Toronto denies Afrofest's Queen's Park permit

Afrofest, the culture and music festival that has been held at Queen's Park for the past 23 years, has been denied a permit this year because of its size and past permit violations, the City of Toronto says.

Afrofest will not receive a permit to use Queen's Park this year, the City of Toronto says. 

The African music and culture festival has been held at Queen's Park for the past 23 years, but the city has refused to grant a permit for 2011, saying the festival is too big and has violated the terms of its permits in the past.

Music Africa, the organizers of the summer event, said it was first told by the city's parks department in January that the group may not be able to hold their event at the Queen's Park North lawn this year.

Music Africa wrote back to the city asking them to reconsider and were officially notified last Friday that they would not receive a permit this year, said group president Michael Stohr.

The city cited a number of concerns with the festival in the last three years, including:

  • Its size. Organizers estimate up to 50,000 file in and out of Queen's Park on the day of the event.
  • An excess of vehicles parked on the park ground.
  • Music being played later than 11 p.m.
  • Public urination and other damage to turf.

"The number of people and success of the festival is partly working against itself in that the park is too small for such a huge, huge crowd," said Richard Ubbens, the director of the city's parks department.

Alternate locations suggested

Ubbens said the parks department isn't singling out Afrofest alone, saying "we've met with permit holders that we've had great difficulties with."

But Stohr said many of the violations have either been resolved or "just aren't true. For instance, music has never gone on past 11 o'clock."

Parks staff are most concerned about the effect of soil compaction caused by large numbers of attendees. When soil is compacted, it limits the amount of oxygen that the roots of some of the park's large mature trees can take in. The crowns of some of the trees are already showing the ill effects of compaction, said Ubbens.

He suggested other venues for the organizers to hold the event, including the CNE ground or Downsview Park.

But Stohr doesn't believe those venues will do for Afrofest. He said his group will continue to press the city to backtrack and grant a permit to Afrofest this year.

"I think its about what kind of city we want. Do we want a city we celebrate in? Or do we want a nice quiet downtown and we'll push all these events into the outskirts?," he said.

"And our slogan won't fly anymore - 'Discover Afrofest in the heart of Toronto.' It'll have to be: 'Discover Afrofest on the outskirts of Toronto.'"