Summer In the City
Has the festival season changed? Has it changed enough?
June, it was the month of sunshine, long summer days and extended golden evenings, and of course, the long-awaited festival season and Pride month. Finally, we were ready to open the hospitality doors and reconnect with other like-minded people, celebrating and socialising with them, sometimes for the first time in over two years. For some this was the month they had been waiting for, a chance to get back together with their support network and reverse some of the effects that the time apart has caused, for others it created a terrifying decision for them to make - do I stay or do I go?
Is Covid over?
Not everyone is ready to forgive and forget Covid yet, but despite this clear concern there seems to be a notable lack of acknowledgement from the events industry. Some festivals that went virtual during the pandemic decided to continue including people by creating hybrid events. Orkney folk festival saw such success with their virtual events, that a hybrid seemed the only natural next step. And it wasn’t only the smaller festivals that saw the potential in hybrid events, Glastonbury has always been covered by the BBC but this year decided to share live performances for the first time, making those of us who had to miss out feel slightly more involved. Unfortunately, many of those that attended in person were hit with positive covid results the day they returned from the festival.
There is no denying that to many, live events are synonymous with inclusivity and acceptance and that many in the events industry are striving ‘to help build an industry we can be proud of’. With this year’s London Pride event being billed as 'the biggest and most inclusive event in history', it proves many are willing to travel after two years of cancellations, and are willing to venture far from home for a chance to support one another and contribute to a celebration of truly embracing who you are.
However, this is not an opportunity afforded to all. With the ever-present news of more COVID infections, and the cost of living threatening to rise even further, many are facing the reality that making ends meet is now the priority, and a budget for leisure activities and travel is no longer a realistic goal. Add to that the increasing cost of travel, and rail strikes making travel even more difficult. As well as the fact that festivals and live events are often not adequately set up to be accessible for all, and people are, albeit reluctantly, opting out. Of course, the big events don’t see much of an impact from this, but the smaller festivals and British summer events are feeling the strain, with many choosing to close their doors as a result of low footfall. Those that can stay open have had to battle with post- Brexit rules impacting on getting live artists, some of whom were booked to attend before Covid hit, and a staff shortage, with people having to find alternative forms of income during the Pandemic.
What more can be done?
It begs the question, why as an industry are we not utilising the instruments at our own fingertips? Hybrid events have proven time and again to be the answer. An opportunity to bring people together, a chance to interact virtually but to be present, and in the moment. To open doors and combat all of the issues attending in person can create. Are we ready as an industry to realise that times they are a changing? And are we ready to change with them? Or are we ready to allow our quintessentially British village events, folk festivals, and culturally important gatherings to slow down and exclude all those who, for whatever reason, can’t attend in person?