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Jane’s Walks return to Calgary streets for a weekend of urban exploration

In-person Jane's Walks return for 2023.

This spring, Jane’s Walk festival weekend will take the streets of Calgary to celebrate the life of Jane Jacobs and connect neighbours across the city.

Hosted by the Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC), on May 5, 6 and 7, Jane’s Walk will bring free walking tours all around the city to those passionate about Calgary’s art, history and nature sites. It’s the first time in more than two years the events have gone back to in-person, outdoor walks.

“This year everything’s sort of in full swing. You might go for a walk, and you might see 50 people there and that’s part of the Jane’s Walk energy,” said Awani Khatu.

Inspired by Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walk is a globally-held event that celebrates the life of an urbanist and activist who was keen on getting people out and walking and interacting with their community since 2008.

Khatu, a spokesperson for the FCC, and Jane’s Walk 2023 coordinator, said walks around the city bring people closer together.

“It happens every year around her birthday. It encourages people to come out and enjoy free walking tours and get to know their urban environment with their neighbours,” Khatu said.

The volunteer-led movement features many communities across the city. The tours cover a wide range of popular and not-so popular spots, people can go on nature walks, visit all kinds of historic places and stroll around the city’s murals.

You – yes, you – could lead a walk, too

Anyone can lead a walk – the only requirement is a passion for a certain community or place, Khatu said. From there, the nature of the tour is conversational between the tour guide and the people on the walk.

According to Khatu, if you’re into art, you can lead a walk that hits the public art downtown. If you’re into architecture, you can lead a walk through the buildings that you’d like your neighbours to hear about.

“These are like casual walking conversations. You don’t necessarily need to have a script, or anything prepared. It’s a two-way dialogue. We encourage it to be casual and free-flowing,” she said.

To register to lead a walk, it only takes going to the Jane’s Walk website and choosing the Calgary community where the walk will happen.

“All we ask is for a walking place, an overall description of what you want to talk about, and then a little bit about you as a walk leader,” said Khatu.

As a walk leader, giving people time to take in sights and sounds is an important part of the experience.

“Even if you are just showing like a dog park or some public art, you give your participants space to experience something you’re showing them. The thing is just have fun,” Khatu said.

Post-pandemic return for Calgary Jane’s Walks

After two years of hosting Jane’s Walk online because of the COVID pandemic, the event will finally come back to Calgary’s streets.

“We’re sort of going all out and promoting these in-person walks as it’s the first year we’re not really having any virtual walks,” Khatu said.

“We’re really encouraging people to take advantage of the fact that we can be outside, and we can interact with our environment and talk to our neighbours.”

Walking is definitely not the only mode of mobility encouraged by the event. From being on skates to using a wheelchair, Jane’s Walk is friendly to all people. 

Khatu also announced the FCC has another event in the making, one that’s not yet registered but will be heard of soon enough. The new event features a historical building biking tour around Calgary.

“We just sort of use walking as an overall umbrella term as a way of being there present on the ground and in the environment without a vehicle,” she said.

“Walking is just one of the few ways that you can really experience an environment.”