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Virtual festivals: do they work?

  • by JW

Everyone is cash-strapped. The best-placed festivals may be local events like Sea Change in Totnes aimed at, and supported by, the community.


Most of this year’s festivals in Sidmouth have now been cancelled:

Folk Festival cancelled

Festival Town Sidmouth: on hold


The question now is how many of them could be done ‘virtually’:

Science Festival talks go online |


It might even be possible to put the food festivals on-line:

Sidmouth Food Festival


The Telegraph suggests that ‘Food festivals nationwide are going virtual this year with live-streamed talks, tastings and cookery demonstrations’;


Streaming live on YouTube and then trying out your own tastings might be great – but how will we support the venues? And will they be there when we want to ‘return to normal’?


And are they that good anyway?

Here’s a pretty balanced piece from the weekend i newspaper:


Virtual literary and music festivals will never match the thrill of a chat over a glass of wine and meeting famous faces in real life

Download is doing it, Hay is doing it. But can internet-only events work? Liz Thomson is cynical but hasn’t given up all hope just yet

Since lockdown lift-off, artists of all stripes from around the world have been entertaining us via Facebook and YouTube – a sort of rolling festival. Star turns lined up for the WHO fundraiser, One World #TogetherAtHome.

It’s been a welcome distraction. But while we can appreciate music in the isolation of our own earphones, it’s essentially a communal experience. Nothing beats a great live performance – even not-so-great performances are fun when you’re sharing a few beers with friends.

Glastonbury was first to cancel – would-be campers must now make do with BBC iPlayer’s 50-year celebration. Cambridge, Green Belt, Latitude and Rewind followed suit. Download has “gone virtual”.

Literary festivals seem an easier prospect but they’re still challenging. Beginning on 18 May, Hay promises “100 of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers” under the banner #IMAGINETHEWORLD. Hay’s reach and reputation ensures that book-lovers log on to hear their favourite authors. But how will they be presented? Endless Zoom interviews will quickly pall, as listeners to the new-minted Lockdown Litfest will find.

But music will be tougher – streaming services have hollowed out CD sales, leaving record companies with less money to spend. At the best of times, sponsorship requires “eyeballs”, which can’t be guaranteed.

Everyone is cash-strapped. The best-placed festivals may be local events like Sea Change in Totnes (which went online last weekend), aimed at, and supported by, the community….

Virtual literary and music festivals will not match the thrill of live culture |


And the Sea Change Festival seems to have gone well in Totnes:

Sea Change festival review – a swell of congregation in the new nowhere |


photo: Signpost for Sea Change, Totnes © Derek Harper cc-by-sa/2.0 …