On a winter afternoon in 2013, Ela Kinowska arrived at her home in Chelsea, Quebec and found her friend, Peter Sobierajski, sitting in her backyard on his red couch—a piece of furniture she had long coveted, and which he had finally agreed to give her. She took a seat beside him, white snow banks all around them, and the two started chatting about Canada and their lives within it. This was an inspiring moment: Somehow, they wound up conceiving an ambitious national tour that went on to become a Signature Project for Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration.
The Red Couch Tour, produced earlier this year by Kinowska and Sobierajski’s ELPIO Production, was a travelling road show that invited Canadians to sit down on a red leather couch—not Sobierajski’s, but a new one custom-made for the project—and share what the country means to them. The adventure began in March with a trip through Canada’s north, then continued in July and August with an eight-week journey from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
“Me and my partner, Peter, we are immigrants to this country,” Kinowska tells Alliance 150 over the phone from Ottawa, once the bulk of the tour is behind her. “This project was a way of giving back to this country that embraced us with love and hopes for a better life.”
Along the way, Kinowska and her team took in Dene handgames in Behchoko, Northwest Territories; chatted with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver on the ice road; hung out on Tofino, British Columbia’s beautiful beaches; took an impromptu detour to Argyle, Nova Scotia, where some tour watchers opened their home to the team; and so much more. They spoke to Canadians from every coast and all points between. Everyone shared their love and hopes for the country: some sang songs and played instruments; some were young children; some were relatively new to Canada; and sadly, some were celebrating their last year with us—including John Dunsworth, a.k.a. the Trailer Park Boys’ Mr. Lahey.
“It meant so much to us to be picked [as a Signature Project] to get to go across the country and create a collective portrait of Canada,” says Kinowska. “It was absolutely moving for me and my partner.”
Though the actual touring is now behind Kinowska and Sobierajski, there is work left to be done. Their next phase is creating an interactive map of Canada on the Red Couch Tour’s website, using the videos they collected from across the country to produce a digital portrait of the country.