The Lost Submission for the Public Consultation in Montreal (Bridge-Bonaventure Sector)

November 1st, 2019

* Please note that the OCPM refused to accept this submission because it was a few days late. As such, I have decided to blog the ideas in hopes of influencing stakeholders at the City of Montreal to consider these important proposals. Please SHARE with anyone who might be interested!


RE: Submission regarding Bridge-Bonaventure sector from Montreal-Irish community

FROM: Donovan King, Griffin Tours

Dear OCPM and South-West Borough,

As a Director and historian with the Irish Monument Park Foundation, my goal is to work with stakeholders and the Irish Montreal community to preserve and enhance as much Irish Montreal heritage as possible, especially as related to the Irish Famine of 1847.

Our community feels like our Irish heritage is quickly vanishing from Montreal’s city-scape and we want to stop this trend and do everything in our power to preserve as much as we can.

There is a lot of Irish heritage in the Bridge-Bonaventure sector that is sacred to our community, including two Famine cemeteries, one of which was disturbed during the digging of the Wellington basin in 1876. It is not presently marked in any way. 

According to the OCPM website under Theme 2 (Heritage):

“Since the 19th century, successive waves of transformation have shaped a sector that today comprises a number of Montréal landmarks, such as Silo No. 5, the Five Roses Flower sign, Habitat 67, Victoria Bridge, Lachine Canal, breathtaking views of downtown, etc. The heritage that characterizes the Bridge-Bonaventure area takes a number of forms: industrial; architectural; archaeological; landscape; and historic.”

The site asks some thoughtful questions, which I would like to answer on behalf of heritage activists within Montreal’s Irish community:

What is the heritage element (building, landscape, archeological site, historical site, commemorative element, infrastructure, etc.) that is most special to you in the Bridge-Bonaventure area? Why and how would you like to see it highlighted?

The site of the Fever Sheds during the Irish Famine of 1847 and the first Famine Cemetery are not marked in any way and there is a risk of a baseball stadium being built on our sacred graveyard.

Site of Montreal’s original Fever Sheds & cemetery in 1847 at Wellington Bridge

The cemetery has already been disturbed during the digging of the Wellington basin in 1876. Politician Bernard Devlin intervened and demanded all skeletons found within the Basin’s footprint be re-buried on Mount Royal. The Wellington Basin cut into the Famine Cemetery but it is highly likely it did not destroy the entire cemetery, meaning there are probably still the mortal remains of our Irish ancestors buried there.

Not only is the Irish heritage forgotten on the site, but so is the remarkable story about how the Mohawk First Nation delivered $150 in Famine Relief to the Irish Refugees in 1847, a substantial amount for a First Nation that was exploited and impoverished by European colonization.

In Ireland, a memorial sculpture called “Kindred Spirits” commemorates the generosity and solidarity of the Choctaw First Nation, who supplied $170 in Irish Famine Relief:

Artist Alex Pentak, explained: “The year 1847 was an extremely difficult one for the Irish people. Known as “Black 47,” this was the worst year of the famine in Ireland, where close to one million people were starving to death. Humanitarian aid came from around the world, but the unexpected generosity of the Choctaw Nation stands out, and began a bond between the two people that continues to this day… I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed in my work.”

Furthermore, Call to Action 79 ii of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asks us, as members of the creative arts community, to help revise policies to better integrate Indigenous history and perspectives in the heritage and history milieu:

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to:

Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.”

As such, in Canada’s Age of Truth and Reconciliation, I propose that the Montreal-Irish community, Mohawk First Nation, City of Montreal and Parks Canada work together to realize this important project of commemoration.

In your opinion, what is the area’s most emblematic heritage element (building, landscape, archeological site, historical site, commemorative element, infrastructure, etc.)? Why and how would you like to see it highlighted?

I believe the area’s most emblematic heritage element is its connection to often tragic Irish history, but also stories of resilience, solidarity and sacrifice. It was in this part of Montreal where the city had its saddest and proudest moments, notably in regards to the Irish Famine of 1847 and its terrible impact on the city.


In your opinion, what urban functions or uses within the district would be compatible with the area’s heritage aspects?

I believe Montreal should copy Ireland and Boston’s idea of creating an Irish Heritage Walk and/or Famine Trail, like in Ireland.

For example, we could learn from the Boston Irish Tourism Association:

“Formed in 2000, the Boston Irish Tourism Association promotes the Irish-American community year round to the travel and tourism industry. We work closely with the state’s grass roots organizations and mainstream cultural institutions to showcase the state’s culture, history and heritage. Our goal is to make it easy for visitors and local residents to easily get immersed in the state’s wonderful range of cultural activities, and to take advantage of the hospitality amenities available to travelers.”

In Montreal, Irish Montreal Excursions has already created an Irish Famine Walking Tour, which could easily be converted into a Heritage Trail with signage, plaques and monuments.

MAP 1 – Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour

MAP 2 – Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour

We hope we can count on your support and hope you can help our Irish community accomplish our goals of heritage preservation and innovative tourism infrastructure.

Please help us in the creation of an Irish Heritage Walk in Bridge-Bonaventure sector, Griffintown and Old Montreal! We’d also like a statue of Martyr Mayor John Easton Mills, a proper commemoration of the first Irish Famine Cemetery at Wellington Bridge and Basin and, most importantly, a piece of public art designed by an Indigenous artist to mark the incredible gift of $150 from the Mohawk First Nation to the Irish Famine victims in their direst moment.

This gesture of solidarity formed a strong link between Irish and Mohawk communities, a bond that continues to this very day!

It would be the right thing to do for Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and for the sake of future generations of all Montrealers and visitors!

I look forward to hearing from you!


Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, DEC, ACS

Irish Montreal Excursions 

Haunted Montreal

p.s. Here is some recent media related to our work trying to preserve Irish heritage in Montreal.

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

YouTube. JD Hobbes. The return of Mary Gallagher: a 2019 invitation. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Times. Will Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost return on June 27? John Symons. June 20, 2019.

Haunted Montreal Blog #46. The Ghost of Mary Gallagher Returns on June 27! June 13, 2019.

Public Consultation Submission to Protect Montreal’s most Haunted Street Corner

September 25th, 2019

Submission for Public Consultation regarding Pavillion F

(Dossier no : 1196347005)

September 25, 2019

TO: OCPM and South-West Borough

RE: Dossier no : 1196347005 (Public Consultation)

FROM: Donovan King, Griffin Tours

Dear OCPM and South-West Borough,

As a Director and historian with the Irish Monument Park Foundation, my goal is to work with stakeholders and the Irish Montreal community to preserve and enhance as much Irish Montreal heritage as possible, especially as related to the Irish Famine of 1847.

Our community feels like our Irish heritage is quickly vanishing from Montreal’s city-scape and we want to stop this trend and do everything in our power to preserve as much as we can.

We are happy that Pavilion F of the ETS will include “a street garden 6 m deep at the corner of William and Murray” according to the Projet particulier de construction d’un bâtiment institutionnel au 1130-1134, rue William – Pavillon F de l’École de technologie supérieure.

As you may know, this corner has a lot of significance for Montreal’s Irish community because it is a traditional area for storytelling. Irish-Montreal storytellers, or seanchaithe, have gathered on this corner for well over a century to tell Montreal’s most famous legends and ghost stories, among many other tales. Montreal’s most popular legend, the ghost of Mary Gallagher, is set on this corner. As you may know, her ghost is said to return every 7 years to the corner, allegedly because she is still searching for her head. Montrealers had a great time on the corner on June 27 of this year, eagerly awaiting the ghost of Mary Gallagher to return on the 140th anniversary of her murder.

She was murdered in 1879 in a long-since demolished home on the south-east corner of William & Murray Streets, and her ghost is reported to return every 7 years. It’s is one of Irish Montreal’s most famous traditions and her next appearance is anticipated on June 27, 2026.

Given that there are almost no tourist attractions in Griffintown, it makes very good sense to preserve the haunted street corner as a commemorative and touristic park with a Montreal-Irish theme for future generations of locals and tourists to enjoy.

The Griff has been redeveloped way too quickly and it is time to put the brakes on this approach before all the heritage is destroyed. The Griff needs tourist attractions that reflect the area’s remarkable history.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, a statue of a dog is one of the most popular tourist attractions. People love it because it has a great story attached to it.

We are proposing a similar statue of Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost in the “street garden” as its centerpiece. Tourists would come in droves to take their photos with it, especially with the exponential increase in Haunted Tourism the city is currently witnessing.

Furthermore, tour companies Haunted Montreal, Griffin Tours and Irish Montreal Excursions frequently lead tourists to this site, and fear if the corner “street garden” is not well-designed, it could affect the authenticity and logistics of the haunted and historic walks.

We have been asking the ETS to work with the local Irish community and the City of Montreal to preserve a portion of the south-east corner of William & Murray Streets as park, which would become an important and innovative Irish-Montreal tourist attraction. To date, the ETS has said that it intends to work with the City of Montreal and not the Montreal-Irish community directly.

I appreciate that the ETS markets itself as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, and hope we can reach an understanding in regards to the innovation in the local heritage and tourism economy I am proposing.

As such, I am advising the OPCM to do everything within its power to ensure the “street garden” on the south-east corner of William and Murray Streets is designed in consultation with the local Irish community in order to reflect our important history on the site and to ensure it is accessible for walking tours and storytelling.

Ideally, it would be called “Mary Gallagher Park,” to commemorate Montreal’s most infamous legend and ghost story, and include historical panels and a work of public art, such as a statue of Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost searching for her head.

We hope we can count on your support and hope you can help our Irish community accomplish our goals of heritage preservation and innovative tourism infrastructure.

Please help us in the creation of a future Mary Gallagher Park on a portion of the south-east corner of William & Murray Streets! It is the right thing to do for future generations of Montrealers!

I look forward to hearing from you!


Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, DEC, ACS

Irish Montreal Excursions 

Haunted Montreal

p.s. Here is some recent media related to the “Mary Gallagher Park” project:

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

YouTube. JD Hobbes. The return of Mary Gallagher: a 2019 invitation. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Times. Will Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost return on June 27? John Symons. June 20, 2019.

Haunted Montreal Blog #46. The Ghost of Mary Gallagher Returns on June 27! June 13, 2019.

A Call to Action to Help Update the Education and Tourism Systems in Tiotà:ke / Montreal!

August 17th, 2019

This is a Call to Action to help update the Education and Tourism systems in Tiotà:ke / Montreal!

As a licensed tour guide and History teacher, I have recently been working on updating Montreal’s Tourism Industry and Education System because they are unbearably colonial, Euro-centric and mis-representative of First Nations, women and Other marginalized communities. This unfortunate situation is a direct result of the Quebec Department of Education’s ongoing insistence of mis-educating the general population, including with its recently debunked “History” curriculum.

Indeed, since the early 1600s, European colonial cultures have been revising historical facts to promote colonial projects on Turtle Island / North America, and this continues into the present. One needs only look at the 1606 Theatre of Neptune in New France and “The Society of Notre-Dame of Montreal for the Conversion of Savages of New France” (1639) as early pieces of Euro-centric “education” and revisionism.

More recently, the Residential School System has achieved the same effect of cultural genocide against Indigenous people for what is arguably the same Euro-centric colonial project.

It is time to stop this deceitful and colonial power imbalance dead in its tracks, if anything because the racist and sexist “History” curriculum renders everyone except white colonial males invisible, marginal or outright misrepresented.

Those excluded from the Quebec Education Department’s “History” curriculum include Women, First Nations, Black, Irish, Jewish, Muslim, LQBTQ, Disabled, Impoverished, Immigrant, Refugee and Other important communities.

The Quebec Education Department’s ongoing refusal to allow a real History program results in not only mis-education and generalized ignorance, but can lead to racism, sexism, homophobia, intolerance and hate against misrepresented and marginalized communities – and sometimes even more devastating consequences.

In the local Tourism Industry, things are just as outdated and Euro-centric. For example, Montreal by-law G-2 has created a monopoly/cartel of mostly white colonial-ancestry tour guides (A.P.G.T.) within the City’s boundaries. There is not even one First Nations guide operating legally on the un-ceded Indigenous territory of Tiotà:ke.

In the past, the A.P.G.T. has received complaints about racist language and discourse among its mostly white tour guides. For example, on May 18, 2017, a letter of complaint, from a conscientious local citizen, was sent via email to the A.P.G.T. and Tourisme Montréal.

Good afternoon,

I live in Montreal and work in Old Montreal.

Tuesday of this week, as I was walking by the statue of Maisonneuve in front of the church, I could hear an English speaking tour guide telling his group (of about 20 tourists) about the ‘savages’.

He kept on talking and repeating ‘savages’ (with emphasis) and then I realized he was referring to our First Nations people.

I was at first very ashamed that we (Montreal) are referring to our native people this way- and the impression it must leave with the tourists. After all, we invaded their land and they were just defending themselves.

I did not react at that time- so I did not see which/if any ‘badge’ the tour guide had, therefore I am unable to say for whom he worked.

But I feel it is your responsibility to make sure ALL tour guides do not continue to refer to our natives as ‘savages’.

I will return every day during my lunch hour to that square- with my camera so if I see/hear this sort of language again- I will be able to film it. (if I do film this, I will send you a copy).

I sure hope that you are able to remedy this situation asap. Because it is not kind nor fair and I am embarrassed to be associated this.

Please advise your employees not to refer to them as savages.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.”

The racist guide was repeatedly pointing at the 1895 Maisonneuve Monument, which occupies the heart of Montreal’s tourist district in the center of the Place d’Armes. Surprisingly, this racist centerpiece of Montreal’s Tourism Industry was recently refurbished in 2009 instead of being removed from public sight and placed behind glass in a museum, where it belongs as a colonial relic of the past. 21st Century historiographical norms demand nothing less.

This tour guide’s performance is as disgusting as the racist statue that prompted it! I can only imagine him, frothing at the mouth like a rabid, savage animal that has yet to be captured by the S.P.C.A., as he delivers this outrageously racist monologue!

One of the problems is that Montreal bylaw G-2 has created a monopoly of mostly white tour guides. The bylaw states that it is illegal to be a tour guide unless “educated” at the ITHQ.

It is not easy trying to update outdated systems such as Education and Tourism, but it is a crucial first step towards decolonization. A good starting point is to see what the local First Nations themselves are doing in regards to Education and Tourism.

I recently visited  Kahnawà:ke and had an amazing experience with guide Dwayne Stacey of Kahnawà:ke Tourism, who is also a History and Archaeology teacher at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School. His tour was very authentic and Indigenous – the exact type of experience 2.0 (next generation) tourists are thirsting for!

As a professor of History and Archaeology at the at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School, Mr. Stacey enjoys the right to teach real, authentic history because Kahnawà:ke is an independent First Nation and creates its own curriculum, based on historical facts, unlike the Quebec Education Curriculum’s Euro-centric “History” course (which I must teach). Sadly, this distorted “History” course was first ordered by a minority-government Parti Québécois in 2013, which aimed to employ the course to promote Quebec’s struggle for nationhood. It has since been widely-exposed as a piece of political propaganda and not actually a real History course.

These issues in Tourism and Education require immediate attention.

How can you help?

1. Begin by (re)educating yourself. 

Due to ongoing mis-education by government “Education” systems, it can be very challenging to accept that we have not been taught properly and to try and seek out the Truth, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One good starting point is the Indigenous Ally Toolkit, which states that “Educating yourself is an ongoing process. Change will not be easy and you will never truly be an expert on Indigenous challenges and realities, but you can work in allyship.”

2. Please be aware of problems in Tourism and Education

Montreal’s Tourism Industry has been described as too Euro-centric, as evidenced by Tourisme Montreal refusing to engage with the 2019 UN Year of Indigenous Languages, a mostly white cartel of tour guides (A.P.G.T), a tourism school (I.T.H.Q.) that fails to teach guides Indigenous history, vocabulary or perspectives and a by-law (G-2) that excludes guides from marginalized communities from operating legally. In line with the Recommendations and Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the M.M.W.G.I Calls to Justice, the Tourism and Education systems need to be updated.

3. Please join 2.0.

Join us in these important updates by requesting to join the 2.0 (Montreal Tour Guides/Guides touristiques de montréal) Facebook Group where we are actively discussing these issues with the view of taking future action to ensure the updates are not snarled by colonial viruses and whatnot. Please email optatif@gmail to request to join the secret group of post-colonialists.

2.0 was created because the original Guides touristiques de montréal group (run by the A.P.G.T.) does not allow guides outside of their monopoly, does not allow political discussion about important activist issues, such as Truth and Reconciliation, censors political discourse and refuses to discipline its members who use racist language and create racist imagery against indigenous people, on whose territory we operate.

Montreal exists on the un-ceded Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory of Tio’tia:ke in northern Kanien’keh, also known as the Land of the Flint. The A.P.G.T. refuses to publicly acknowledge this fact on its website or do a territorial acknowledgement, in line with ancient Indigenous protocols.

The 2.0 page is a safe space to discuss all post-colonial matters relating to Montreal Tourism, Education, Journalism, Social Services and Arts & Culture. Any members who use racist language or deny that Montreal is on un-ceded indigenous territory will be immediately expelled.

2.0 is not only for tour guides and those wishing to guide, but also for post-colonial educators, activists, journalists, social workers, co-conspirators and supporters of Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and decolonization. If we build strong enough alliances and bonds, we can urgently update these broken systems sooner rather than later.

4. Prepare for action.

The first step is to challenge Montreal’s Euro-centric by-law G-2 so we will be launching a campaign in early 2019 to officially scrap it.

We will need activists to send emails, post messages, help raise awareness and potentially carry out direct actions to liberate guided walks in Montreal from the oppressive by-law G-2. Guided walks are an ancient form of street performance and they are likely legally protected under Freedom of Expression, which takes precedence over municipal by-laws.

We will also have to lobby the new CAQ Minister of Education to update the offensive and racist “History” course being taught throughout colonial Quebec.

I look forward to working and performing in activist campaigns with you!

In Solidarity,

Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, ACS, DEC

Griffin Tours


Please have a look at recent media reports about 2.0 members working on these issues and share with anyone who you think might be interested in these updates:

Montreal Gazette. Our streets are haunted, especially in Old Montreal. Bill Brownstein. October 27, 2022.

Global News. Mohawk Mothers demand investigation into potential unmarked graves at McGill University. Olivia O’Malley. October 20, 2021.

The Eastern Door. Mohawk question ignored by city. Laurence Brisson Dubreuil. August 27, 2021.

APTN. “What to do with Canada’s colonial statues, street names?“. Lindsay Richardson. June 26, 2020.

The Eastern Door. Montreal Bylaw Hinders Indigenous Tour Guides. Sarah Cooke. May 15, 2020.

Montreal Gazette. Montreal mulls bylaw change to allow unlicensed Indigenous tour guides. T’Cha Dunlevy, May 15, 2020.

OCPM. Submission for Public Consultation regarding Systemic Racism and
Discrimination in Montreal
. Donovan King. October 30, 2019.

CKUT Radio with Sarah Deshaies. Interview with Donovan King about Griffin Tours and Problems in Montreal’s Tourism Industry. August 15, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 with Anne Lagacé Dowson. Interview with Donovan King about Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours. July 9, 2019.

APTN National News. Local guide calls for revisions to Montreal’s colonialist monuments. Lindsay Richardson. July 3, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

CBC Radio One. All in a Weekend with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King. June 13, 2019.

CBC Montreal. Dream of memorial park in Montreal to honour Irish famine victims inches closer. March 17, 2019.

Radio-Canada. Bientôt un parc commémoratif à Montréal pour les victimes de la famine d’Irlande. 17 mars, 2019.

CBC News TV – Montreal. Great Famine Walking Tour. March 16, 2019. (clip runs 8:45 – 10:32)

The Eastern Door. Montreal Tourism To Better Reflect Native History.  Lindsay Richardson. March 16, 2019.

Irish Central. “Green Season” celebrates and commemorates Irish in Montreal. Miles Murphy. March 15, 2019.

CBC News. Controversy over Indigenous representation pursues Robert Lepage play as it opens in Paris: Abenaki filmmaker attends premiere, says play overlooks history of Indigenous activism. December 17, 2018.

CBC News. Inuit children in Quebec youth protection left in ‘no man’s land’. Ainslie MacLellan. December 13, 2018.

CBC News. Indigenous youth in Quebec child protection told not to speak their own languages, sources say: ‘How can we still be doing this?’ asks Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. Ainslie MacLellan. December 12, 2018.

CBC News. Why losing her sister changed everything for Nakuset, and how she hopes to break the cycle. Nakuset. December 11, 2018.

University of Calgary Alumni Association. Careers in Motion: King of Montreal’s Hidden Histories Donovan King, MFA’04. Deb Cummins. December 11, 2018.

CBC News. Found and lost: Nakuset was separated from her sister Sonya during the Sixties Scoop, but reunited with her as an adult — only to lose her again to suicide. Ainslie MacLellan. December 11, 2018.

CBC Indigenous. Montreal tour guide wants more Indigenous history incorporated into industry training. Jessica Deer. November 8, 2018.

Montreal Times. Montreal Haunted Mountain Tour. Deborah Rankin. November 6, 2018.

McGill Tribune. Montreal tour guide highlights indigenous history. Leyla Moy. December 5, 2018.

The Eastern Door. Guide Wants Full History Of City During Tours. Lachlan Madill. November 2, 2018.

CityNews Montreal. TV interview with tour guide Donovan King, November 2, 2018.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Mike Finnerty. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. November 2, 2018.


CKUT Radio – Sarah Deshaies Interviews Donovan King about Griffin Tours (August 15, 2019)

August 16th, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 – Anne Lagacé Dowson interviews Donovan King about Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours.

July 10th, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 – The Natasha Hall Show. Anne Lagacé Dowson Interviews Donovan King About Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours. July 9, 2019. Click HERE to listen to the interview.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

June 27th, 2019

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

The Rigged “Election” or Why the Queens of Fringe Censorship must step down (A salty, Irish-Montreal theatre “rant”!)

November 23rd, 2018


[TRIGGER WARNING! Sharp Irish-Montreal humour may offend corporate “Fringe” Managers!]

As an Irish-Montrealer and Fringe theatre artist with both critical thinking skills and a serious trans-generational mental disability (Major Depressive Disorder, a.k.a. “the common cold of mental illness”), I have the proud honuor of being the most censored and excluded Fringe practitioner on the planet! This is no small cultural accomplishment, so please allow me explain how it all happened!

[BTW, if you discriminate against the Irish, LGBTQ, disabled or Other communities, go feck yourself and go read the latest issue of Cosmo instead of this salty, Irish-Montreal Fringe “rant”, you fecker! Major Depressive Disorder transforms you into a “half-living ghost” and is triggered by excessive stress and/or by arseh*oles who discriminate against Others. ;o) ]

Let’s begin with some backstory, shall we?

In 1991, I helped establish the pre-trademarked Montreal Fringe Festival, a grassroots event intended to empower local artists, promote independent and D.I.Y. approaches to the arts, and, of course, to provide more interesting, zany and activist performances for Montreal audiences.

At the time, there were only two regional playhouses in Montreal that offered English-language traditional theatre which was, to be frank, often as boring as shite. With 5 English theatre schools pumping out graduates every year, most actors left for the greener theatrical fields of Toronto, New York, London and L.A.

Knowing that Montreal is in many, many ways more exceptional than these cities, I decided to promote independent approaches to culture and the dramatic arts in Montreal to stem the Anglo brain drain. I even wrote a free guidebook called Doing Theatre in Montreal in association with the Quebec Drama Federation (QDF), a beloved minority-language theatre organization I have belonged to since the early 1990s.

Today, however, I am “banned for life” from the awkwardly named “St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival (TM)” and don’t feel safe enough to attend events at the QDF any more.

This unfortunate and bizarre situation all started when I spoke out against the 1998 trademarking of the Fringe, a grassroots arts festival I had helped create to empower artists, not exploit them. This trademark was introduced by the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals without any discussion among stakeholders, democratic debate, or adherence to cultural standards in place at the time. It was widely interpreted as an insidious corporate takeover of a grassroots, populist festival – the once rebellious, inclusive, activist and diverse Fringe.

This 21st Century cultural war between capitalist and anti-capitalist ideologies and forces began in 2001, when my experimental theatre performance, Car Stories, was unceremoniously ejected from the St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe (TM) on orders of a corporate media sponsor.

In 2004, we created the Montreal Infringement Festival in response to the exclusion and corporate manipulation at the trademarked Fringe, and the cultural war has been unfolding ever since all across the planet!

As the trademarked Fringe in Montreal did cultural battle with the infringement, in Buffalo, N.Y., the infringement went on to become the city’s largest, most diverse, and activist festival, featuring marginalized artists from Black, First Nations, LGBTQ, disabled and critical educator (e.g. feminist, postcolonial, anti-capitalist, queer, etc.) and Other communities.

According to cultural expert, LGBTQ ally, and Buffalo News journalist Colin Dabkowski, the infringement is “one of the most important cultural movements to emerge in the City of Buffalo in the past 50 years. If you doubt it you haven’t been paying attention.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes in the United Kingdom, an entrepreneurial woman named Holly Payton-Lombardo was plotting the ultimate corporate co-opting of the world-wide Fringe movement on a massive scale for personal profit along with her ultra-loyal assistant Cath Mattos. The best way to describe the late capitalist scam is as an international “Pyramid Scheme”, with Payton-Lombardo and Mattos at its very summit, raking in large fees from hundreds of corporate and trademarked Fringe festivals across the planet (on the backs of Fringe artists, who must pay-to-play at these unethical corporate events).

Together, the two late capitalists created the World Fringe Congress (WFC), an event organized by their World Festival Network. This organization “acts as a liaison between festivals and implements cross-festival ideas and relations, such as award schemes, tours and funding opportunities.” They also offer “consultancy, start up and advice to new festivals” for hefty fees. Both organizations were officially founded by Holly Payton-Lombardo, as a “professional” arts administrator with plenty of corporate experience at UK Fringes. Indeed, according to her profile:

“Holly has worked in the festival business since 2001, rebranding the ‘Brighton Festival Umbrella’ and founding the Brighton Fringe, which she then managed for 7 years. She has worked as a Festival Venue Director and in the Senior Management Team of Edinburgh Fringe Society as well as for many UK international Festivals.”

When originally questioned whether the World Fringe Congress would be a good place to debate questions about corporate influence on the Fringe Festivals, especially in Canada, and to discuss the future direction of the Fringe, Payton-Lombardo replied with a dubious lie:

“…the Congress will recognise that there are many models of Fringe and many different ideas within it, without recognising any one model, concept or Fringe as more valid than another.”

Payton-Lombardo invited me to the original Edinburgh World Fringe Congress in 2012 and again in 2014 in an attempt to indoctrinate me with corporate ideology and to co-opt the infringement festivals I had initiated, in addition to over 100 Fringe Festivals from around the planet. Because I have critical thinking skills, I was able to protect myself from Payton-Lombardo’s attempt to magically transform me into one among a flock of corporate “Fringe” sheep while simultaneously challenging her capitalist discourse and sales pitch with anti-capitalist analysis and education.

The New York Times reported at the time:

“Between sips of wine Donovan King begged to differ. “The Fringe has become mainstream junior,” he said in an interview. Mr. King was referring not only to Edinburgh, he pointed out, but to most Fringe festivals, which he feels are too dependent on sponsorships. “I think it’s a corporate sellout and it needs to be reformed,” he said. Mr. King runs the anti-establishment Infringement Festival in Montreal as a reaction against the Montreal Fringe, a sign that the Fringe festival movement has already spawned an opposition party.”

Payton-Lombardo evidently did not appreciate the democratic opposition, as was made obvious in 2016 when the corporate World Fringe Congress was relocated to Montreal, my home city, and placed in the “care” of the trademarked Fringe festivals, held in a capitalist lock by the the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF).

The CAFF World Fringe Congress rejected all infringement festival delegates who applied, including members from marginalized communities (Black, Irish, disabled, LGBTQ, etc.), prompting an official letter of complaint to Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the ironically anti-democratic organization charged with managing the World “Fringe” Congress.

An alternative, anti-capitalist World Infringement Congress was also offered, which was very 21st Century: diverse, inclusive and involved lots of critical thinking (see links below, if you don’t believe me)! It did not discriminate against marginalized cultures and even invited corporate “Fringe” managers to attend to explain their position in a proposed friendly democratic debate, which in a very cowardly and un-Canadian way they absolutely refused to even consider.

I also had an awkward conversation via video-link with Payton-Lombardo and Mattos on their invention of “World Fringe Day”, a day to cheer-lead the growth of the Fringe (and more potential profits for the top of the Pyramid Scheme).

More recently, our team also asked the WFC to implement a Safe Space Policy to prevent future exclusion of marginalized communities.

The WFC, as represented by CEO Shona McCarthy, refused, despite the fact some of our disabled members cannot participate without a Safe Space Policy for health, safety and medical reasons.

Infringement artists were therefore unable to attend the WFC in Edinburgh in 2018, because the unsafe, toxic and poisonous environment created by CAFF in 2016 in Montreal would have had detrimental effects on the health and safety of our disabled members.

The sick fact is that the CAFF destroyed our intellectual and cultural bonds with our Fringe colleagues by spreading false rumours, such as the bizarre idea that the Montreal Police Force had instructed CAFF to exclude and censor infringement members, including accredited teachers, educators and professors in addition to marginalized artists. Indeed, I received an email on October 4, 2016 from fellow Fringe academic Dr. Xela Batchedler (a.k.a. “Dr. Fringe”), who informed me that marginalized infringement organizers were being excluded by CAFF “because someone at the Montreal Fringe was advised by police…” According to CAFF, infringement artists were suddenly “too dangerous” to attend a corporate event like the WFC, despite previous inclusion in 2012 and 2014 without incident.

Now, just a few short months later, a hotly-contested election campaign was recently held between four Fringe Festivals who were all battling it out for the right to host the next two WFCs in 2020 and 2022. The contenders included Grahamstown (South Africa), Roma (Europe), Adelaide (Australia) and the much-despised CAFF “Fringe” (TM) in Disney-homeland, Orlando, Florida (U.S.A.). The election was held on November 23, with all Fringe Festivals worldwide being granted one vote each.

During the election campaign, when I publicly expressed concern to Holly Payton-Lombardo (on the “Fringe – the Social Managers” secret Facebook page) that if the trademarked Orlando CAFF Fringe were to win, they would likely exclude all artists from marginalized infringement communities again, she started to get angrier and angrier.

In fact, as a licensed English and History teacher and Master theatrician, I would characterize Payton-Lombardo’s reaction as a full and dramatic Chernobyl-like meltdown. In what could be described as “the best Fringe drama of the 21st Century”, critics would surely give the “performance” a 5 star rating!

To thicken the Fringe plot, when Trumpesque Orlando “Fringe” Manager Michael Marinaccio objected to legitimate criticism during the election debates, Holly Payton-Lombardo responded by refusing to allow several other infringement festival managers to be included on the secret Facebook page for political debate during the democratic election.

The Orlando “Fringe” manager, who was demanding the exclusion of all infringement festivals, then began to discriminate against me personally due to my disability, apparently with “absolutely no irony”.  I found these statements to be particularly ignorant and abhorrent, especially because pro-Fringe trademark Marinaccio was actually calling for me to be censored because I am disabled. In doing so, he simultaneously made a mockery of the disabled Fringe community, much like Donald Trump frequently does of the entire disabled community across the U.S.A. and planet.

I wish could say that I was surprised, but the CAFF’s trademarked Fringe Festivals have a disgusting history of discrimination against the disabled who cannot or refuse to accept the hidden myriad of late capitalist strategies designed to feed Payton-Lombardo’s deranged and international “Fringe Pyramid Scheme”.

Shortly thereafter, as I was trying to educate the Orlando Fringe Manager about mental health in the 21st Century Arts & Culture industry (I am a mental health advocate), Holly Payton-Lombardo actually blocked my ability to communicate with my peers, including Marinaccio, during the election debates until November 24 – one day after the election was officially over!

Next, Payton-Lombardo began to use disturbing Orwellian language on the Facebook page I and other infringement managers were banned from:

The term Orwellian connotes official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian ruler. In Payton-Lombardo’s message to “Fringe” managers, which excluded all infringement managers, she embodies the character of “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s literary masterpiece 1984. As in the book,  she rules the “Party”, employs the “Thought Police” to persecute individualism and independent thinking and enjoys an intense cult of personality.

George Orwell himself refers to the bizarre administrative concept of “Doublethink” (the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts). Payton-Lombardo employed this dubious technique by expressing many, many clear hypocrisies to her corporate “Fringe” peers while simultaneously excluding activist infringement managers from responding.

For example, Payton-Lombardo claims that every Fringe Director she has ever met believes artists are the most important people, but the media links below demonstrate the opposite – artists and students being excluded from trademarked Fringe Festivals. She also states that “infringement festivals and artists have a valued place in all society and World Fringe”, despite excluding all infringement festivals in the democratic debates. In another piece of “Doublethink”, Payton-Lombardo claims nobody in the corporate Fringe network has ever excluded people based on “nationality, health, sexuality or socioeconomic status” (she conveniently forgot to mention political convictions, another enshhrined human right prohibited from discrimination), and yet she just excluded infringement organizers who identify with Black, Irish (post-nationality races), disabled (health) , LGBTQ (sexuality), and impoverished (socioeconomic status).

Payton-Lombardo then actually contacted other infringement festivals behind my back in an attempt to label me as “mentally ill” and discourage their association with me in order to join the corporate “Fringe” flock.

Unfortunately for Payton-Lombardo, infringement festival organizers all have sharp critical thinking skills and show solidarity in the face of exclusion, discrimination or oppression as a matter of basic principle. This piece of exclusion and cyber-bullying was, of course, forwarded to me by alert infringement managers.

Things got nastier and nastier when Fringe actually tried to hack my personal Facebook page, which my cyber-security experts repaired and tracked the cyber-hacker to Orlando, Florida.

Once the Fringe’s cultural assault was completed, it appears that Holly Payton-Lombardo finally banned every infringement manager from membership in the WFC, from voting, using the political platform of the Facebook page or attending future WFCs ever again.

This deplorable act of exclusion, racism and censorship essentially rigged the WFC election by eliminating legitimate cultural criticism during the campaign debates. Meanwhile, appeals to Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy to restore democracy and decorum went unheeded.

I decided, as a professional educator, that I had had enough of this oppressive nonsense and so sent Payton-Lombardo a CEASE & DESIST order:

The unethical rigging of the WFC election gave the trademarked CAFF Orlando “Fringe” an enormous advantage over their opponents because all criticism against them had been silenced, forbidden and eliminated, furthering Payton-Lombardo’s deranged “Pyramid Scheme” goal of a pro-capitalist network of trademarked Fringe Festivals that pay her annual fees to be included.

Perhaps not surprisingly, on November 30, 2018 the WFC’s predictable election results were announced by the Head of Participant Services (Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society), Rachel Sanger:

Due to the vote-rigging demanded by the CAFF Orlando Fringe, they actually won the WFC election to host the Congress in 2022. This is very unfortunate because both Adelaide and Orlando Fringes have been criticized as being hyper-corporate, derivative of white colonizer culture, and reeking of white privilege, like most Fringe Festivals in North America, Europe and the Antipodes.

Sadly, the Black and Indigenous Fringe of Grahamstown, South Africa, won’t be hosting the Congress due to the discriminatory, hyper-capitalist and racist vote-rigging, which put them at a major disadvantage over Orlando during the election. The Roma Fringe of Europe, which frequently represents marginalized and persecuted communities, is also excluded due to the vote-rigging.

The racist behaviour and exclusion of marginalized artists from the WFC election, including Black and disabled artists, by corporate “Fringe” managers is extremely disturbing. It can perhaps be best described as an obvious case of White Fragility. According to race scholar and sociologist Robin DiAngelo:

“White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes
intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include
the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such
as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors,
in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”

This theory corresponds with the racist actions of Payton-Lombardo along with the silence and lack of solidarity towards marginalized and excluded Fringe artists by other corporate “Fringe” managers, almost all of whom are white.

DiAngelo describes this alienating dynamic as such:

“Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort… This blame results in a socially-sanctioned array of counter-moves against the perceived source of the discomfort, including: penalization; retaliation; isolation; ostracization; and refusal to continue engagement. White insistence on racial comfort ensures that racism will not be faced. This insistence also functions to punish those who break white codes of comfort. Whites often confuse comfort with safety and state that we don’t feel safe when what we really mean is that we don’t feel comfortable.”

In addition, it would appear the corporate “Fringe” Festivals want to encourage more diverse audiences to supplement profits, but certainly do not want more diverse management of the festivals.

In response to the cultural scandal, a Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) spokesperson released the following statement:

“You are chasing an empty story. That UNESCO link look impressive until you actually click on it and read it thru, you will see that it is just a statement on Donovans blog saying he wants to ask UNESCO to do something about something. UNESCO has nothing to do with this conversation and knows nothing about this matter. Putting their name in your article when they have never made a statement or even gotten a request to make a statement would be very dishonest of you as a journalist. It is to be expected from Donovan who is much more concerned with attacking Fringe than he is with running a theater festival, but for a journalist to lead with that pointless link displays a lack of journalistic rigor. If you can’t read past that click bait you have no business calling yourself a journalist.

Try googling Infringement festival and you will find that Montreal Infringement does not come up anywhere in the first or second page, only Buffalo. Also on the first page is this site I urge you to do your due diligence and look at that site, specifically the Brooklyn section, my hometown. you will quickly see that there is no Brooklyn Infringement festival only lifestyle ads. this clearly shows that Donovan has no interest in actually running a Fringe festival as he does zero to market this festival for that participating artists. On the actual Montreal Infringement site details are “still coming” about the 2017 festival, so there is that.

The member (not currently running a festival so not a member) requesting a safe space, is only requesting a space safe for himself, he has no real interest or understanding of the concept of safe spaces, and he also has no interest in running a Fringe festival, only in infringing on other peoples time and energy. Donovan has personal issues that I hope he can deal with, I do wish him the best. But now that this “controversy” has hit my inbox I feel I must respond to say how much of a non issue this matter is outside of Donovan’s own mind.

– CAFF Spokesperson Erez Ziv, FRIGID New York”

* Please note that according to excluded infringement managers, 13/15 infringement festivals run underground for Health and Safety reasons (e.g. Campus Policies, active Conflict Zones, post-Conflict Zones, fear of retaliation by “Fringe” trademark holders, medical reasons, etc.) At this time, only the Buffalo, New York and King’s College, Nova Scotia Infringement festivals operate in public and they did not apply to vote in the WFC election because managers consider the WFC “illegitimate”.

Due to these numerous problems caused by corporate and trademarked “Fringe Festivals, there is a much needed call to action for immediate change.

As such, Holly Payton-Lombardo (Corporate Founder, World Fringe Congress) and Shona McCarthy (CEO, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society) must resign immediately from their official Fringe positions due to anti-Fringe and anti-democratic Election-Rigging, among a host of other unethical practices (e.g. cyber-bullying, discrimination against the disabled, use of Orwellian language, the continual creation and maintenance of unsafe and Kafkaesque spaces, homophobia, racism, human rights violations  – Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly – exploitation of “white privilege”, etc.)

The rigged election results must also be cancelled due to racist, ablest and homophobic exclusion of legitimate Fringe managers, resulting in white colonizer culture “Fringe” Festivals (including one with a trademark) winning in the most unfair and unjust of ways.

Thirdly, the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) must abandon its “Fringe” trademark, implement Safe Space Policies, stop excluding artists and students from doing populist Fringe Arts, and apologize to the infringement festivals and global Culture community for being a bunch of discriminatory and late capitalist arseh*oles.

And last, but certainly not least, to protect the Fringe for future generations of artists and spectators, it is high time for the official Queens of Fringe Censorship to immediately step down – and hopefully go find meaningful employment at their local McDonald’s fast food “restaurant”.

That way instead of bullying, harassing and excluding legitimate Fringe artists with critical thinking skills and destroying the Fringe in the name of late capitalist profits, they will be relegated to making french fries for hungry McCustomers.

It would be poetic justice at its very finest!


Infringefully Yours,

Donovan King, MFA, B.Ed, BFA, ACS, DEC

(* Also proudly mentally disabled, but still able to pay actors union wages and taxes to the government, unlike the able-minded CAFF members who charge artists to play while vacuuming up tax dollars and unethical corporate sponsorship money. Break the stigma against mental health discrimination! As a Mad Pride member, I am very proud to join the ranks of other artists with mental illnesses, including, but not limited to: Georgia O’Keeffe, Ludwig van Beethoven,  Sylvia Plath, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, and many other influential thinkers. These especially include Irish artists traditionally labelled as “crazy”, such as ghost storyteller Sheridan Le Fanu,  Tarrantinoesque playwright Martin McDonagh, Dracula author Bram Stoker and, of course, Irish punk-folk musician Shane MacGowan!)

(In my humble opinion, if you are not at least a little bit “crazy”, you have no business being at any real Fringe festival.)

(Just an Irish-Montreal giggle! I know these chuckles bite hard, but please don’t take offense if you are a corporate “Fringe” manager!)

p.s. Please consider forwarding this post to your local journalist, blogger or advocate for anti-racism, anti-capitalism, mental health advocacy and pro-LGBTQ inclusion in the culture, plus members of the planetary Fringe community, of course!

If you would like to dialogue about these issues, please shoot me an email at Unlike tone deaf corporate “Fringe” managers, I am open to dialogue, inclusion, diversity and academic analysis about the multiple problems caused by a corporate “Fringe” in the 21st Century that is designed to exclude marginalized and disabled voices in the name of late capitalist profits.

Do you want to help update the corporate “Fringe” to 2.0 (the real Fringe, based on the original 1947 mandate in Edinburgh)?

If so, please complain to the organizations listed below. Tell them:

  1. To cancel the WFC vote due to election irregularities.
  2. To cancel all Fringe trademarks world-wide.
  3. To include infringement artists in the WFC and on its Facebook page.
  4. To stop raping populist events like the Fringe in the name of late capitalist profits.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society:

World Fringe Congress CEO:

Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) Executive Directors and Fringe trademark holders:,,,

CAFF Orlando Fringe Festival Senior Management:,,,,,,,,,,





UNESCO proposal to protect the Fringe:




Newspaper article about legal threats against students in Nova Scotia, Canada:


Article and video example of exclusion at Montreal Fringe:


Media example of exclusion at World Fringe Congress (Montreal, 2016):


Media example of an artist being “banned for life” from a now-trademarked “Fringe” that he had originally helped establish:


WORLD FRINGE CONGRESS – Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 & 2014


Blog (long read) about 2012 WFC and anti-capitalist analysis:


Blog about 2014 WFC and anti-capitalist analysis:




Letter of Complaint about exclusion to Edinburgh Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy


Keynote Speech by Der Kosmonaut (Kasai Dear):


WTF? (What the Fr*nge?!) Presentation by Donovan King



Cultural criticism of trademarked “Fringe” as Uber of the Arts in media article:


Infringement Testimony and Media:


Example of a University describing an excluded Fringe artist as an “innovator”, “thought leader” and “expert in the field”:



CityNews TV interview with tour guide Donovan King, November 3, 2018.

November 4th, 2018

CityNews Montreal TV interview with tour guide Donovan King, November 3, 2018.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Mike Finnerty. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. November 2, 2018.

November 2nd, 2018

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Mike Finnerty. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. November 2, 2018.


More Media:

The Eastern Door. Guide Wants Full History Of City During Tours. Lachlan Madill. November 2, 2018:


CityNews Montreal. TV interview with tour guide Donovan King, November 2, 2018:


Montreal Times. Montreal Haunted Mountain Tour. Deborah Rankin. November 6, 2018:


CBC Indigenous. Montreal tour guide wants more Indigenous history incorporated into industry training. Jessica Deer. November 8, 2018:


World Fringe Day: Artists propose plan to call on UNESCO to protect festival

July 10th, 2017

On July 11, Fringe Festivals around the world are celebrating “World Fringe Day”, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Fringe in Edinburgh in 1947. The festival was born when artists were told they couldn’t perform at the Edinburgh International Festival, so they protested by doing their shows on the “fringe” of the event. Their brave and defiant gesture sparked a whole new way of doing the arts: rebellious, independent, artist-run, inclusive, and Do-It-Yourself. Their original mandate was simple: anyone can play on the fringe – with no administrative cost.

Ironically, the same artists who established the Fringe Festival 70 years ago would not be allowed to play at most of the 200+ Fringe Festivals that exist today under the same conditions. Many Fringe Festivals have policies that force artists to pay often-hefty fees to administrators in order to participate. Critics have questioned these policies because they exclude artists who cannot afford to perform.

Due to these policies, the Fringe, once an inclusive festival run by rebellious artists, is now overseen by administrators and often doesn’t resemble the original creation. For example, an organization called the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals trademarked the word “Fringe” in 1998 and now threatens legal action against artists and students who attempt to do Fringe arts without their permission. Furthermore, there are a host of other questionable practices at Fringe Festivals that do not match the original intentions of the artists who founded the Fringe in 1947.

In response, artists at the Montreal Infringement Festival, one of the rare festivals that still follows the original Fringe mandate of 1947, propose asking UNESCO to protect the Fringe, including artists, spectators and communities that participate in the festivals (and those who are excluded from them).

UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. Concerning culture, UNESCO strengthens the ties between nations and societies, and mobilizes the wider public so that each child and citizen: “may grow and live in a cultural environment rich in diversity and dialogue, where heritage serves as a bridge between generations and peoples; and can enjoy full freedom of expression; the basis of democracy, development and human dignity.”

To achieve its goals, UNESCO’s is mandated is to safeguard important elements of human culture. As such, the organization places at-risk cultural practices on a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity to “help demonstrate the diversity of [cultural] heritage and raise awareness about its importance”.

To prevent co-opting by corporate interests and the resulting exclusion, the artists are planning to request that Fringe Festivals be included on the list. To preserve the integrity of the Fringe, their goals include:

1. The end of exclusion at all Fringe Festivals worldwide;

2. The cancellation of all trademarks on the word “Fringe”;

3. The inclusion of artists in key decision-making processes at all Fringe Festivals.

Artists founded the Montreal Infringement Festival in 2004 in reaction to excessive corporate interference at the St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. In 2001, an experimental play called Car Stories was kicked out after a corporate sponsor was offended. When the festival refused to refund artists the hefty fees required to participate or pay them their ticket sales, the artists vowed to fight back against what appeared to be the co-opting of the Canadian Fringe Festival movement by corporate interests.

For 14 years, artists have staged the Infringement Festival as an alternative to the trademarked Canadian Fringe Festivals. As keepers of the original Fringe mandate of 1947, they ensured that artists never had to pay to play and that nobody was ever excluded or censored.

In 2012, Infringement artists were invited to the inaugural World Fringe Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the Congress, Infringement founder Donovan King wrote a critical analysis about problems facing the Fringe internationally. In 2014, he was invited again and followed up with a workshop entitled “A World Fringe Philosophy” where he outlined some of the more problematic issues facing Fringe Managers. He also performed a show at the Edinburgh Fringe called Critical Report from the World Fringe Congress, which has also played in other cities in the U.K., Ireland, the U.S.A. and Canada.

In 2016, a decision was made to hold the World Fringe Congress in another city and Montreal was selected. Hosted this time by the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals and the Saint Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, the Congress had an application form for the first time ever. When Montreal and Buffalo infringement festivals applied to send delegates, they were rejected, despite the fact they are among the few festivals that still follows the mandate of the 1947 Edinburgh Fringe.

Not only were their critical voices absent at the Congress, but their entire festivals were missing from the World Fringe Fair, a showcase of festivals around the world. For the excluded artists, the 3rd World Fringe Congress was Kafkaesque: having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical bureaucratic quality in which people are oppressed by nonsensical, blind authority, resulting in anxiety, alienation, exclusion and powerlessness.

Buffalo burlesque artist Cat McCarthy reacted to the exclusion with an article in The Public Voice, where she asked:

“Why do we scare you so much? If you want to have a well-run festival, you must know the counterculture you have excluded. Fringe artists are supposed to be cutting-edge and on the fringe of new and exciting artistic expression.”

Professor Alan Filewod, an academic expert on Fringe Festivals in Canada at the University of Guelph, stated:

 “I want to extend the hand of solidarity to all who participate in the Infringement Festival, who gather to fight for the right of freedom expression, and to reclaim the promise of the original fringe: open, accessible, artist-run. The corporatization of fringe festivals is a betrayal of what was the most democratic development in Canadian theatre. I congratulate you for standing against it in the cause of diversity, inclusivity and free assembly.”

Infringement founder Donovan King wrote a Letter of Complaint to Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society CEO Shona McCarthy and hosted both an infringement festival and the first-ever World Infringement Congress to challenge the exclusion. He also invited members of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals to a debate about the Fringe trademark, which they refused to attend.

While ultimately the censored artists were excluded from the 3rd World Fringe Congress in Montreal, the CEO of the Edinburgh Fringe and several other international Fringe Managers did attend the World Infringement Congress. The artistic and cultural dialogue was successful: the excluded artists were invited to the next World Fringe Congress in Edinburgh in 2018 by the CEO. The invitation was heavily applauded by members of the audience.

In addition to planning to call on UNESCO to protect Fringe Festivals worldwide, the Montreal Infringement Festival is also celebrating World Fringe Day with a party and open mic at Bar Bifteck, the site where the Infringement Festival was born in 2004. Last but not least, the festival is releasing footage of the 2016 World Infringement Congress for those who missed the event and want to learn about the issues.

As the keepers of the Fringe mandate of 1947, Infringement artists plan to honor the brave souls who challenged exclusion and played on the fringe 70 years ago, sparking a whole new way of doing the arts. They also plan to question why there is so much exclusion at Fringe Festivals today when it was originally designed to be inclusive.

The irony that the World Fringe Congress excluded the only artists who follow the original mandate of the 1947 Edinburgh Fringe is a clear demonstration that UNESCO needs to intervene to protect human culture from corporate manipulation. As such, the Infringement artists are hopeful that UNESCO will look favorably on their upcoming application to protect the Fringe for future generations.