As Easter approaches and as we enter the second spring in which the restrictions brought about by the onset and continuation of the COVID19 pandemic, it is interesting take a moment of pause to reflect on the activities undertaken and progress made at CCSE.

Though the majority of colleagues active within CCSE have now been working from home for a year, through the Centre they have nevertheless continued their active engagement in areas of research, practice, policy and study that are of principle importance for CCSE’s remit. Furthermore, much of the activity undertaken has been recorded in posts to our weekly blog.

At the beginning of this academic session – eons ago in autumn 2020 – if any proof were needed that, in spite of everything that had and hadn’t happened in 2020, some things have continued almost ‘as normal,’ CCSE researcher Dr Alison McCandlish moved on to pastures new and colleagues Dr Sandro Carnicelli, Dr Emma Reid and Prof Gayle McPherson set out with associates from IUBH University of Applied Sciences to do some research; looking into consumer experiences and expectations of live music events and the effect of COVID19. They would report the findings emerging from this work more recently. Of course, the consequences of COVID19 for festivals, events, gig attendance and other cultural activity has been much discussed.

On the blog, Lochwinnoch Art Festival’s Morag Thow provided insight into the ‘Festival that Never Was’ lamenting the necessity for late cancellation of the 2020 event and outlining plans to return this year. University of Westminster’s Dr Andrew Smith discussed the ways that the outdoor space at Blackheath in South East London has been used as an events venue during the pandemic, giving a ‘glimpse of normality’ and – in November – doctoral researcher Niclas Hell dispatched a ‘postcard from normality’ from his base in Sweden.

In more day-to-day settings, Sarah Falconer (Art Development Officer at Kibble Group) and Linzi Clark (Support Worker at STAR Project) discussed both the challenges and opportunities that they have faced and embraced as a direct result of the necessity to adapt routines in response to COVID19. At Kibble, a fashion show unfurled while at STAR Project digital innovation was at the forefront of the community response to COVID restriction and restructuring and, PhD researcher Irene Warner-Mackintosh reminded us that now more than ever, digital is not just ‘nice to have’. North Ayrshire based artist, Lil Brookes (AKA Gatekeeper Art) talked about the impact that the pandemic had on her work and, how it was also instrumental in bringing the Lockdown Lounge to fruition; providing an online forum for discussion of workshops on topics related to heritage and culture.

While Renfrewshire Leisure Arts Manager, Rikki Payne, reminded us all that ‘going digital’ was not necessarily an unproblematic transition in the arts, Jess Orr described how the Paisley Book Festival was able to do just that, moving 100% online for its 2021 edition. The Open Minds Summit was similarly delivered across the either. Concurrently, Prof Colin Clark noted that – for all the positives that have been forthcoming in such difficult circumstances – for many, these challenges have exacerbated pre-exiting difficulties.

While doctoral researcher Conor Wilson recounts that although our current circumstances can at times feel like purgatory, progress can be made in the era of the ‘new normal’, indeed Lan Pham has managed to find time for (methodological) fun as well as rummaging around at the back of a conceptual wardrobe to ‘find a coat that fits,’ post-doctoral fellow Séverin Guillard took an illuminating turn around the Botanical Gardens, gathering data and insight for the ongoing HERA-funded FESTSPACE project. Prof David McGillivray presented at the Cockburn Association’s conference ‘Whose Festival is it Anyway?’ As well as revamping the publications page on the webpage,  and we published the evidence review written as part of the UKRI-funded place based partnership work undertaken with colleagues at STAR project and Renfrewshire Council – all amply demonstrating that though there have been many home-bound Groundhog Days over the past months, there have also been interesting events, exciting opportunities alongside elements of something approaching “the normal”.