Harry Potter’s magic transforms Kensington
Bustling Calgary neighbourhood becomes Diagon Alley for a day to celebrate the release of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’
It was a magical afternoon in Kensington over the long weekend, with the release of the latest installment of the Harry Potter universe, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, bringing fans of the franchise together once more for the first major reveal since the final film adaptation of the original series hit theatres in 2011.
The Cursed Child book revisits the world of the boy wizard and his friends 19 years after the final story in the original series takes place (and in real time, 19 years after the very first novel was published). The tale, which was penned by screenwriter Jack Thorne with input and final approval from J.K. Rowling, comes to readers in the form of a script, rather than a novel. But although the story departs from the previous style, timeline, and author of the original series, it is clear Potter fans strongly supported the expansion of the treasured magical world.
Even though it has been almost a decade since the seventh and final novel’s release, and five years since the films based on Rowling’s work came to an end, Potter fans continue to remain active and frequently updated by Rowling via Pottermore (the series’ website).
Although the exact turnout for the July 31 event in Kensington is not certain, estimates by event organizers, participating businesses, and local media place attendance in the mid-thousands. This resulted in sudden road closures in the area by city police to keep everyone safe.
As for the book itself, Richard Young, manager of Pages on Kensington, where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was being released, said he’s “never had a book sell like this.”
“We knew it was going to be a big deal,” he said while folding Kensington Diagon Alley maps between the pages of each sale, his hands a blur. “But even with something like Potter — especially with Potter — you just can’t anticipate it. There’s no way to be ready for something this iconic.”
Cursed Child sold more than 2 million copies throughout North America over the first 48 hours of its release. Pages sold out of their thousands-strong stock approximately a half hour before the enchanting day came to an end at around 5 p.m.
Photos by Michaela Ritchie
Published on: August 5, 2016
Thousands of eager fans flocked to Kensington on July 31 — both Harry Potter’s and series author J.K. Rowling’s birthday — to celebrate the release of the latest installment in the Potterverse: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Despite the series’ reputation as the best selling book series in history, Ellen Parker, director of communications for the Kensington BRZ, said in an interview with Avenue magazine that event organizers “didn’t realize it would be this popular.” The hoard of fans descending on Kensington forced sudden road closures and created hour-long waiting lines to experience the magic. Photo by Michaela Ritchie
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up the treasured tale of the boy wizard and his friends where the epilogue of the final book in the original series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) left off. The story — not a novel, but a transcript of the rehearsal script for the West End London play of the same name — reunites fans with Harry Potter, now a middle-aged father of three and Ministry of Magic employee, and his son Albus, who is just about to start his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To celebrate the release of the script, which coincided internationally with the opening day of the play in London, 24 shops in Kensington came together to transfigure the street into Diagon Alley, a magical market from the books, with special treats and beverages, crafts, and even a couple Quidditch matches held in Riley Park. Photo by Michaela Ritchie
There was no shortage of witches and wizards roaming the streets in Kensington on July 31. Hundreds of fans dressed in their best wizarding robes, while countless others depicted their favourite characters with more elaborate costumes. While a broad cast of characters exists in the canon for fans to pay homage to, there were more than a few bespectacled faces in the crowd, all sporting the same familiar lightning scar across their foreheads. Photo by Michaela Ritchie
Meg Sortin (left) and Michael Sornberger were on hand bright and early to help make some magic at the Plaza Theatre with a live reading of the Cursed Child script at 11 a.m. “We only got the script at eight in the morning today, when we got here, and found out who each of us would be playing, so we tried to throw characters together as fast as we could,” said Sortin, who did double duty reading as Moaning Myrtle and Harry’s mother Lily Potter. “It was a super fun experience for us as fans of the series, so we hope people really enjoyed it.” Photo by Michaela Ritchie
After enduring a two-hour line-up for Flourish and Blott’s (commonly known by muggles as Pages on Kensington), fans of the popular series were encouraged to cast their name and number into the Goblet of Fire for a chance to win a copy of the entire original series in its latest cover redesign, complete with a limited-edition novelty trunk. The books of the original series were available for individual purchase alongside the new Cursed Child script book on the day of the event. The series has, in its entirety, sold over 450 million copies to date, making it the best selling book series of all time. Photo by Michaela Ritchie
These costumes took three days each to assemble, according to their wearers, representing a crossover between the Potter franchise and the popular Star Wars series of movies. Photo by Michaela Ritchie
While many folks opted to show their Hogwarts House pride with colourful scarves, ties, and robes, and others took a more subtle approach with Potter-themed jewelry and apparel, there were a bevy of cosplayers out in full force July 31 embracing characters such as Draco Malfoy and Dolores Umbridge (left), Professor Sprout (centre), and Luna Lovegood (right). Photo by Michaela Ritchie
More than 24 vendors participated in the book release by peddling Potteresque wares of their own. Seven stores bravely attempted a unique take on “butterbeer,” a non-alcoholic beverage from the books. Higher Ground coffee house, for example, concocted a version from sweetened condensed milk and butterscotch syrups, served steamed or on ice, charging $3.85 for a medium size in each. Photo by Michaela Ritchie
It’s been 19 years since the Potter phenomena began in our world, and the same amount of time since the story came to an end in that fictional realm. The seven-book series has spawned eight films (with a ninth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, set to be released in November), a play, fictional textbooks, a bedtime story anthology, and two script books, of which Cursed Child is only the first. Harry Potter has bewitched the hearts and imaginations fans of all ages for almost two decades now, and if Sunday’s event was any indication, he isn’t about to stop any time soon. Mischief managed! Photo by Michaela Ritchie
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sold more than 2 million copies throughout North America over the first 48 hours of its release. Pages on Kensington sold out of their thousands-strong first stock of the script in a mere six hours. Photo by Michaela Ritchie