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For this weeks guest blog series, we heard from Matty Allen of Visual Architects (also Penthaus Agency and TABUKI – who has the time?!) about what he’s thinking in terms of post-pandemic events.

It’s safe to say the past year has been difficult. Having not long graduated from my masters in International Festival and Event Management, and only having started at Visual Architects at the start of 2019. I was just picking up momentum in my career in the events world, then the emergency breaks were slammed on and everything ground to a complete halt.

However, I know there a lot of people in the industry much worse off than me. I really do feel for the sector as a whole, especially for those who haven’t managed to survive the storm. I was fortunate enough to be put on furlough, which actually led to Penthaus Agency (an Artist Management company I run), being born.

Penthaus Agency logo

Obviously, with no gigs for the artists to get at the moment, it is really difficult for them. But they’ve managed to stay so upbeat given the circumstances, and I’m really excited for the future and the return of live (in person) events.

What does a world without events look like to you?

As we’ve seen, the world without festivals and live events is a very sad place, not just for event professionals, suppliers and artists, but for those who attend too. The demand for the arts, live music and experiences is so high at the moment. If you look at the first lockdown, for example, there was that many live sets being performed on Facebook, that the wires to stream the audio had sold out everywhere.

As time as gone on too, it’s been great to see how brands how developed live-streamed online events. A few stand out brands for me has been Defected, Snowbombing Festival, Bongos Bingo, Terminal V and Junction 2 to handpick a few. The elements that have made these standout is the quality of the production visually, the interaction with viewers, and how well it was all integrated to give a seamless experience.

How do you expect to see events evolve in light of COVID-19?

Junction 2 have recently announced that they have created a 3D virtual experience in collaboration with Tobacco Docks too, which looks mega. It’s safe to say I’m looking forward to that. Whilst online events don’t come anywhere near the experience of an in-person event, I think the adaptation of the 3D virtual experience is something that will be carried on for the hybrid events in the future.

Where festivals have limited capacity or people aren’t physically able to attend, then this Hybrid solution helps them expand their audience and reach. This can bring numerous benefits, such as higher financial gain, stronger sponsorship deals, and most importantly, it’ll create an even bigger demand and hype for tickets in the following year (as people get FOMO). If you get it right, it’s a win-win in my opinion!

From my job role at Visual Architects, I’m in regular discussions with event professionals and venue owners, as well as keeping up to speed with the latest event news and LinkedIn discussions. The vibe I’m picking up on is that September is looking like the month people are most optimistic for, which I believe is achievable. However, it’ll be the year of the smaller ‘boutique’ festivals opposed to the huge festivals that we were used to in 2019. It’s quite interesting to see that although Glastonbury, unfortunately, can’t take place this year, it’s been mentioned they are looking at something on a smaller scale.

TABUKI – a well established events brand based in the North West of England.

How do you think festival organisers can make events more COVID-secure?

In terms of how I think festivals can go about making the event more ‘COVID-secure’, you have the obvious measures such as temperature checking, sanitisation stations, fewer touchpoints and regular cleaning. I think rapid testing on-site will just be way too chaotic, time-consuming and costly. However, I do believe a negative test upon entry isn’t an unreasonable ask, and will hugely minimise the risk of transmission.

What I’d do, is link up with trusted testing partners around the UK, where ticket holders will go a couple of days before the event to get tested (I’d include this cost in the ticket price – don’t leave it in the hands of them to sort out). This test result can then be linked directly to their e-ticket. If negative, they are safe to attend and, if positive, then they are given a full refund straight away. I think this would be a good feature for ticket providers to develop to help kickstart the return of live events and large social gatherings.

I’ve always been a fan of RFID technology within events, and believe that now is a better time than any for festivals to start integrating this. Having your wrist band as your ticket and your wallet means fewer touchpoints when it comes to the gates/lockers/bar/food vendors – which also keeps staff safe too.

Visual Architect’s ‘Neon Jungle’ theme installed at the Penthouse in Dubai.

This use of RFID can also be used to tie in with the Hybrid events, as you can detect how many people are in what area at one time at the festival. You can then recreate this in the virtual world for those experiencing the event that way, helping shape a more real-time experience.

With all that being said, the end is certainly in sight, and when the supply of festivals and live events can return, it’ll be a case of being able to cope with the massive demand (which isn’t such a bad problem to have).

I can’t wait to get back running my own events with TABUKI, supplying spectacular decor to other events through Visual Architects, and seeing my artists at Penthaus Agency, thrive in a busy industry again.
Stay safe until then 🙂

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