Dalek and TARDIS from Doctor Who show in the city to celebrate "12 Days of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Toronto.”
A Dalek, from the British TV show Doctor Who, is seen at British Consulate-General's pop-up shop
"12 Days of Great Britain and Northern Ireland." in Toronto. - CARLOS OSORIO / TORONTO STAR
By order of Her Majesty’s Government in London, a TARDIS and Dalek have arrived in Toronto and are stationed in the windows of the old Eaton’s College Park building. Part of 12 Days of GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland in Toronto the vintage-styled London police call box and robotlike mutant creature are relics from the Doctor Who TV series, one of the many ways the British Invasion lives on.
The idea behind UK House, a “pop up shop” that opened Thursday, is to celebrate British fashion, creativity, innovation, design, and the “many strong links between Canada’s largest city and the UK.” The connections in Toronto are deep, a place once referred to as the “Queen City” and perhaps the most loyal of any colonial outpost in the Empire. A sign of that fidelity to King and Queen is found behind the Legislature at Queen’s Park, where a massive statue of King Edward VII astride a horse is the park’s centrepiece. It was originally located in Delhi, but Toronto happily took it in the 1960s when India was shedding itself of colonial vestiges.
The British Consulate-General in Toronto is opening up a pop-up shop called
12 Days of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - CARLOS OSORIO
Just look around at how much of this city references people and places in the United Kingdom. There are neighbourhoods such as Agincourt, Swansea, or Kensington Market. Even Scarborough is a colonial name. Then there are the streets, from the Kings and Queens, to geographic references such as Islington, or the whole genre of streets named after long-dead British guys — Yonge (Sir George Yonge, a British Secretary of War) and Bathurst (Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl of Bathurst), many of whom never set foot in Toronto.
While Toronto has grown out of many of its colonial trappings, the relationship carries on in other ways. Think of all the cool kids wearing “Made-in-England” Dr. Martens shoes today, or people who still lament the closing of the Marks & Spencer department store chain in Canada. To the chagrin of republicans here, there are still an awful lot of monarchists in Toronto as well, who presumably hang out at all those Firkin pubs festooned with Union Jackery.
The relationship has evolved a long way though. Consider Mayor John Tory’s recent trip to London. British Consul-General in Toronto, Kevin McGurgan said it was “fab” to have Tory in London, remarking that Toronto and London are “leading global cities.” The UK House itself is a bold statement of a much more equal relationship and a sign that colonial ties can no longer be taken for granted: Britain is selling itself back to us.
A TARDIS from the show Doctor Who is on show at the British Consulate-General's
pop-up shop in Toronto - CARLOS OSORIO
Apart from the Doctor Who items, UK House includes visual exhibits that showcase British retail brands and include replicas of luggage used by Her Majesty the Queen, Sir Winston Churchill, and Sir Edmund Hillary. The new James Bond film Spectre will certainly renew Anglophile excitement here, and UK House has replicas of briefcases used by Sean Connery in From Russia With Love as well as Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing in the Imitation Game. There are also Beatles walking tours tracing their concerts at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The UK House demonstrates how powerful a global brand the United Kingdom is; an umbrella for all the products and culture produced there. It arrives in Toronto at an interesting time, when our city’s brand is no longer defined by Rob Ford’s extracurricular activities, and when international press have feted Canada with the election of Justin Trudeau for prime minister. Whether you're a supporter or skeptic of Trudeau, it’s an interesting moment for the brands of both Toronto and Canada.
What might a Canada or Toronto pop up shop contain if we took our show on the road?
UK House is at 444 Yonge St. and open from 10AM-6PM daily until November 9th. Full details can be found here.
Shawn Micallef writes every Friday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef