The Kensington Market Winter Solstice Festival started in 1988 and was originally named the Kensington Market Festival of Lights. The event was initiated by Ida Carnivali, artistic director of the Kensington Carnival Arts Society. Ida's artistic vision for the festival were influenced by the Commedia Dell Arte, clown, street performance, large scale community-based and professional theatrical productions in the neighbourhood and various other outdoor environments.
Ida produced and directed many plays, working with emerging and established artists engaged in practices rooted in communal storytelling and mythology, reflecting issues of cultural origin and refuge. She was part of the groundswell of agitation propaganda or "Agitprop" street performance rising from artistic, grassroots organizing agency of the time. She also engendered conventions of circus and clown, and the subversive power of masking performance.
When starting the Festival of Lights, she spoke of imagining the winter’s cold and darkness, and considered how her neighbours would observe the season. She was also intrigued by ancestral reckoning of the return to warmth and light. The winter solstice is an ancient cardinal point recognized and observed over time immemorial and is still deeply culturally significant to us currently and universally.