International Pillow Fight Day Comes to Nathan Phillips Square
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International Pillow Fight Day Comes to Nathan Phillips Square

The Toronto edition of International Pillow Fight Day brought chaos, hundreds of participants, and a samba band to Nathan Phillips Square.

20130406 Newmindspace Pillow Fight Nathan Phillips Square 019 70  Photo by Corbin Smith

Chaos reigned and synthetic stuffing flew at Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday night, as hundreds gathered for the Toronto edition of International Pillow Fight Day, organized by Newmindspace.

Newmindspace has been organizing free all-ages events in Toronto since 2005. They’ve also done things in other cities across North America, including Montreal, New York, and San Francisco.

“It’s basically fun, free public events,” says co-founder Lori Kufner. “We’ve done capture the flag, Easter egg hunts, subway parties, all kinds of crazy things.”

International Pillow Fight Day is the biggest event on Newmindspace’s calendar. For the past several years it has taken place at Yonge-Dundas Square. This year, though, Kufner and her colleagues opted to move it to Nathan Phillips Square. She says Yonge-Dundas’s policies made it increasingly difficult to hold the event there.

“This is easier for me, because security’s not all over me trying to write me a ticket,” she says. “Dundas Square was more central and busier and there are cool lights, but it’s not really a public space. You have to rent it for three grand. Here, security is taking photos. Their only request was that we stay away from the water, which is valid.”

A band called Samba Elégua provided a soundtrack for the melee. Kufner says some members of the group showed up to the pillow fight a few years ago. They’ve been part of the event ever since.

“They’re like the war drums to the pillow fight,” she said. “They worked with us on a couple of our street parades, then some of them showed up randomly to a pillow fight. It’s a good partnership.”

Julian Amati, a participant in the fight, said the opportunity to take part in a massive pillow brawl was just too good to pass up. He came to the event sporting what he called a “pillow shield.” It was a foam toboggan with pillows duct taped to the front and straps on the back.

“[The shield] is really heavy to hold, so that’s a problem, but other than that, it’s an amazing time,” he said.

Fellow fighter Rameez Akif also came prepared for the event. He was dressed in a banana costume, which he says was meant partially to give the fight a sense of occasion, and partially to freak out his opponents.

“I had to suit up,” he says. “This is a special event. I had to look intimidating. I had to put fear into the hearts of my opponents.”

Ultimately, though, Akim says what drew him out was a chance to have fun and interact with strangers, an opportunity that is all too rare in the city.

“It’s fun for everyone,” he said. “There are kids who are five years old, and adults who are 50 years old, and they’re all just going at it.”

Kufner says that while events like the pillow fight are mostly just about having fun, they do serve another purpose, as well.

“There is a semi-political ideology about public space and keeping it public, unlike Dundas Square,” she says. “We also just want people to reimagine how they see public spaces…You can be like, ‘I remember that one time, where instead of going to a meeting at City Hall, I was in a giant pillow fight here.”

CORRECTION: April 8, 2013, 1:45 PM This post originally misidentified Samba Elégua, a samba band, as “Samba Squad.” We regret the error.

CORRECTION: April 10, 2013, 11:45 PM This post originally misspelled the banana-costumed pillow fighter as Rameez Akim, when in fact his name is Rameez Akif.