Established in 2012, the Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada (Dry Stone Canada) is an award-winning national heritage trade organization devoted to the art and craft of dry stone walling. We have been recognized for our contribution to this field by the Frontenac Heritage Foundation, Ontario Heritage Trust, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The Association has an annual operating budget of $20,000 as a registered not-for-profit, reinvesting any surplus back into our programs. Our activities include, on average, ten workshops per year and an annual multi-day, community-based Dry Stone Festival. The festival draws wallers and enthusiasts from across Canada and the US, as well as Europe, the UK and Ireland.
This year our festival will be held at Topsy Farms on Amherst Island, Ontario, just south-west of Kingston and a short ferry ride from the mainland. The Association has held numerous workshops on the Island since 2013, including restoration of a number of historic Irish settler walls and new builds during the Irish-Canadian International Dry Stone Walling Festival in 2015. This was a major endeavour that brought over 1000 people to Amherst Island, including personalities such as Jane Urquhart and Rick Mercer.
Festivals bring together our walling community to build a unique feature, which remains as a gift to the host community. The festival feature makes the space accessible to the public, demonstrating the power of this historic craft to draw people together. Our international guests are a core part of the design and energy of dry stone festivals. The exchange of diverse insight and experiences contributes to our success, and the guests acquire new perspectives on their practices and assumptions. Beyond building a permanent legacy structure for public use and enjoyment, festivals include live demonstrations which promote appreciation of the craft and educate the public about dry stone construction. Learning is a fundamental value of Dry Stone Canada; it is built into our activities, from professional development for seasoned wallers, to workshops and formative experiences for children and youth through exploration and play.
The festival is a valuable opportunity to both enhance and showcase local knowledge and respect for built heritage.
Thanks to some of the key Dry Stone Canada volunteers for the festival at Amherst Island this year.
- General Site: Jacob Murray/Renée Nadeau
- Crew/Logistics: Eric Landman/John Bland
- Workshops: Bill Jeffers
- Workshop Buddy System: Renée Nadeau/Peter Mitchell
- Volunteer Welcome/Hospitality: Jacqui Jeffers
- DSCan Info Booth/Merch Sales: Teri Lee Barbisan
- Learning Program: Hilary Martin/Peter Mitchell
- Children’s Area: John Shaw-Rimmington/Doug Bell/Sabina Chattergee
- General Event: Hilary Martin
Thanks also to our hosts at Topsy Farms, Jacob Murray, Sally Bowen, and Ian Murray who have worked tireless to support the festival through Sponsorship and Promotion, as well as the fabulous support of volunteers on the Island including Andrea Cross (Billeting, Sponsorship, and Engagement), Bonnie Livingston (Billeting Coordinator), Molly Stroyman (The Lodge), and Lorna Willis (The Back Kitchen).
The list of volunteers and supporters will continue to grow as we approach the festival! Thanks to all for your incredible efforts.
Highlights of past festivals include:
2015: Amherst Island, Ontario
Dry Stone Canada held the Irish-Canadian Dry Stone Festival to celebrate the large concentration of historic Irish dry stone walls on Amherst Island. Some are close to 200 years old and date back to the first waves of Irish settlers to reach the province. The Association was awarded the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in recognition of the Amherst Island Festival and the association’s involvement with restoring the Island’s historic Irish dry stone walls.
2016: The Town of Perth, Ontario
Dry Stone Canada collaborated with Algonquin College Heritage Trades and the Town of Perth to create a new legacy dry stone bridge and as well as a length of Scottish/Irish Fedein Wall in Stewart Park. The project was a huge success , with professional wallers attending from across our membership in Canada, in the US, Ireland, and Scotland, including the Queen’s Dry Stone Waller at Balmoral Castle. The build is now a significant permanent feature and attraction in the Town of Perth’s premier park. The project won an Honourable Mention Award at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for 2016.
2017: Village of Barriefield, Ontario
The Frontenac Heritage Foundation and the Barriefield Village Association collaborated with Dry Stone Canada to restore a historic dry stone wall and gate at St. Mark’s Anglican Church to commemorate Canada’s 150th Anniversary. The site has historical significance in relation to the military base close by, CFB Kingston.
The festival has grown over the past 5 years, from our first two years in Alton, Ontario, working with the Village and Alton Mill Arts Centre, to major municipal public projects involving almost 100 wallers in Perth over months of preparation and build time.
Our return to Amherst Island takes us back to the agricultural roots of the dry stone walling craft. We hope you will support our event at Topsy Farms this September.
Eric Landman, Co-President (Festival + Programs)
Hilary Martin, Co-President (Operations)
Bill Jeffers, Treasurer
Doug Bell, Secretary
Kenny Davies, Member at Large
John Bland, Member at Large