Train of Thought

Train of Thought Website Link:

Create, Discuss, Travel, Feast, Learn, Change Tracks

Train of Thought was a 2015  seven-week community arts journey from west to east coast, with on-board activities, 25 stops, 75 travellers, 95 partners and hundreds of other artists and community participants along the way.  At each stop, our travelling company disembarked and stayed until the next train came through. Local partners hosted interactive events, and contributed to creative activities and tasks. Travellers hopped on and off, joining in conversations and art-making en route.

The theme and focus of the journey was community arts collaborations and alliances between First Nations and settler/immigrant artists and communities. Train of Thought took a counter-colonial route to uncover and share stories and histories of the land where we live: as it might have been, as it is, as it could be: drawing on perception, memory, history and imagination; merging whimsy and serious intent, bringing together artists and community members, the land’s first people and those who have found refuge here over the generations.

Train of Thought asked many questions: What’s not on the map? What other forms of mapping are there? How can we see the places where we live through new eyes? What protocols are there of arrival, gathering and departure for the lands we pass through? What place names can we learn and imagine? What stories are important to pass across the country? How can we grieve and celebrate together in the shadow of colonialism? How can community-engaged arts help enter into these questions?

Train of Thought was less about the “trains” than about the “thought”: about relationships and discoveries that the journey enabled. When the train couldn’t take us where we wanted to go, we defected for a while to buses and cars, and rejoined the VIA train route when we could.

Train of Thought was produced by Jumblies with partners all across Canada.

Read more about Train of Thought – its partners, funders, activities, artists etc. (via the website designed by Liam Coo) here.


The desire to connect community arts practice across the country began with a group of community play producers (including Vancouver Moving Theatre’s Terry Hunter and Savannah Walling; Runaway Moon’s Cathy Stubington; Rachael Van Fossen, founder of Common Weal Community Arts; Dale Hamilton of Everybody’s Theatre Company; Ted Little of Concordia University’s Theatre and Development Program, jil weaving of the Vancouver Parks Board and Lina de Guevara of Puente Theatre). Around 2003, they started an ongoing conversation, with periodic visits and a series conferences and symposia, held in various locations to coincide with large-scale collaborative community plays.

Ruth and Ted came up with the current Train of Thought notion on one such occasion: driving from Vancouver to Enderby in 2004.  Even earlier, Dale Hamilton had imagined a community play project on the cross-country train, but was unable to pursue the project. The idea percolated and the conversation evolved and expanded over the years to include other colleagues, arts disciplines and traditions.

Finally, to bring the idea to fruition, Ruth Howard and Jumblies designed a multi-year scheme for national community arts development, with Train of Thought as a culminating event. In 2012, Jumblies was fortunate to receive funding for this initiative from The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as a VIA Rail sponsorship towards some train fares.

Jumblies spent two years delivering collaborative workshops across Ontario and Canada, and the Train of Thought themes, relationships and portable activities emerged from this process. All of the hosts for the Train of Thought stops were partners in Jumblies cross-country workshops.

Our route was, therefore, idiosyncratic and uneven – crossing mostly Southern Canada, spending most time in Ontario and missing many wonderful and significant places. Our shifting travelling troupe was limited by funds, time and space on trains and other vehicles. In true community arts spirit, our desire to include everyone was both sincere and impossible.

Train of Thought was an imperfect and incomplete adventure – part of a longer and unending imperative to learn, connect and help to change tracks. It has, as we hoped, served to inspire and incite many other trains of thought.