parade of life

Paula Jardine

Growing up in Edmonton, where it was dark for a considerable part of the year, lighting a light in the darkness became a central metaphor for me, and still is.

Public Dreams: Walking Tour 1980

Public Dreams: The Walking Tour was a journey from reality to the labyrinth of dreams, across the High Level Bridge. The journey was a search for the spirit of the city, and a dialogue between science and religion.

It was also my first attempt to understand my relationship with the landscape in metaphor.

In the end, Science was stuck up in a tree, and religion became mired in a slough. Then we drove everybody back to the starting point in a rented van.

Although we used the term Public Dreams in the tile, Public Dreams did not became a formal society until 1985

A Wake for the Dead of Winter 1982

This production was a very complicated exploration about the dark days of winter, including the northern european myth of Sunna and the Wolf (of blind darkness) who chases her across the skies all year until – for just a moment, that we call winter solstice – they meet. There is a brief waltz, then she dances out of his arms again and he resumes his pursuit.

About facing and overcoming fear and darkness, the production included a sleigh ride to the river valley, and a walk through the dark forest. The characters included END/TV (The end of the world television), the Agitated Man (and his quest for material one-ness), the brave youth, and mother nature (“mom”) played by my mom, who makes us cocao and tells us a story about the seasons as the final act of the show.

City Celebration

Universiade, the world university games, came to Edmonton in 1983. I volunteered to be the Parade Boss, as part of a take over of the downtown core, and a City Celebration led by Marilyn Wood and Evelyn Roth. We did six parades in eight days, and ended with a spectacular finale called "New Reflections".

By taking over and transforming public space, we reclaim human space and bind community, building connections and empowering people to address other issues that affect the life of the community.

The Snow Queen 1983

“The Snow Queen” was played outdoors and indoors in six blocks of downtown Edmonton in the dark days of December.

David Sereda wrote the original score. School children, city staff, city electrical engineers, actors, film students, the local EST group, and children’s bell choir were all involved. Local anarchists played the part of the robbers. Filmmakers carried puppets. The window dressers at Eaton’s dressed the set for Anne Wheeler’s performance as the Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman.

It was so cold the clappers of the bell choir froze.

Big Puppets

I started to use big puppets in narrative performance and parades partly because they were big enough to be seen by a lot of people from far away. The People from the Four Corners of the Earth were a continuation of the foundation myth established by Journey to the New World; their first performance was a square dance with bagpipe and taiko drums at Illuminares. The Children of the New World (more popularly known as the New Kids) were larger than life representations of who we really are, and were to counteract under-representation in the mainstream. In Pacific Limbo, we wanted to reinforce a positive male role model, embodied in Big Daddy Fat Boy* (also built by Vern Clare)

Inspiration for big puppets came from Ralph Lee, Welfare State International, and Bread and Puppet. I write more about puppets in the essay "Celebrating Spirit: The Role of Celebration Arts" (link)

* the name was based on a tune by the Shuffle Demons, who were the parade band for the early parades in Kensington Market.


Fire is magic, a transformative element, and one that I include in every thing I do. At the Night for All Souls in Mountain View Cemetery, the fires draw people together and provide warmth. We prefer to use real candles as well, because the flame is alive.

The first fire sculptures I made – usually with my brother peter – were with asbestos rope. The fuel was kerosene. Doing a test once in daylight I suddenly woke up to how much thick dark greasy smoke was created. Although I love fire, and love how the fire sculptures look, I don’t do them any more.