After relentless attacks against public sector workers, a year long strike at the Chronicle Herald, the inauguration of Donald Trump, we seem to be in a storm of fights for social justice” says Festival Director, Sébastien Labelle. “It’s important to take the time to reflect on those struggles in creative ways and celebrate the values of solidarity and collectivism embodied in May Day.”

On January 30th at the Bus Stop Theatre, Labelle announced the 2017 Mayworks Halifax Festival program of events planned for this year’s celebration of May Day, or International Workers’ Day.

The Mayworks Halifax Festival serves as an extended celebration of May Day (May 1st) through a series of cultural events which, in 2017, will take place over a span of two weeks beginning on April 28.

This year’s festival lineup spans across multiple disciplines including musical theatre, dance, film, performance art and video installation. Issues addressed by each piece vary widely – a campy musical about Nazi camps, subversion of Canada’s 150th, the unseen labour of prepping gallery walls, tensions between abstract representation and political agitation, coming of age gay in industrial Cape Breton, gentrification and displacement, personal accounts of how a mug shot taken takes away much more than a photograph, and more! While the range of issues is broad, each piece invites us to consider how the way we perceive history and the current state of society is shaped by what is often left out of the dominant narratives.

“If we’re to build a better world for ourselves, we need to critically reflect on how we perceive our current world to be” says Sébastien Labelle. “Of course, being critical doesn’t mean it can’t be without celebration.”



2017 Mayworks Halifax Festival

April 28 – May 10


KAMP Songspiel
Orchestral preview of a new Musical by Jamie Bradley and Garry Williams
April 28-30 at the Halifax Music Coop

A peeper’s prelude to KAMP, a new Musical by Jamie Bradley and Garry Williams, that tells the story of a group of homosexual men in a Nazi concentration camp, who have been sentenced to “extermination by labour”. Defying their captors and transcending their fate, they produce a cabaret replete with political satire, drag, and plenty of “camp”.

The Songspiel will feature a number of queer performers from the Halifax theatre community. The KAMP Cabaret Band will include musicians from the Halifax Music Co-Op, under the Musical Direction of John Bogardus.


The Decelebration of Canada 150
Performance by Raven Davis
April 29 & May 5, Cornwallis Park and Citadel Hill

A body of work and a performance piece created to critique and expose the myth of the confederation of Canada and the discourse and erasure of: Indigenous people, Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous history in Halifax and Canada.


Finish Coating Drywall (Applying Compound)
Video installation / performance by Michael Di Risio
Performance May 2, video May 2-4 at The Bus Stop Theatre Coop

Hosted within the Bus Stop Theatre lobby, this installation and performance piece brings attention to the often unseen and undervalued maintenance work involved in preparing spaces ahead of the audience’s arrival.


The View From Her(e)
Dance performed and choreographed by Liliona Quarmyne, accompanied by Jacinte Armstrong & Sarah Rozee
Part 1 (participatory presentations), May 2-3 / Part 2 (final performances), May 9-10 at The Bus Stop Theatre Coop

An interactive, multi-disciplinary dance piece that pushes the boundaries between art and activism. The piece grows from a curiosity around maintaining the abstraction of art without compromising the delivery of a social justice message. The trio of dancers will explore experiences of inclusion and exclusion that women face on a daily basis and use feedback gathered from audiences during participatory presentations of the piece to craft a second round of performances that aim to achieve a balance between abstraction and message.


New Waterford Boy – A Ceilidh
Play by Richie Wilcox
May 4-5 at The Bus Stop Theatre Coop

Come to a good ol’ fashioned ceilidh for a night of music and stories. Richie Wilcox weaves personal tales about growing up in a mining town with classic Cape Breton tunes of work and drink. But this ain’t your typical ‘lighthouse and seagull’ art. Wilcox recounts being Rita MacNeil’s nephew for a week, conquering junior high dances and a life-changing time on Canadian Idol as he navigates his way through trying to be a Cape Breton man and investigates the ups and downs of a traditional masculinity.


I Was There
Audiovisual installation by Katie Toth and Mary-Dan Johnston
May 5-10 at The Bus Stop Theatre Coop

Using photographic stills and video footage, the installation aims to question the discipline of urban planning, the motives behind speculation and development, and the capitalist ownership of community land. The visual footage will be accompanied by an audio component featuring stories from local residents about the changes they’ve experienced in their communities. I Was There captures and communicates the personal sense of displacement and dread in a constantly shifting place.


Play by In My Own Voice (iMOVe) Arts Association
May 6-7 at The Bus Stop Theatre Coop

Mug revolves around the Mug Shots of five formerly incarcerated people – photographs that span collectively almost 50 years of being in conflict with oneself and the Justice System. When a photograph is captured we often refer to it as ‘taking’ the photograph. This process of taking is encapsulated by the taking of the mug shot. However, when a person is convicted of committing an offence, the process of taking involves much more. When a person is incarcerated, the liberty of free movement is taken. The person’s clothes are taken. The ability to make many of their own decisions is taken. Through Mug 5 persons relive their past by offering their stories and invite us all to take the challenge of giving.


Reel Justice
Short films
May 8 at the Halifax Central Library – Paul O’Regan Hall

Our movie screens are colonized by Hollywood and its big business interests. Reel Justice responds with a collection of short films you won’t see at the multiplex. This selection includes works by local filmmakers or others who tackle themes that relate to our region. Together, these films celebrate our many and varied heroes and wrangle with the issues of social justice that affect our community.


Social Justice Collectible Trading Cards


On the same evening, the Mayworks Halifax Festival launched a new series of Social Justice Collectible Trading Cards. This series of 10 different cards will allow collectors to learn about important figures in social movements that have had an impact on Nova Scotia. We hope that these will serve as stepping stones toward further learning about important struggles for justice in our region and beyond.