This post was jointly written by Richard Wiseman and Simon Gage (Director, Edinburgh International Science Festival).

The Coronavirus has made large gatherings impossible at the moment, leading to the cancelling and postponement of lots of live events (including concerts, festivals, shows and talks). Obviously, right now it is vital that everyone observes the lockdown and stays indoors. However, even when restrictions are lifted, large gatherings are likely to prove problematic. Given that this situation may continue for many months, we thought that it would be good to start to brainstorm innovative ways of delivering live content. Live performances will inevitably have to change and so this can be seen as an opportunity to develop new and innovative approaches.  Our background is in science communication, and so the ideas are grounded in that area, but the same general approaches would work for a broad spectrum of live events.

Virtual performances: One obvious approach is to move online, and many performers and speakers have already started to do this. Although this has the advantage of scalability, it’s quickly becoming a crowded marketplace, risking screen fatigue. In addition, digital delivery can be challenging when it comes to generating a genuine sense of connection and engagement.

Streets and gardens: Performers could head onto streets and into gardens, and have audiences watching at a distance and/or through their windows.  Two-way chat could happen via the performer using a hands-free headset and a mobile phone to call people indoors (perhaps with the spectators placing their phone to speaker mode).

Drive-ins: In drive-ins cinemas, people watch films from inside their cars. Exactly the same could happen with live events. People could listen via large speakers, the radio, Bluetooth or a mobile device.

Floats: In some towns, Santa Claus is driven around on a float and everyone watches from their window or doorstep. The same idea could be used to provide live entertainment. Audiences receive a leaflet letting them know when the float will be coming down their street. The event could be made interactive in all sorts of ways, including the use of technology, advance input, etc..

Hands-on activities: Screen time is dominating our lives at the moment, but research shows that hands on activities are vital for learning, plus promote wellbeing. Material could be delivered to audiences and they could use it to build, create art etc.. Maybe have them watch a live, or pre-recorded, show and follow along? Could the same approach allow them to contribute to these shows in some way (for instance, by carrying out some kind of experiment and submit their data. Or send in their examples of art).

Live spaces: Re-design performance spaces, such that audiences can arrive and enjoy a performance in a safe way. Maybe they sit 2 meters apart? What sorts of immersive experiences could grow from the idea?

So, those are our initial ideas. Any other thoughts?

4 comments

  1. None of which really pushes much revenue towards the artists and doesn’t help – particularly – small venues that are struggling. I think we’re going to have to start treating people like adults and allowing them to assess their own risk, which for most appears to be small as far as serious illness goes.

  2. Like many Scots I live in a rural area (Pittenweem). Those of us who don’t live in towns and cities are usually happy to travel to live performances, that’s the trade off. Sadly unnecessary journeys aren’t acceptable any more. We can’t watch a float or garden performance from Pittenweem. It’s also very, very quiet in rural areas. I only see other people at 8pm on a Thursday. I go out to clap as much to see real live people as anything else. I’m shielding my Mum so probably won’t leave the house this year. Please do something for those of us who are stuck at home 24/7 long term?

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