Montreal celebrated International Day of Peace by honouring John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace movement
When John Lennon, Yoko Ono and her daughter, Kyoko Chan Cox, arrived in Montreal in the spring of 1969 for their stay at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, they brought peace and love to our city.
As John Lennon said, “Peace is not something you wish for. It’s something you make, something you do, something you are and something you give away.” The couple held their second bed-in for peace in Montreal, where they remained in bed for eight consecutive days and invited musicians to sing and journalists to talk about world peace. It was also in their hotel suite, room 1742, that Lennon and Ono composed the famous peace anthem, “Give Peace a Chance.”
This year, on Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel revealed a redesigned version of suite 1742 that reflects the iconic bed-in scene. “While recreating suite 1742, we realized that we wanted to bring back that powerful cry for peace and make it far-reaching,” said Philippe Demers, the CEO and senior partner of MASSIVart, a Montreal-based production and art agency that collaborated on the project. Real estate agency Ivanhoé Cambridge and Sid Lee were also involved in the remodeling.
According to Demers, it took his company and Sid Lee Architecture over two years to redesign the room. “We began on Nov. 13, 2015, the day of the terror attacks in Paris,” he said. “We felt that people did not understand what John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried to say here back in 1969. It made sense for us to bring their message back, which is a message of peace that is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.”
The concept of the redesign was developed by Sid Lee Architecture, which rearranged the furniture in the suite to match its 1969 layout and reproduced the famous handwritten Hair Peace and Bed Peace signs on the windows. The lyrics of Lennon and Ono’s peace anthem are inscribed on walls and framed photographs of their bed-in hang around the room.
The suite also has interactive features, such as a virtual reality video. “We began shooting with UNLIMITED to make a realistic virtual reality film which brings us back in time to the bed-in of 1969,” said Hanae Bossert, the project manager at MASSIVart. The video allows people to experience the original bed-in as if they were actually there. It presents a 360-degree view of the best moments of the event by condensing eight days into a few powerful minutes.
The room includes an archive cabinet with 12 interactive drawers filled with an assortment of photographs, podcasts, videos, testimonies and historical objects. These elements showcased the couple’s commitment to peace during that famous week nearly 50 years ago. “We also needed to include available archives for people to take the time to read and understand what the bed-in was all about—understand their message of peace and its importance,” Bossert said.
There are three objects around the room that present these archives in an interactive format—one of which is a telephone. “Just pick up the phone, and you’ll automatically hear a registered conversation of John Lennon speaking about peace because he spent so much time talking about peace to the entire world,” Bossert said.
There is also a television showing archive images of the bed-in, and a tape recorder which plays exclusive interviews from journalists with Lennon at the press of a button.
According to Bossert, she helped install about 150 pieces of art around the room, a process that was carefully overseen by Arthur Gaillard, the chief curator of MASSIVart. “It was a long selection process—we worked hand in hand with architects to find the right pieces of art which would endure with time,” Gaillard said. All the pieces that were selected were created by Quebec artists.
Also on the International Day of Peace, Sid Lee Collective and MASSIVart invited the public to attend the largest outdoor bed-in ever held in North America. Over 40 beds were placed on Place Ville Marie’s esplanade, each with a unique peace poster printed on its sheets.
These posters were part of the Posters for Peace exhibition which featured the work of 40 international graphic artists depicting their visions for peace, its current state in the world and what needs to be done to achieve it.
“We’ve learned that even the smallest actions can spark change,” said Philippe Meunier, the chief creative officer, co-founder and senior partner at Sid Lee. “With Posters for Peace, we want to give artists a global platform to express themselves on this issue and start a conversation, so that we can build a better tomorrow.”
Feature photo by Kirubel Mehari