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Virtual Arts Festivals

In a year of festivals cancelled left right and centre, the arts taking huge losses and cuts, there have been some fantastic outreach programmes. Many comedians have taken to podcasts, theatre streaming online events and even musicians including Brian May and Garry Barlow have been brightening up our social media streams with delightful renditions of songs we all know and love.

But what are the smaller community artist and performers doing to share their work? How are local drama groups, musicians and painters sharing their works?

Well, we found this a difficult test as much as the next group. Zoom calls and rehearsals over Microsoft teams just didn’t feel the same, and we rarely achieved much. As a performer my buzz comes from the feedback of an audience. Comedian want to feel the buzz of laughter in a crowd to influence their material, a musician yearns for the call of the audience to fill their set with passion, and a theatre group like us need spectators to make our immersive performances come to life - opposed to staring down the barrel of a webcam.

Eventually we created the show ‘Shot Down in Lockdown’, a virtual murder mystery, raising over £2000 for the Cavendish Cancer Care charity. A sell out show in which we could have such a wonderful and responsive audience - who gave us the feedback we wanted, and needed. This incredible reaction from an audience gave all the actors the buzz and adrenaline we had missed standing back stage at the theatre.

Okay, so there is content out there, YouTube, Netflix and have made their money. But what of the local arts festivals? These festivals so important for local performers to market and network, building connections and engaging with new audiences - taken from us, and still no clear indication on when they will return as ‘normal’.

Stream Park is a wonderful initiative set up in Nottingham allowing the streaming of some of these fantastic festivals. They have such wonderful partners with Nordoff Robbins, Nottinghamshire Music Hub and The Woodland Trust. They truly have reignited the community arts in the covid-generation. But also, times are changing and less people are attending events outside their house - Stream Park could well become the future of community festivals.

One, overtly biased, reason for this blog and our excitement about this platform is that it will soon be host to the Ashfield Virtual Arts Festival, curated by the wonderful Claire Finn. On the 29th - 31st of May 2021, people can get FREE tickets to this festival jam packed with Music, Art, Poetry, and a certain Elemental Theatre Company - it is set to be inspiring, and it an honour to be taking part in the festival.

Claire has a great background in acting and writing and has developed this event to amplify the local arts in the community; as so many have struggled to share their creativity during the pandemic. Submissions are (at the time of publishing) still open for any groups and individual artists to share their work to before the 14th of May 2021.

More information can be found about the event on their personal blog or you can book your FREE ticket on the Stream Park website.

So, until we can meet in the wonderful world of the theatre again, we look forward to seeing you there.


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