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.