Online Events Shouldn’t be Seen as Second Best…

Online Events Shouldn’t be Seen as Second Best…

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They are different.

As we begin to appear from our houses, somewhat bleary-eyed, blinking at the Sun, then looking at each other with a wave of I remember you from a year-or-so ago, don’t I? My thoughts are turning to how things may change once more. I think it would be a mistake to simply wish everything back to how it was before the pandemic because, in truth, I hope some of it doesn’t. What I hope is that we move forward, not backwards, having learned a few things from the past year and a half.

One of the good things that have been proved once more is the strength and commitment of the worldwide Pagan community. I have loved the way people have stepped up to create online events that have continued to bring people together. Online concerts, talks, conferences, symposiums, rituals have kept us entertained and brought us together, even though we couldn’t be together physically. Hats off to everyone who’s done any of that, I think we can all agree how much these online events have helped keep us sane.

For me, my monthly online streamed House Concerts on my Facebook Page have been an absolute life-saver – for my mental health, creativity, and also financially, I couldn’t have survived without them. And now, the end is near… people are asking me to keep them going after Lockdown ends, and that brings me to the point of this blog post.

I’ve loved playing these shows, and I’ve also loved having Professor Ronald Hutton on the TV in my living room streaming from the Last Tuesday Society. I’ve loved attending an online Tarot course, seeing live streams from my musician friends from overseas, Spiral Dance, Tuatha Dea, SJ Tucker and many more. Last Saturday I went to Witchfest Midlands. I didn’t drive there, around the M25 and then halfway across the country. No, I tuned in on my Mac and went to every talk, then played a live evening show from my music studio. It was such a great day. Has it been the same as actually going to Witchfest Midlands, or seeing my overseas musician friends’ show in person? No, not at all. Did I enjoy all of these things? Absolutely. So when we can actually play live in a concert hall, or physically go to Witchfest to see Professor Hutton does that mean the end of online events?

I really hope not.

To be honest I don’t think we should view them as replacements for physical events. Sure, that’s what they’ve been during the pandemic, but now they could be something else completely. Rather than seeing them as an emergency last resort, how about they become another way we come together as a community. Let’s face it, the environmental benefits are obvious, but so too are the benefits to those people who either couldn’t get to an event or, for whatever reason, didn’t want to. Now they can be enjoyed from the comfort of their home.

What a gift.

When I played my first House Concert I had no idea how it would work or be received. I had serious doubts about whether a seasonal ritual would work online. But the concerts have been great, and the online seasonal rituals presented live by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids have also worked really well and are now loved and enjoyed by many all over the world. And that’s the other thing. So many people have written to me saying that they live overseas and never thought they would get the chance to see me live, but not only have they experienced that, many of them have now had me sing them Happy Birthday too! I love that. That is the kind of interaction that makes an online show unique. Not a replacement, different.

What I really hope to see is us continuing to embrace online technology in the way we have been, and also opening up those in-person events, when and if the organisers are happy to do so. I certainly intend to continue some form of online show. Whether they remain as they are, or whether they change, time will tell. I would also love to continue to be able to attend overseas Pagan events without the need to fly across the world to do so – that is a definite plus. It will be really interesting to see where we take this technology, and how we put it to use for the benefits of the worldwide Pagan community going forward. As we step outside I hope we see online events as an as-well-as, instead of a temporary fix.

6 responses to “Online Events Shouldn’t be Seen as Second Best…”

  1. There is plenty of room for both as we go forwards . the biggest benefit I think is that these events become more inclusive as distance or disability or cost is no longer an issue .

    I give heartfelt thanks to all of you who have made life in lockdown that bit easier, bringing folks together and giving joy .

  2. Well said, thank you! And let’s not forget our disabled friends and community members — sometimes it’s challenging to make our outdoor events ACCESSIBLE, and this has allowed for more participation from people who just couldn’t make in-person events work. And that is also wonderful.

  3. I agree with both comments. On line events, gigs and rituals have been lifesavers over the last year. I love live music but we’ve also enjoyed seeing you in our living room once a month. I’m very up for more on line gigs on YouTube. More accessibility is great too for those of us not so young as we were as well as less environmental impact from driving distances. Keep them coming Damh and thanks for all the ones so far. Blessings

  4. I have absolutely loved the chance to see you live! Someday, I will travel to be at a physical show but until then, I will look forward to the online shows in whatever form they take!
    Also, as a member of OBOD, I never thought I would have a chance to participate in the Order’s rituals, and I am loving those too! The thought of us all around the world yet still together is beautiful!
    Blessed Be!

  5. both, i think that we really need both as it does make a difference to be able to go away from home and outside or elsewhere, this is basically activating the cauldron of motion as pilgrimage also tends to do, certain things cannot happen at home although gatherings and rituals and music can to a great extent as you have demonstrated. it would be a real shame if all of the online events simply came to a sudden stop, please keep them going

  6. I would be very sad to see the physical events “replaced” by the online ones, but a continuation of the two in parallel would be fantastic. Nothing beats actually being there at a gig, but there are additional benefits to online events, such as always having the best seats, not having to queue for the bar, and being able to chat without it being rude! Then there’s also the accessibility benefits – now a cancer-patient with no immune-system whatsoever can attend a festival or concert without risking their life, and a wheelchair user need not struggle with different access doors, crowds, narrow corridors etc. Also, they supplement each other nicely. You can occasionally go to the “real thing”, but when it’s inconvenient, impossible or unaffordable, there are still regular online events to attend.

    Regarding the environmental benefits, I don’t think they’re as clear-cut as people make out. We forget that the very infrastructure of the internet (datacentres, servers, transmission-lines, routers etc) is now one of the largest users of energy on the planet. I’d suggest that online events are almost-certainly more eco-friendly for international events, due to the amount of energy required for travel, but I do wonder at what distance it becomes more environmentally-friendly to actually just travel to the event. National events? Local ones?

    What made me originally think of this was when someone worked out the environmental damage caused by using video conferencing (and even a mobile phone) in place of a traditional landline, and I found it truly shocking. I wish I could find where I originally read it.

    Of course, this is a very simplistic view – I’m essentially just looking at carbon dioxide emissions in this simple comparison. In reality, attending an event has other environmental effects (e.g. litter, localised increase in demand on water supplies and sewage systems, and so on). But having said that, the internet infrastructure had to be mined, manufactured, shipped across the world, installed, and so on… But it’s certainly food for thought.

    I suspect if you weigh it up and do whatever you think is best on a case by case basis, even if your assumptions are wrong you’ll probably still be doing a better job than if you didn’t think about it at all.

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