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Will hybrid festivals be part of our post-pandemic future?

A new report explores whether people can enjoy events, such as festivals, by coming together through a mix of digital and physical spaces and how hybrid elements could be stretched to give people a sense of an event if they weren’t able to get there in person.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers wanted to know what methods provided inclusive, accessible and enjoyable connections for access to culture and creative opportunities.

“Post’-pandemic hybrid futures’ was a year-long collaboration between Knowle West Media Centre, Bristol Digital Futures Institute and the Knowle West community. It looked at the pros and cons of digital and in-person methods for engaging residents in events and activities.

The project tested new hybrid experiences in attending and engaging with the Knowle West Festival in October 2022. These included Tik Tok style videos shared before the festival, live streams, access to festival recordings and posted packages afterwards.

The various approaches highlighted hybrid challenges such as the importance of multiple digital access points (such as Facebook, Zoom and QR codes) and expertise across the platforms.  It was also found to be important to tailor hybrid experiences for people attending online or in person, like encouraging online participation through chat or emoji functions as well as through talking or handing out packs to take home.

Bristol Digital Futures Institute researcher Professor Rebecca Coleman said:

“Many people reported that the pivot to digital technologies during the pandemic made it easier or more pleasurable to participate in work, educational, social and cultural activities; others found these technologies inaccessible, cumbersome, overwhelming or draining. The one thing that is clear within this complicated landscape is that there are no easy answers or simple fixes.” 

Knowle West Media Centre Creative producer Martha King said:

“Everyone deserves continued access to cultural and community activities and events. We want to make sure that the learnings from the pandemic are not forgotten and that we keep experimenting with hybrid engagement to find sustainable accessible solutions.  We shouldn’t and won’t rush to doing things solely online or in-person but hope to find the best mix for everyone.”

Photo: Knowle West Media Centre.