“We launched the Clever Monkee Comedy Festival in September 2020 and it was due to be held 3-5 December 2020, however with the tier systems and then lockdown measures coming into place we were ultimately forced to postpone until May 2021.
As of the date of writing this article (9th January 2021) we are currently unsure of when we will be holding the festival. We have some dates pencilled in for late May but with the current lockdown in place and no date scheduled for the return of outdoor festivals (which will undoubtedly be the first types of event to reappear post-COVID), we really have no idea when we will be permitted to hold an indoor event.
Obviously, any return date is also dependent on the roll-out of the vaccines and how efficient that whole process turns out to be. I expect to see outdoor events coming back first – I know music festivals are in grave danger if the government does not provide adequate insurance backing though. Lots of festival organisers have been selling tickets for summer events at inflated prices to cover increased costs relating to COVID-measures, testing, marshalling etc. I don’t expect to see any major indoor events (exhibitions, conferences, corporate events) until September 2021 – certainly no international events before then.
The landscape for events has completely changed during the pandemic and in the comedy world, online events have worked well. I can certainly see online comedy staying once we are back to “normal”. Online comedy has opened up the genre to a new audience, who may have not have felt comfortable watching from a table in a comedy club – some people do find this intimidating so I think that there is space for the online aspect to continue alongside the live experience.
At Clever Monkee, we looked at a hybrid festival – a smaller live show with live streaming sales running alongside each other. The two mediums can co-exist together and it is important not to forget the on-line audience once live does come back. Online events of all kinds are here to stay and the pandemic has fast-tracked our use and experience of them – one of the few benefits.
However successful online events are, I wholeheartedly believe that comedy works best face to face, comedians interacting and bouncing off the audience, the buzz of the laughter and the atmosphere – something that simply cannot be replicated watching on-line. I strongly believe that the majority of the general public are desperate to attend live events and festivals and we will see huge demand once we are given the green light.
Even when festivals do come back, we will inevitably still have COVID measures in place but I’m unsure how this will work. How can you socially distance at a packed music festival? Tents with entry and exit points could have a limited capacity so this would be fairly easy to manage. Organisers need to carefully consider messaging from launch through to the festival going live.
Customers need to feel safe when they attend any event – emphasising the safety measures that will be in place from the outset is key. Signage around the festival site is important too – if customers feel secure and safe then ultimately they will enjoy the experience more. Marketing communications and pre-event messaging need to be regular and informative. If there is a change in circumstances (e.g. a tier change) organisers need to act swiftly to contact and advise their customers with any updates that will affect the running of the festival and ultimately their experience.
I am sure that we will see a huge ramping up of COVID-marshalling at festivals which will also help with confidence. On the subject of on-site testing – this will ultimately come down to cost. Who will cover the cost? How quickly can test results be obtained? What will happen if someone at the festival tests positive on arrival? So many questions… With regard to transport to and from festivals, the safest way is obviously by car with bubbles travelling together – coaches would probably operate at 50% capacity at best so may not be commercially viable.
Money-back guarantees safeguarding the customer against postponement or cancellation should be considered – this helps build trust from the outset and was something that Clever Monkee publicised heavily in our communications and social media campaigns. This helps to foster an honest, open relationship between festival organisers and customers. Check the terms of your ticketing provider before deciding who to appoint – some will not refund customers due to a COVID-related cancellation.
The key to a successful festival? The customer experience is crucial, adding something different to your festival each year to keep it fresh. Quality acts, quality food and drink vendors, provision for shelter if (as it normally does) rain! In a post-COVID world ensuring everyone at the festival feels safe is so important.
A world without festivals is a very bleak, unimaginable one – from personal experience they are a way of escaping reality for a few days of the year, being with friends and family, letting your hair down, being free. The only decisions you need to make are what band to watch next and perhaps what you are going to eat and drink. Nothing else matters. People need this outlet more than ever and it is crucial that they are around for many many years to come.”