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Festivals Past

Festival Timeline


The idea of a multidisciplinary international arts festival in Toronto is first conceived by David Pecaut and Tony Gagliano over lunch at Grano restaurant. It was there that they shook hands on a plan to transform the city after a serious outbreak of SARS.  

Photo of David Pecaut from Globe and Mail, 2003
Photo of Tony Gagliano from The Canadian Press

The first thing the duo did with their idea was give it away – to the heads of some of the city’s most prominent cultural institutions. It was a plan born out of solid pragmaticism and to shine a spotlight on Toronto as a culturally vibrant and globally connected city rich in creativity. “Let’s develop it together” (Pecaut). 

Tony Gagliano took the lead by attracting private donations of $100k each from the individuals and corporations who became known as the Festival’s Founding Luminaries. 17 families and 10 companies made donations to Luminato before the curtain went up on the first festival. This critical support came when the festival was still just an idea, and demonstrates the boldness of vision that is the festival’s foundation. With the addition of every Luminary thereafter, the future of the festival in Toronto was more assured. 


Lucille Joseph was BMO’s VP of Strategy, a former colleague of Pecaut’s, and the National Ballet of Canada’s Board Vice-Chair when she first heard of Pecaut and Gagliano’s idea. She was immediately drawn to their vision and eventually became Luminato’s Board Vice-Chair. 

Luminato receives $1M in seed funding from the Government of Ontario. 

Photo of Lucille Joseph


  • The Ontario Government becomes Luminato’s founding government partner. 
  • Board Vice-Chair Lucille Joseph, in consultation with theatre producer Don Shipley, had programming for the inaugural festival well underway by the late spring. 
  • Canadian-born Janice Price, then President and CEO of the Kimmel Centre for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, was invited to meet with Gagliano, Pecaut and Joseph in Toronto to discuss their plans for an international multi-arts festival. After much consideration, she became Luminato’s first CEO and carefully worked to build the organization’s founding artistic and administrative teams.
Photo of Janice Price


  • The inaugural Festival was held June 1-10 and landed with a considerable splash. It featured Not the Messiah, a comic oratorio inspired by Monty Python’s Life of Brian – co-commissioned by Luminato and the TSO. Then TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian and Monty Python’s Eric Idle are cousins, and Luminato had been quick to take advantage of their long-standing ambition to work on a project together. 
  • Founding CEO Janice Price.  
  • L‘Oréal Canada announces a multi-year commitment as Luminato’s Partnership in Creativity. 
  • 10 world premieres, including 6 commissioned or co-commissioned works. 
  • 300 local and 214 international artists. 
  • Over 30 venues across the downtown Toronto core. 
  • Over 1,035,000 attendees.
  • Festival dates: June 1 – 10. 
Photo from Pi Media

Key Events

Photo of Pulse Front from Pi Media
  • Pulse Front: Relational Architecture 12 (Rafael Lozano-Hemmer). The light installation at Harbourfront Centre linked 20 onsite handlebars to computers that transmitted the heart beats of those who touched them to one of the 20 searchlights beaming into the night sky. (commission/world premiere). 
  • Book of Longing – composed by Phillip Glass, based on the poems of Leonard Cohen (commission/ world premiere). 
  • Spiegeltent n’ Tavern – with Harbourfront Centre. 
  • Not the Messiah – Eric Idle/John du Prez ft. TSO (commission/ world premiere). 

Other Notable Events:

  • Vida! (dance) 
  • Stephen King’s first official Canadian appearance (literary). 
  • Quadriga IIbyMax Striecher (installation). 


  • Further Ontario Provincial funding was earmarked for commissioning new projects and securing first-performance rights from Canadian and international artists. 
  • 4 world and 7 Canadian premieres.  
  • 1,400 local artists, 40 international arts managers and producers. 
  • Attendance at ticketed events rose 11% from the first year’s attendance numbers. 
  • Festival dates: June 6 – 15. 
Aidsu scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” @ Swan, Stratford (Opening 8-06-06) ©Tristram Kenton

Key Events

DAY 2 of The Luminato Festival on June 7, 2008: Queen Street Celebration- Punk/ art festival Nathan Phillips Square Funk Festival with Morris Day and the Time Scottish Music Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square with a Square Dance Lesson and Ashley Macisaac on fiddle Mikel Rouse performing in “Dennis Cleveland” Slow Dancing installation at the University of Toronto St. George Campus Credit: ©Stephanie Berger
Dancing With Parkinson’s, with MMDG
  • Black Watch – The National Theatre of Scotland’s award-winning theatrical power house exploring the long history of the Black Watch regiment. 
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Dash Arts. Shakespeare’s classic, presented by a company of 23 Indian and Sri Lankan dancers, street acrobats, martial arts experts, musicians and actors, performed in seven languages: English, Tamil, Malayalam, Sinhalese, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi and Sanskrit. 
  • Mikel Rouse trilogy – live video collage The End of Cinematics, solo show Failing Kansas, a multi-media opera inspired by In Cold Blood, and talk show opera Dennis Cleveland.   
  • TELUS Light on your feet (designed by Thomas Payne, Bruce Kuwabara and Michael Levine) Free social dance events at Yonge-Dundas Square 
  • Other notable events: 
  • Nunavut (Kronos Quartet with Tanya Tagaq). 
  • Toronto Mille Femmes (Pierre Maraval). 
  • Slow Dancing (David Michalek). 
  • Dancing with Parkinson’s program (Mark Morris Dance Group). 
  • Streetscape (Manifesto Community Projects). 


  • VP of Programming, Chris Lorway becomes Luminato’s first Artistic Director. 
  • 2 world, 2 North American, and 5 Canadian premieres. 
  • 9 commissions/co-commissions.  
  • 1,198 artists, 150+ events, 46 venues. 
  • 504 volunteers. 
  • 732 young people and adult participants in Education and Outreach projects.  
  • 1.5 million visitors, a 50% increase. 
  • Festival dates: June 5 – 14. 
  • December: David Pecaut loses his battle with cancer. 
Photo of Chris Lorway

Key Events

Photo of RedBall Project by Mark O’Neil
Photo of Cirque du Soleil by Mark O’Neil

  • Cirque du Soleil on Queens Quay, for closing weekend.  
  • The Children’s Crusade (R. Murray Schafer) presented by Soundstreams and Luminato (world premiere). 
  • Luminato First Nightft Randy Bachman,  Musical performances included: 
  • The Great Canadian Tune – Yonge-Dundas Square. 
  • Goran Bregovic
  • The Canadian Songbook – tribute to Neil Young including The Cowboy Junkies.  
  • Lipsynch (Robert Lepage) A nine-hour, heart-breaking, theatrical epic. (co-commission/world premiere). 
  • RedBall Project (Kurt Perschke) The 15-foot inflatable ball mysteriously appeared in a new location each day of the festival. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Binary Wave David Rokeby, installation. 
  • Shoot the Moon/Wings of Wax/Skin Divers Nederlands Dans Theater. 
  • Tono Red Sky Performance (commission). 
  • Nevermore Catalyst Theatre (co-commission). 
  • Sold-out talk with author Neil Gaiman.


  • 5 world, 4 North American, and 1 Canadian premiere. 
  • 9 new commissioned and co-commissioned works. 
  • 36 venues across the city, featuring 1,210 artists representing 30 countries in 200 events. 
  • 1.1 million attendees. 
  • 473 volunteers. 
  • Festival dates: June 11 – 20. 
Photo of Global Divas and Global Blues by Salifa Keita

Key Events

Photo of Prima Donna by Rufus Wainwright by Oliver Mark, Berlin 2010
  • Prima Donna by Rufus Wainwright North American operatic (co-commission/world premiere). 
  • The Africa Trilogy Volcano Theatre (world premiere). 
  • The Canadian Songbook: 40 Years of Bruce Cockburn
  • Ship o’ Fools Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (commission). 
  • Uth Ink Youth participation program. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Interpreting the Rose Mark Fast – fashion/installation. 
  • National Bank Festival: Global Divas and Global Blues
  • Wish Come True (FriendsWithYou), an interactive inflatable installation in Queens Park (commission/world premiere). 


  • 4 world, 2 North American, and 1 Canadian premiere. 
  • 9 commissions/co-commissions. 
  • 400 mostly free events at 29 venues across Toronto. 
  • 750 Canadian and international artists from 28 countries. 
  • Almost 1 million Festival-goers. 
  • 460 volunteers. 
  • Metro Square renamed David Pecaut Square by a unanimous Toronto City Council vote to honour the late civic leader and founder of Luminato Festival. 
  • Luminato – Painting the Canvas of a City was published, a 5th anniversary retrospective book.  
  • Festival dates: June 10 – 19. 
Kronos Quartet Residency

Key Events

Photo of One Thousand and One Nights by Cylla von Tiedemann
  • One Thousand and One Nights Dash Arts (commission/ world premiere) 
  • Kronos Quartet A Luminato Residency 
  • Free music concerts at the Festival HUB Stage (including k.d. Lang, Hakim
  • Habit David Levine (artist in residence) A live theatre/reality TV/visual arts installation  
  • Joyce Carol Oates launches A Widow’s Story  


  • 5 world, 2 North American and 1 Canadian premiere. 
  • 14 commissioned and co-commissioned new works.  
  • over 270 events at 25 theatres, museums, parks and public spaces throughout Toronto. 
  • 1,093 participating artists, representing 20 different countries, including six Canadian provinces. 
  • 700,000 attendees. 
  • 510 volunteers. 
  • German, Jorn Weisbrodt, appointed Artistic Director following an international search. 
  • Festival dates: June 8 – 17.   
Photo of Jorn Weisbrodt by Tony Hauser

Key Events

Photo of Einstein on the Beach by Lesley Spinks
Photo of Encampment by David Leyes
  • Einstein on the Beach Phillip Glass, Robert Wilson (co-commissioned revival). 
  • Playing Cards 1 – Spades Robert Lepage (North American premiere). 
  • Encampment Thomas + Guinevere – installation.  
  • Beethoven Marathon Stuart Goodyear ft Melati Suryodarmo. 
  • ///Re-ply\\\ Dan Bergeron – visual arts creations made with condo boards. 
  • Festival Hub Stage including K’naan, Jovanotti, TSO, Kathleen Edwards, Martha Wainwright, Kid Koala

Other Notable Events

  • Irvine Welsh (literary). 
  • Annie Proulx (literary). 
  • Toronto Caretilla Initiative Rainer Prohaska (visual art). 
  • Youth Volunteer Photography group


  • 4 world, 2 North American, and 6 Canadian premieres.  
  • 1,293 artists from Canada and over 18 countries. 
  • 190 events at 23 venues. 
  • Over 800,000 festival goers. 
  • 26 sold out events. 
  • 425 volunteers. 
  • Festival dates: June 14 – 23. 
Photo of Joni Mitchell by Mark O’Neil

Key Events

Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, 2013
Photo of The Daisy by Taku Kumabe
  • The Life and Death of Marina Abramović ft. Marina Abramović with William Dafoe, directed by Robert Wilson. 
  • Joni, a Portrait in Song – a birthday celebration of the music of Joni Mitchell.
  • Festival Hub Stage including Serena Ryder, The Chocolate Drops, Laurie Anderson, k-os, Maxi Priest.  
  • Future Tastes of Toronto: At the Kids’ Table
  • Marina Abramović Institute Prototype – an immersive journey through the artist’s process. (world premiere). 
  • L’Allegro Movement Project Mark Morris Dance Company, Tafelmusik, Dancing with Parkinson’s and TDSB elementary students. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Music Mob V1 with TSO. 
  • The Daisy Theatre Ronnie Burkett.  


  • 11 world, 3 North American, and 6 Canadian premieres.  
  • 257 artists, 67 creative companies from Canada and 20 other countries. 
  • 110 performances, 65 authors readings, 41 workshops and 5 exhibitions. 
  • 30 venues. 
  • 450 volunteers. 
  • Festival dates: June 6 – 15. 
Photo of Buffy Saint-Marie at Festival Hub by Taku Kumabe

Key Events

Photo of Kontakthof by Oliver Look
  • Kontakthof Pina Bausch (Toronto premiere). 
  • River of Fundament Matthew Barney: A ground breaking contemporary film (North American premiere). 
  • If I loved you: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway dir. Rufus Wainwright, love duets including Steven Page, Boy George (world premiere; Toronto World Pride Major Partner Event). 
  • Nufonia Must Fall Kid Koala. 
  • Festival Hub Stage including The Roots, Buffy St MarieZiggy Marley, Tanya Tagaq, Angela Hewitt
  • Music Mob V2 with TSO. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Lost Train intimate journey on a VIA rail dining carriage with Kid Koala and food by Fred Morin. 
  • Tomorrow’s Snow Terence Koh. 
  • Green Porno Isabella Rossellini. 
  • All the Sex I Ever Had Mammalian Diving Reflex. 


  • 6 world, 2 North American, and 6 Canadian premieres. 
  • 1891 participating artists, 159 events at 21 venues.  
  • 616,000 + festival goers. 
  • 326 volunteers. 
  • Interim CEO Lucille Joseph/Incoming CEO Anthony Sargent. 
  • Festival dates: June 19 – 28. 
Anthony Sargent – Queen’s honours

Key Events:

Photo of Unsound by David Leyes
Photo of Apocalypsis by Bruce Zinger
  • Unsound at the Hearn. THE electronic music event of the year. 
  • El pasado es un animal grotesco Mariano Pensotti, Argentina.  
  • Contemporary Color, a pep rally, pop music colour guard mashup conceived by David Byrne (world premiere). 
  • Malpaso Dance Company Cuba (North American premiere). 
  • My One Demand Blast Theory, UK A livestreamed, interactive film shoot (Canadian premiere). 
  • Apocalypsis by R. Murray Schafer with 1,000 performers, produced in full for the first time since its world premiere in 1980. Recorded and broadcast on CBC Radio. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Times Talks
  • Orchestra Karaoke
  • Jason Collett’s Basement Revue
  • Glossary.  


  • Luminato takes over Toronto’s decommissioned Hearn Generating Station as the festival venue. 
  • 1 world, 1 North American and 2 Canadian premieres. 
  • 745 participating artists. 
  • 22 local arts organizations. 
  • Highest earned income in its history of $1.32m. 
  • 388 volunteers committed 8,500 hours to the festival. 
  • Festival dates: June 10 – 26. 
  • Australian, Josephine Ridge, appointed Artistic Director following an international search. 
Photo of Josephine Ridge by Katherine Holland

Key Events:

Photo of Hearn music stage by Jonathan Castellino
Photo of The James Plays by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Photo of The Honourable Melanie Joly, Jorn Weisbrodt and Anthony Sargent by Jonathan Catellino
  • The James Plays The National Theatre of Scotland. 
  • Unsound Toronto.  
  • Situation Rooms Rimini Protokoll, Germany. Award-winning, interactive installation. 
  • Monumental Holy Body Tattoo and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. 
  • Rufus Does Judy Rufus Wainwright recreates Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall show. 
  • Hallelujah Choir! Choir! Choir! and Rufus Wainwright. The recording of this performance has had 5.5 million views on YouTube. 

Other Notable Works:

  • Yes Yes Y’all party. 
  • Le Pavilion Restaurant created in the Hearn control room by Chef’s Frédéric Morin (Joe Beef) and John Bil (Honest Weight). 
  • TSO
  • Tafelmusik
  • AGO Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt)
  • OCAD PreScience


  • 3 world, 5 North American, and 5 Canadian premieres. 
  • 571 artists, 89 performances, 33 free events. 
  • AD Josephine Ridge’s first Luminato Festival. 
  • Into the Culture Cave – Generator of Art, Community, Emotions and Ideas, a visual record. of Luminato at the Hearn Generating Station, published. 
  • Festival dates: June 4 – 25. 
Photo of The Famous Spiegeltent by Tuku Kumabe

Other Key Events:

Tributaries, 2017
  • The Famous Spiegeltent in David Pecaut Square.  
  • Until the Lions Akram Khan Productions, UK. 
  • En avant, marche! NTGents/les Ballets C de la B, Belgium (North American premiere). 
  • Bearing Signal Theatre World premiere. 
  • King Arthur’s Night Neword Theatre, Vancouver (Commission/ world pemiere). 
  • Tributaries – opening celebration of Indigenous women – 60 performers inc. Lila Downs, Iskwe, Cris Derksen, Tanya Tagaq, Lido Pimienta. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Cree Cabaret Tomson Highway. 
  • Breakin’ Convention Sadler’s Wells and Jonzi D, International Festival of Hiphop. 
  • Jeremy Dutcher


  • Inaugural Illuminating works
  • 6 world, 3 North American, and 3 Canadian premieres; 5 Luminato commissions.  
  • 1,090 artists, 154 performances. 
  • 60,245 people attended.  
  • 123 million+ media impressions. 
  • Festival datesJune 6 – 24. 
  • Naomi Campbell appointed Artistic Director, from within the organization. 
Photo of Naomi Campbell by Taku Kumabe

Key Events:

Photo of Le Grand Continental by Ben Marans
Photo of Amal Clooney by Ryan Emberley
  • Le Grand Continental® Sylvain Émard Danse, Montreal Hundreds of Torontonians from all walks of life performed together in Nathan Philips Square.  
  • Amal Clooney in conversation. 
  • Dreaming of Lions Malpaso Dance Company, Cuba (world premiere,  commission). 
  • Burning Doors Belarus Free Theatre. 
  • bug manidoons collective (world premiere). 
  • Riot THISISPOPBABY, Ireland Explosive, fun, political cabaret. 
  • Instruments of Happiness Bradyworks, Montreal and Uschool. 
  • Illuminating works launchedPreview projects for presenters from Canada and beyond, attended by 25 Artistic Directors and collaborators from 17 cities around the world. 

Other Notable Events:

  • At the Illusionist’s Table Scott Silven. 
  • All Strings Attached Ólafur Arnalds. 
  • Out the Window Liza Balkan, Theatre Centre Residency Program. 


  • 7 world, 3 North American, and 1 Canadian premiere. 
  • 6 Luminato commissions. 
  • 658 artists, 191 performances and events.  
  • 261,768 people attended. 
  • 5,505 Volunteer hours.  
  • AD Naomi Campbell’s first Festival. 
  • Festival dates: June 7 – 23. 
Photo of Obeah Opera by Jeremy Mimnagh

Key Events:

Photo from Rite of Spring courtesy of Peacock Contemporary Dance Company
  • Maada’ookii Songlines Cris Derksen A song cycle for multiple choirs, performed on and beside the water (world premiere, commission).  
  • House of Mirrors Christian Wagstaff & Keith Courtney, Australia Interactive journey of reflections. 
  • Obeah Opera Asah Productions. 
  • Rite of Spring Yang Liping, China. 
  • Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) Compañía Cuerpo de Indias, Colombia. 

Other Notable Events:

  • Biziindan
  • Monday Nights 6th Man Collective, Theatre Centre Residency Program. 
  • Hell’s Fury Soundstreams (world premiere). 
  • The Cave Tomson Highway & John Millard (world premiere). 


  • The 2020 festival, originally scheduled from June 11 – 28, was reimagined as an all free, all online, 3-day offering, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • 5 world premieres and 9 Luminato commissions. 
  • 121 artists, 30 online performances and events. 
  • 20% increase in percentage of Accessible programming. 
  • Celia Smith appointed CEO, following an international search. 
  • Festival dates: June 11 – 13. 
Photo of Celia Smith, Luminato CEO

Key Events

Photo of Black Summer Nights by Angela Davis
  • May I Take Your Arm? Alex Bulmer/Red Dress Productions with FOLDA. 
  • Apocalypsis R. Murray Schafer Original CBC recording was broadcast with accompanying images from the 2015 production.  
  • My One Demand Blast Theory, UK Broadcast of the 2015 livestreamed, interactive film.  
  • Black Summers Night(Unit 2, Black Lives Matter Toronto and Tea Base) in support of the Regis Korchinski-Paquet GoFundMe campaign.