By Edward Tsumele
“The sad truth about this pandemic is that festivals, concerts and parties – which should be occasions for fun and joy – are proving to be sources of infection and illness, and may even lead to deaths”
With these words, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, sealed the fate of any festival or concert that was going to be planned for the rest of the year.
In reality those words have a far reaching implication when it comes to the arts. If anyone fancied going to a large theatre production or a concert in an indoor venue where more than 100 people would be in attendance, they must forget it as that is not going to happen. In reality, this year was a lost year when it comes to theatre, concerts and festivals, and now artists have to think of 2021, as a year where they will possibly be able to work as normal.
But still and that is If the Covid-19 situation changes for the better after this current wave of infections. The so called Second Wave, which is clearly following the patterns of the trends of infections in the US and Europe with the Netherlands being forced to declare a second lockdown this year, seems to be more deadlier than the first, If the rate of infections in South Africa is anything to go by.
What this means for those planning to stage events in the arts, during this year, and even next year, is to think of a new way of organizing events, and that new way is going the digital way, and even better adopting a hybrid way, and that is organizing events where the public will be able to attend physically, and that is when the danger of infection has been neutralized substantially, as well as running shows digitally.
In any case this way of running events has proved its efficacy as those events that were run virtually this year,with no audience in attendance, reported levels of success that nobody ever thought were possible before.
For example, the National Arts Festival, which normally takes place in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, went virtually this year, attracting 80 000 people who attended its different shows on offer. Art fairs such as RMB Turbine Art Fair and Latitudes, also went digital this year reporting some levels of success that the organisers never expected.
In fact both fairs have decided to showcase art works virtually for the rest of the year, and this means that this route of showcasing and selling art works has proven to be viable, and will probably be the new normal, for as long as the danger posed by the coronavirus is still with us.
The country’s two most prominent fine art auction houses, Strauss &Co and Aspire Fine Art Auctions, this year held their end of year auctions virtually, and both reported success, and in some cases, even broke world records for some of the art works on offer as collectors from not only South Africa, but the rest of the world did bid virtually for the works they liked.
So coronavirus or no coronavirus, organizing art events, such as concerts, festivals art fairs, or staging theatrical productions, producers must seriously consider a hybrid model to deliver entertainment to audiences at home on their devices, be it a smart phone, laptop or a PC, as that seems to be the way forward in the face of the changed landscape of doing business due to the advent of Covid-19.