Monday Musings: The New Normal

Social distancing and mass gatherings are not obvious bedfellows. With that at the forefront of our mind, there is uncertainty over how the festival world will look after this is over. Rather than assume this will all go away, there are people in this industry preparing for a new way of doing what we have always done.

Factoring in the possible ramifications to the emergency services, plus any likely carryover from our current practices, there is a very good chance that the next year will be embarked upon in a more tentative manner. The assumptions of space and transactions of the past may not exist in a year and those who evolve to meet the task will be better prepared to thrive.

Greenfield and hard standing spaces that would normally hold thousands may have their numbers reduced. With reduced numbers, tickets may be more expensive, passing on the cost to the attendee, which may see a fall in sales. Lower sales would make it extremely challenging for festival producers to deliver shows and experiences that are financially viable and well attended. This will reduce the number of festival producers and further affect the supply chain. This is all a possibility unless we find a way to protect each other. Without suppliers and festival goers who have weathered this storm as well – and weather the storm, we must – next season (whatever that will look like) will need even more support from all sides to be a success.

© Sarah Koury

During this fascinating time, we have adapted to working from home and self-isolating, as government guidelines have directed. We have taken online and adjusted what we can in the short-term and kept agile enough to remain active. We have kept any industry relying on attendance going, without the attendance.

Why try if a task seems impossible? It is not a question of ‘try’, we simply must. We have to keep going. We need to land on a group solution. We have to find a new normal.

In this down time, we have to find things to focus on. Thinking just about survival will not help us prepare for the future. We have to find ways to do good for others and ourselves. We have to keep active, switched on, busy, and current. There needs to be a reassuring tone from us as an industry that exudes confidence, especially now when our patrons need it most. This tone will in turn stand us in good stead when this crisis finally ends. Trust issues will be a likely symptom from this crisis that we will all share.

It is a uniquely stressful time. People will need us when this is all over. Whatever our individual level, we have chosen to move into a value-based space and have chosen to occupy it as something which is crucially important to how people view their own identity. Festivals have been sold as concept on a worldwide stage. Our consumers have invested time, faith, and money us and we have delivered on that.

In difficult times, people come together. Whether that means neighbours checking in on the more vulnerable, clapping for the emergency services, or mass toilet roll consumption. It is in adversity that unity is forged. This unity is what the events industry must now harness and cultivate.

We are creative people by virtue of what we do. No one can bring together thousands of strangers to stand in a field, come rain or shine, without awakening a passion in them all. To plan and execute a successful event is no mean feat. It takes commitment, hard work, and unity. All traits that we as a community must show now and in the future.

This phrase may now be so heavily used that it is bordering on cliché, but we really are all in this together. We owe it to our customers and ourselves to be ready to deliver the best season ever, regardless of the parameters. 2021 needs to be the culmination of our collective frustrations, hopes, and ambitions fully realised. It needs to be epic. Along with survival, it is what we are all fighting for.

Written by Roger Ajogbe
Photography Credit: Shindig Festival, Glastonbury Festival

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