Walking the Debris Field: Centenary Procession (December 3, 2017)

The Centenary Procession walk of December 3, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the explosion in Halifax harbour, and the completion of NiS+TS’ Walking the Debris Field project.

In the drizzling December dusk, braving the blue murk, over one hundred walkers joined together to weave through the district once known as Richmond, devastated and entirely reshaped by the tragic collision of a century ago. The Procession’s route was specifically designed for this walk, taking participants on a path that moved between debris field sites from several of NiS+TS’ suggested walking routes or “drifts”.

At the head of the procession, participants carried vibrant neon green banners designed by artist Jessica Winton, commemorating the Explosion. Curious locals, hearing Ian MacMillan’s snare drum and Nathan Pilon’s plaintive sax improvisations approaching, looked out from windows and housefronts to see a long train of people stretching the length of streets. Along streetcrossings, volunteer safety marshalls made sure everyone made the journey safely.

Embedded in significant sites throughout the debris field were vignettes where dramatic performers, singers and storytellers made memories of this tragic event come to life. Unlike previous NiS+TS walks, for the Centenary Procession the participants did not stop to watch the presentations but kept moving through them, walking through different unfolding stories as a continuous sensorial experience. The procession culminated in Mulgrave Park with the burning of an architectural model made by artist/designer and frequent NiS+TS collaborator Angela Henderson, revealing ceramic models of the Imo and Mont Blanc, made by artist Juss Heinsalu. Following this, with clothes thoroughly soggy but with spirits kindled from the memorial trek, participants enjoyed steaming hot baked potatoes and warm cider as they watched a slideshow of previous NiS+TS walk events.

For more information on the walk, including a description of the route taken and a list of sponsors, please see this brochure provided to participants before the procession began: Walking the Debris Field – Centenary Procession

NiS+TS also produced this postcard leading up to the event, commemorating Dr. C.C. Ligouré, the first Black doctor in Nova Scotia, who had a medical practice at the time of the Explosion. Ligouré will be honoured by Dartmouth playwright David Woods in his play “Extraordinary Acts,” set to debut in 2018. Woods contributed a spoken word performance to the Centenary Procession event.

NiS+TS extends sincerest thanks to all supporters and participants who have made this project possible. Contributing artists for this event included: Juanita Peters (spoken word), Nathan Pilon (saxophone), Ian MacMillan (snare drum), Brian Downey (performing artist), James MacLean, Ailsa Galbraith, Katie Dorian, and Gina Thornhill (Teatime performers), Ben Stone and Koumbie (performers), David Woods (spoken word), and Claire Leger, Colleen MacIsaac, Jennifer Trites, and Kallie White (Xara Choral Theatre Ensemble vocalists who sang at various locations along the Procession route). NiS+TS also extends thanks to Ray Dubé for technical assistance, as well as MGP and the Mulgrave Park Caring and Learning Centre for hosting the finale on their basketball court.