In the first decade after the move to Edmonton, GZP has evolved a number of events that we repeated and developed each year.
Edmonton May Week
GZP was instrumental in helping to establish the Edmonton May Week Festival of Labour and the Arts. Each year, centred around May Day, a committee of unionists, community activists and artists would program a series of multi-disciplinary presentations. GZP took a leading role in two of the yearly events.
The Day of Mourning
Day of Mourning ceremony, Edmonton City Hall 2007
April 28th is the International Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured in the workplace. In 1999 GZP Artistic Director Don Bouzek teamed up with visual artist Lynette Maurice and Jason Foster from the Alberta Federation of Labour to create a commemorative ceremony. That ceremony, and subsequent ones, took place in Edmonton City Hall. It mixed music, spoken word and theatre to mark the ever mounting toll of workers who lost their lives or their health to their work. After ten years, the AFL and GZP turned the ceremony over the Edmonton and District Labour Council.
The May Day March
May Day March with IWW banner and float by Memi von Gaza
Outside of North America, May Day is celebrated as the workers’ Labour Day in honour of the men killed in 1885 in Haymarket while demonstrating for the eight hour working day. In Edmonton, there was a long tradition of holding the major Labour march on this day. When GZP arrived in the city, we worked to develop that event using visual elements specifically designed each year, usually by Memi von Gaza.
Labour Day BBQ
Mike Desautels performs with striking workers from the Shaw Conference Centre, 2002
Every Labour Day, the Edmonton and District Labour Council’s hosts a BBQ for the un- and under-employed in Giovanni Caboto Park. GZP co-ordinates the Labour positive performers for the stage provided by the Teamsters union. Each year, EDLC serves over 5000 hamburgers and hot dogs to people who have trouble finding enough to eat.
A/Wake for the Light
A/Wake installation by Memi von Gaza
Over 10 years ago, Memi von Gaza and Don Bouzek talked about needing one annual event that was more personally focused, that marked what had been accomplished that year and allowed space to reflect on what was to come. Initially we chose to mark the autumnal equinox. So each September we gathered at Hawrelek Park to have a lantern parade down to the water and back to a campfire.
Baba Yaaga’s house by Memi von Gaza
In 2007, we paused and re-thought the ceremony. We changed the focus to the traditional story of Baba Yaaga. In 2008, on the Winter Solstice, we held the renewed event. In fact, this presentation turned into the prototype for a much larger public event held as part the annual Winter Light Festival.