In the early seventies Queen Street West streetcars rattled by some of TORONTO’s oldest and funkiest low-rise buildings. The apartments above the stores were run-down, inhabited by derelicts, and dirt cheap. Surrounding low-rise office & sewing factory buildings were often used for no more than storage.
Artists and students at the nearby Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) moved into these rundown apartments and illegal loft spaces in which they could perform and work. They set in motion funky theatres, grungy warehouse lofts, and an odd assortment of legal and illegal after-hours bars (booze cans) and salons, as well as venues for art bands, reggae groups and performance events.
<THE CLICHETTES, a famous Queen Street performance troop>
Human rights, racism, censorship, cultural diversity, feminism, homophobia, and nuclear disarmament were rising as the political issues of the day.
<THE BODY POLITIC and FIREWEED, two long-lasting publications from the era>
An electric feeling was in the air. The Rebel Zone was a perfect breeding ground for Do It Yourself culture. Living in the pre-internet era meant events were communicated by posters, handouts and in person. This led to an intersection of ideas, art, politics and music, creating an atmosphere of fearless creativity.
<The popular BAMBOO Club. It kept on going for decades.>
<MOSES ZNAIMER introduced music videos to Canadian television on Citytv, Queen Street West>
<THE CLICHETTES seemed to be everywhere.>
<GENERAL IDEA, a gift to the world of art and sculpture – to this day.>
QUOTES from an essay by LORRAINE SEGATO – singer, songwriter, filmmaker, social justice activist & then-resident of The Rebel Zone. IMAGES are from a 2016 exhibition by YTB (pop-up) Gallery.