Very few sectors were unchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the arts festival sector in Ireland and abroad was forced to shift to the digital sphere with very little time to plan and prepare.
To analyse the implications of the digital turn for the arts festival sector and to assess the future needs of the industry, TU Dublin researchers, Dr Bernadette Quinn and Dr Brian Vaughan, were recently rewarded funding from the Irish Research Council, under the Collaborative Alliances for Societal Challenges (COALESCE) scheme.
Dr Bernadette Quinn, a Human Geographer and faculty member of the School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, says the pandemic had devastating effects on the cultural economy of Ireland and around the world. "Cultural and creative sectors, so vital for our national heritage, have been devastated with job losses, the temporary closure of cultural institutions like theatres, opera houses and festivals, and a haemorrhaging of skills and expertise. To ensure the sector adapts to a new virtual reality, through evidence-based research, FADE will identify a strategic vision to prepare the festival sector for any potential future disruptions.
Continuing, Dr Quinn said, "COVID-19 has propelled arts festivals into the digital sphere, and the sector is working hard to adapt, upskill and build capacity in the absence of a strategic guiding framework. There is now an urgent need to assess the sector's needs and to understand how its artistic missions and practices are undergoing change. FADE will investigate changing patterns of arts festivals consumption in the digital environment. It aims to shed light on the digital upskilling and capacity building required to enable high-quality festival making, and to propose solutions to the digital connectivity problems that beset festivals in rural areas"
Dr Brian Vaughan, a School of Media Faculty Member and Founder of Virtual Interactive Research Lab (VIRaL) at TU Dublin, will lead the STEM aspect of the project, which aims to understand how the sector is negotiating and making decisions about the digital platforms available and what criteria are influencing its decision making. "A core factor in the success of digital festivals, particularly in rural areas, is access to reliable, robust broadband services. FADE will assess the current and future potential of the National Broadband Plan's Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) to facilitate digitally enabled festivals, extend audience reach and evaluate festivals' potential use of other digital technologies such as Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR)."
More information about COALESCE is available from the Irish Research Council website.