Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and the creative industries


The walk after we arrived at the Toronto Central Station was possibly the best that I’ve ever had.  It’s a bit surreal having spent the last few days in the Prairies in a train carriage and the following morning walking in the busy financial district in Canada’s largest city.  The bagel and cream cheese that I had was heaven as well…

I think that Toronto is best experienced at night and the city takes on a whole new character.  Restaurants open their doors, decorations light up (including the CN Tower), theatres open…I was really curious about the many dance, theatre and opera companies lining opposite banks and office buildings including the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.  There was also a new media conference at the Design Exchange which I definitely would have attended if it were not that I only found out about the event on that afternoon but ended up browsing the exhibition and getting lost in their underground shopping district PATH.

I was wandering around their entertainment district when I came across this interesting building housing new media and animated works – walking inside were interesting miniature ‘pods’ where each pod was equipped with a seat, a touchscreen and a giant screen.  Yes, each!  So I approached one of their staff who was really helpful in telling me what it was about.  I ended up spending a couple of hours checking out experimental and emerging film works (supported by the National Film Board of Canada).  The Prairies were still ringing in my head so I decided to look into a few documentaries about it.  I know, I’m Toronto and I’m watching documentaries but I can’t help it – the Prairies seemed to have captured a new admirer!

I was contemplating on taking part in a lottery draw at the Royal Alexandria Theatre.  I’ve read about lottery draws, and it looks interesting.  I wonder if it’s something that Brisbane theatre could adopt?

Toronto is indeed a huge city brimming with culture – if you want to check out Canadian theatre, dance or opera set aside a few days.


I’ve always envisioned Ottawa to be a bit like Canberra for some reason and I was definitely wrong.  Ottawa has a really interesting character which influences coming from Toronto and Montreal yet still holds out as its own.

There were a lot of boutique shops, pubs and cafes situated near these huge buildings.  I checked out the Ottawa Art Gallery, bought “Obama cookies” from a Montreal-inspired French cafe and went to two local events – one was a ‘Tweetup’ raising donations and funds for the Ottawa Food Bank at the Ottawa Hard Rock Cafe and another was GenYOTT geared towards Gen Y entrepreneurs and like-minded folk at a pub.  I found out about these events simply by searching for “Ottawa tonight” on Twitter and checked out the more interesting ones!

The Tweetup event mainly had small business owners.  They invited a radio presenter (I was chatting to him…unfortunately, can’t remember his name!) and this interesting band to play.  The owner of the Hard Rock Cafe Ottawa was just getting into social media and Twitter so he decided to co-arrange this Tweetup – not only to make his business known but also to do it for a good cause.  Even though I couldn’t donate food or take part in the silent auction, I bought one of those red bands with proceeds going to a children’s charity.  I thought it was a win-win – ended up chatting to a few of the locals, while supporting a good cause!

After the Tweetup, I went to a pub to go to GENYOTT.  It was fairly packed and the speaker was a few minutes into his presentation on how to do a good pitch.  It took me a while to warm up to him but then got into it.  One of the co-organisers are involved in a co-working office space called The Code Factory.

Ottawa surprised me – and in a good way.


Montreal was intriguing because the French-Canadian contemporary influence is at its strongest here (there’s Quebec but I felt Quebec was more about historical).  Believe it or not, I spent my first night in Montreal attending Autodesk‘s 3December event at their HQ in Duke St.  Autodesk is a company that focuses on 2D and 3D design software for use primarily in the creative industries (film, animation, architecture, design, entertainment), but also in manufacturing and construction.  The event was at their lobby which was decked out in style – chairs arranged in a theatre-style format and cocktail-style format, popcorn makers, catering, a bar, a huge Christmas tree to the length of ceiling and a large projector screen playing some mind-bogglingly good animation using the host’s software.

I was chatting to a student who gave me a heads up that there’s an international animation festival sometime in the weekend.  There’s a bustling games and interactive industry and where Autodesk is is a cluster of offices and buildings in that area according to a producer that I was talking to.  Having gone to a fair share of events, there’s always this level of vulnerability and I guess it was cranked up a bit because I’ve only just arrived in the city a few hours ago and I know very little French but really enjoyed the night.

A few days ago I read an article collating answers from Brisbane-based games developers and producers about what tips they have in the industry….my tip, having learned it from this night, is to take into account the global marketplace in terms of talent pool, viewers and collaborators.  This tip is nothing new, so I would say to take it a step further and go out and travel and actually immerse yourself in the global stage.

The following day, I spent most of it checking out the cafes, boutiques – galleries, antique shops and book shops – and also at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal which had an exhibit on Napoleon Bonaparte (yes, that’s his art below) and also had some specialised sections for contemporary art and textiles.

Quebec City

Quebec City – the Canadian city with the most historical influences, the most European out of the lot.  I got lost for a bit and, thinking that I was finally going in the right direction, decided to have a short rest and take this small photo outside one of the many churches:

The rich history is evident in throughout downtown old Quebec City.  I was content in wandering around (although I had to step inside one of the shops to buy a new touk because of the flurries) and not only discovered that this could also be a haven for chocolate lovers so I decided to buy chocolate with pink peppercorns and another bar fused with hot masala in one of the many chocolatiers.

I went to Musée de la civilisation because there was an afternoon matinee performance L’Atelier by La Rotende Centre chorégraphique contemporain de Québec.   I didn’t read the description but having been exposed to a lot of dance thanks to Brisbane Festival, I was really interested to see what the scene is like in Canada, specifically in Quebec.  Here’s a great extract on YouTube by the company:

There were two really fantastic things about this production.

The first was that there was a lot of children (maybe 20?) in the audience.  It was an afternoon performance and the venue seems fairly central but I find it rare to see so many children at an audience for a dance production.  And they really enjoyed it as well!

The second was the almost perfect seamless integration between the dance and multimedia.  I was super impressed.

Next part: The trip back to Vancouver through the Prairies…