Walk with Amal: University of Toronto

When and Where

Thursday, June 08, 2023 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
From Convocation Hall to the Hospital for Sick Children


Little Amal takes a walk at the University of Toronto!

On Thursday 8 June, Little Amal will appear at the University of Toronto. She’ll mingle with a procession of graduands from UTM who will be receiving their bachelor’s degrees, and as she enters King’s College Circle, she will spot a couple of old friends as they approach Convocation Hall.  Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler are the co-founders of the Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa, and they will be receiving honorary doctorates at the afternoon ceremony. They created Little Amal, coming out of retirement to do so – in a sense, they are the grandfathers of this 12-foot-tall orphan.

Little Amal has walked all over Europe to raise awareness of the plight of refugee children. She is a 10-year-old Syrian girl. She is operated by three puppeteers, and nonetheless, people respond to her as though she were alive. She is routinely greeted, taught, introduced, and generally treated as a living human being: this is the magic of puppetry. She is in Toronto as a part of this year’s Luminato Festival Toronto, and we are grateful for their support of this event.

At around 2:15 Amal will greet Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler and the Chancellor’s procession will halt for a moment to welcome her to the University. She won’t be able to enter Convocation Hall because she is too big, but she will receive a mortarboard, and she will meet two children from the Syrian refugee family whom University of Toronto faculty members sponsored. Together, they will follow the sound of a daf – a Persian hand drum – played by Naghmeh Farahmand, toward King’s College Road, where Amal will meet a flock of flying book puppets that will be puppeteered by faculty members Farzaneh Hemmasi and Nasim Niknafs (both Faculty of Music) among others.

She’ll walk down King’s College Road, and just before College Street, she will make friends with two more giant puppets, the Sun and the Moon, who will be joining us from Red Pepper Spectacle Arts.

At the corner of King’s College Road and College Street, she will be joined by a brass band – Trash Panda Brass – who will begin with “I Will Survive”.  Trash Panda are six LGBTQ+ University of Toronto Faculty of Music graduates who play joyous and raucous dance hits.  By now, the procession should be gathering a crowd, and it will move east on College to University, south on University to Gerrard, and then around The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) on three sides on Gerrard, Elizabeth, and Elm Street. Amal will meet therapeutic clowns Fern and Jazz under the long green windows of SickKids on Elm Street so that the children and youth at the hospital can wave to her.

The last song will be “We are Family” and it will come at around 3:15 pm near the YMCA. We hope that you will join us for this unique and joyous moment at the University of Toronto. If you’d like to walk with Amal, please join us at the corner of King’s College Road and College Street at 2:30, or anywhere on the route after that.

Interested in puppets? Want more? Come to the panel discussion on Wednesday, June 7!

Walk with Amal Toronto is produced by The Walk Productions Toronto in association with Handspring Puppet Company and Luminato Festival. The JHI is grateful for collaborations with Professor Lawrence Switzky (UTM English & Drama), the Faculty of Music, The Office of Event Services, Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, Naghmeh Farahmand, Trash Panda Brass, Ashley Regimbal, The Hospital for Sick Children, and many more who have generously provided advice, support, and suggestions.