The global Covid-19 pandemic decimated the events industry. But it’s evolving, finding exciting and innovative ways to reach audiences cut off from live entertainment for the past year. In Cornwall, one events organiser is not only pushing boundaries for events but also using this as a way to raise awareness and funds to help young homeless people.
Phoenix Media Co-op spoke to one of the co-founders about this new initiative, the new landscape for events in a Covid-world, and the crushing impact of the pandemic for young people without a home.
On 23 April, people can step back into a club, listen to live DJs and view original artwork. But this is a new kind of club. Equilibrium Events was inspired by, and was a response to, a year of pandemic isolation. “We came up with the idea for Equilibrium Events,” co-founder Lucie Hackney told Phoenix Media Co-op, “in response to a brief that was to ‘inspire others’, especially young people.” She continued:
We thought about ways that Covid has affected us but also realised that we’ve been really lucky and safe in our houses… with families, with plenty of food. So we wanted to inspire people to look beyond themselves.
It’s a really immersive experience where you can look at art, there are secret rooms to find. The music will start playing at 7.30pm and will finish at 8.30. So if you miss it, you miss out. Once the music’s gone, it’s gone.
The result is an excitingly innovative online club. Designed by former architect Sam Ward from TurtleDuckDada, it opens – for one hour only – not just for pleasure but also to raise vital funds for End Youth Homelessness. Hackney explained that they wanted the event to support young people. This is more important than ever because, as the charity notes, in 2020:
A staggering 121,000 young people faced homelessness in the UK. It could be one of the worst years yet.
Not just another club…
Phoenix Media Co-op was given a sneak preview of the visually stunning club. It’s an environment that so many of us haven’t seen for over a year. As Hackney explained:
We’ve created a 3D immersive musical and art event. You enter into an amazing cloakroom area where you’re presented with three different doors. There’s information about the charity here, you can watch videos, get more informed and you’ll also be able to donate to the charity from there.
The dual-purpose for the event to support End Youth Homelessness was vital, because:
Through this, we hope people will become aware that a person living on the streets might not have a choice about being there. People around them may have made bad choices, as that’s often what led them there.
Youth homelessness can’t be ignored. We need to stop thinking about it as a problem that can’t be solved. It’s [rarely] their choice, it’s often the responsible adult forcing them into homelessness. It’s an unfair position to put someone in. And I hope that, by being more aware of it, we’ll also work towards having less adults on the streets too.
From devastation to inspiration
The UK events industry employs over a million people, many of them freelance. When the pandemic hit, “it was the first industry” to lockdown and is still one of the last to emerge. Although it contributes £70bn to the UK economy, huge numbers of events workers were excluded from financial help during lockdown, many still don’t have paid work. Hackney explained:
It’s been a hard time for the events industry. All the creative people, organisers, and people who use their hands have been out of work. It’s been devastating. Not just devastating financially but also morally. It’s devastated people’s souls. Some people live to create and there have been no events.
There’s been no way of getting together, so we wanted to look at ways to think beyond what we traditionally think about as ‘an event’ and also embrace new technologies, learn from the gaming world a bit and think about who our avatars are – our online selves.
Equilibrium Events is leading the way towards reimagining the future of the events industry. By showcasing a “stunning display of original art” from around the UK, and giving “up and coming DJs” from the South West a chance to perform live, the industry is fighting back with innovation. And they’re not alone. One Glastonbury stage – Shangri La – created a virtual stage called Lost Horizon. “They’ve been going in a similar way,” Hackney said, “where you get an avatar and wear headphones, so you can actually see other people dancing, which I think is amazing.”
Access all areas
Hackney also pointed out that online events like this can go further towards full inclusivity. At the moment, “no one can get together, we’re all in the same boat – stuck inside”. But she continued:
If you have a mental or physical disability, we’re all in our houses and we all want to get out there and do things with other people. So by bridging the gap between physical events and virtual events, everyone can start to do things again.
I think this opens the doors to a different sort of experience. It may not be a physical experience in the same way we’re used to – but now is the time to bridge those gaps. We’re being forced to do this faster than we might have before. So in many ways, it’s also really exciting.
“I think,” Hackney explained, that “this is the future of events.” And as she also pointed out:
Although we all love to touch people and stand next to a sweaty stranger, this brings a new level of accessibility [to events]. We all want to be together, so I think we’ll start to merge these approaches. I also think younger generations are all about the tech. In some ways that might be sad, but if we can show them that we can do both then that’s a really good thing.
Fighting back through innovation
Hackney is sure that the events industry “can fight back”. She very much hopes it can and stressed that:
Unless you have hope, you don’t have anything. I also think that what’s come out of [the pandemic] is the passion people have behind wanting to be together and listen to music. The thing I hear most in my circles is how much people want to get back out there, be together and listen to music in a field.
She’s confident that “there’ll be a resurgence” for the festival industry, although this will be a changed landscape. Hackney’s also committed to making this future a more sustainable one. As she explained, talk of “recycling and carbon offsetting” is simply “a quick fix”. More importantly:
we need to be looking more into circular economy and design, making sure that from the get-go the festivals are designed with longevity in mind. There’s so much waste – we need to build for the future in every way.
But more than anything, Hackney sees positivity:
I think things will come back differently. I’m hoping that with this break, the land will be able to rest and restore and people will come back with different ideas about sustainability and how they put on their events.
But I think it’s going to be great. The future’s brighter for events than people potentially may think.
It’s free to sign up for the event. So if you’ve missed art and dancing, there’s one place to head.
Main article image used with permission