The coronavirus pandemic has affected all areas of life, but perhaps none more so than festivals and live entertainment. More and more events since March have announced either cancellation or postponement, and it might not be until next year before we get them in person again.
Many events have been held online to try to bring the experience to our living rooms – among them the Cheltenham Jazz and Science Festivals, which were due to take place in May and June respectively.
Georgie Holmes has seen a number of livestreamed ‘gigs’ over the last few weeks, including performances from Hozier, Frank Turner, Matt Maltese and Mahogany Sessions.
“I’ve found gig livestreams to be a good substitute, but obviously not perfect,” she said. “The best ones are the casual streams, where suggestions are taken from the livestream chat, with no strict plans for set-list etc ‒ it feels more personable and nice to see the artist in their comfort zone”.
Similarly, the artists of Cheltenham Paint Festival have been recreating their designs online, by taking photos of walls in the town and superimposing their art onto them.
But for many ardent festival-goers, nothing will recreate the feeling of standing in a crowd and having their favourite performers and speakers engage with them directly.
Several Gloucestershire festivals have announced they will be going ahead in 2021, including Barn on the Farm, 2000trees and Wychwood Festival. The view among acts and promoters seems to be that it will be safe to hold events by then.
Others are still hoping to go ahead this year but aren’t sure how to do it. Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, due to be held in August, is one of them.
“Currently, we are not cancelling the event and instead we are exploring the various options available to us”, they said in a statement on their website. “We will continue to work towards delivering an incredible show for the people of Bristol, filling the city skyline with balloons and helping bring some colour to our communities in these dark times”.
Andrew Lansley, university lecturer and part-time touring musician, works closely with local promoters and thinks there could be festivals in Cheltenham next year – but perhaps not in the way we’re used to.
“I think it’s quite likely that we will see festivals being held in Cheltenham in 2021”, he said. “Although the impact obviously on live events this year has been fairly full and significant across the entire sector, I think we’ll start to see some emerging formats where, perhaps, events are presented virtually but with an opportunity to upgrade to an in-person ticket. We might look at tier grades of reserving tickets for events that may or may not be held.
“It’ll be interesting to see how virtual events, and certainly virtual festivals from Cheltenham Festivals, come across this year, because I think it might actually lay foundations for new formats for entertainment or live events to encourage greater participation, perhaps on an international scale, from hereon out”.
This will surely come as welcome news to fans of live events, hoping to see their favourite acts in person and stay safe at the same time. Whether or not we’ll still be watching virtual events after the pandemic is yet to be seen, but they’ve had a big impact on live entertainment this year and will influence the sector for the foreseeable future.
As well as the above virtual events, check out our roundup of the top female artists to listen to while in lockdown