we were hoping to last year, only this year we may have added a few more surprises.”
The event is in keeping with Calliope’s mission “to produce and present interdisciplinary experiences offering a hybrid of performance and visual art set in under-utilized spaces,” Knowles explained.
“When I first formed Calliope Collective, we wanted to look at an event that would bring community together, that would animate underutilized spaces in the community, such as Doug Fluhrer Park. At the time, the battle with the Wellington Street Extension was going on. And we also wanted to provide opportunity for residents in Kingston to have access and exposure to underrepresented artistic disciplines,” she said.
“We wanted to produce an event that would present an immersive experience, but also, it’s so important this time of year to remember that the dark is important. It’s the time that we’re able to sit and reflect on our own personal journeys and how our own journeys relate to the cycle of the seasons,” Knowles continued.
“And also to remember that the light will come back, that it’s important to celebrate the light returning. When we release the dark, that which no longer serves, we make room for the abundance that’s about to come in the future.”
The Calliope Collective, which also includes some of Kingston’s most-loved performers, Anna Sudac, Josh Lyons, and Emberly Doherty, hosts The Longest Night in Douglas Fluhrer Park tonight, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at the Wellington Street entrance to the park near the murals. Attendees are advised to arrive just before 6:30 p.m. to take in the magic.
For those interested in welcoming the sunrise of the Winter Solstice, Calliope Collective will host an event the following morning, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, also in Douglas Fluhrer Park, but this time at the Woolen Mill entrance to the park. That event, Drum Up the Sun, will feature drumming to greet the Winter Solstice, and people are invited to arrive anywhere from 7:15 to 7:45 a.m.
Both events are free to the public. For more information on the Calliope Collective, The Longest Night, and Drum Up the Sun, click here.