In the early spring, plans for our upcoming Annual Symposium – to be hosted at the University in May, 2020 – we well underway. And then, the COVID19 pandemic arrived.

By the end of March, 2020 we – based at UWS – along with colleagues from across our networks of collaborators, stakeholders and associates were finding our feet in the ‘new normal.’ For many of us, this included working from home for the foreseeable future.

Our planned Symposium was the first of many scheduled events that we needed to rethink. While we could not deliver the original idea, with the support of colleagues well versed in technical matters, we were able to organise Festivals, Events and COVID-19: Navigating a Global Pandemic online. Broadcasting simultaneously across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to reach our audience. We had 400+ sign ups to the Eventbrite pre-event; with an average of 168 simultaneous viewers and a total of 1171 unique stream views overall. A subsequent social media ad campaign helped us to raise awareness of the Symposium further, post-event.

 

As CCSE doctoral student, Conor Wilson, observed when planning for the research and write up timeline for a PhD, a global pandemic is not high on the list of possible eventualities. However, the process, progress, challenges and opportunities of ‘normalising the new’ has necessarily been at the top of the agenda for many of our colleagues and collaborators, our research students, community stakeholders and the wider arts, cultural and sports community across Scotland and beyond.

This period of change and upheaval has been documented on the blog in a number of fascinating, moving and insightful posts, guest blogs and re-blogs that we’ve been able to publish here.

STAR Project’s Sharon McAulay recorded the efforts she and her team made to ensure the connections and community togetherness that is core to their activity were maintained. Glasgow Women’s Library co-founder, Adele Patrick, reflected on her experience of leading and learning through the initial stages of lockdown. Carnegie UK Trust’s Pippa Coutts explored what COVID19 is teaching us about the relationship between citizens, community and the state. Leah Black, Chief Executive of Whale Arts, blogged about the task of chief exec-ing during COVID19. Sarah Derrick, Head of Learning at Dundee Contemporary Arts, reflected on the significant challenges of finding a role or relevance for learning during lockdown. Edinburgh Fringe Festival Society’s Lyndsey Jackson provided a timely and thought provoking view from the Fringe.

On the west coast, Active Schools and Community Club Development Officers, Tammy Johnston and David Rose, related the impact of COVID19 on their work and on the experiences of the young people they work alongside. In the midst of the ‘new normal’ Future Paisley launched their podcast, Ryan Goodwin reflected on Paisley’s sporting past and considered scenarios for a post-COVID19 future. Dancer and producer Jade Adamson relayed her involvement in Sma’ Shot Day 2020 which, of course, had to be rethought to fit in with the necessity of physically distant delivery.

Doctoral researchers Gries Cifuentes and Lan Pham wrote about the effect of the pandemic on the cultural sector in Colombia and, on one’s productivity. More recently, Lan has penned an update giving more detail on the ways in which elements of the pandemic experience have brought sharp focus to areas of her research work. Solomon Ilevbare has reflected on the wider social unrest that has occurred at this time with reference to his own research into sports diplomacy. Prof David McGillivray considered the effect of COVID19 on the festivals and events that are central to the FESTSPACE project he leads. FESTSPACE co-investigator, Dr Bernadette Quinn, related some of the ways in which these effects are being experienced in a discussion of commemorative events.

It is clear that COVID19 will continue to make its presence felt for some time to come. The effects of the virus will reverberate across society for longer still. The significant difficulties faced by the arts cultural sector have been the subject of much discussion and debate.

We are hugely grateful to colleagues, doctoral students and our network of cultural stakeholders, creators and leaders who have made the time in hectic schedules to write a piece for us! We very much hope that this blog can continue to host voices, opinions, insights and experiences as our society’s post-COVID19 journey continues.