Vasiliki GEORGOULA, Research Fellow, University of the Aegean, Greece
Sofoklis SKOULTSOS, Academic Fellow, University of the Aegean, Greece
During the last years organising cultural festivals and events in cities and public spaces, has significantly grown in popularity and attendance. However, COVID 19 pandemic dramatically impeded the majority of cultural festivals and events during 2020 and 2021 as audience and festival organisers were abruptly forced to comply to strict measures and public health guidelines. Initially, these new guidelines radically impacted, on how events and festivals are organised and conducted in terms of space. In many cases, organisers incorporated a combination of private and public areas, indoor and outdoor venues, plus face to face and virtual sites. These new event spaces seem to affect the way attendees participate and interact during the event. The purpose of this research study is to explore how changes in event spaces during the pandemic and the post pandemic era impact on audience participation and engagement during the festival.
The research methodology is based on the collection of qualitative data by conducting one to one interviews with festival organisers. The festivals took place either as virtual or hybrid events during 2020 and 2021 in Greece and they are chosen according to commonly shared characteristics. The first objective of this research is to explore and record new uses of space of the selected international festivals during the pandemic in Greece. The second objective is to evaluate how the online or face-to face implemented practices contributed to audience participation and engagement. Findings of the study direct at identifying how festival spaces were redesigned and shaped during the pandemic and how these new spaces and practices strengthen or impede communication and interaction. Conclusions can contribute to the organisation of more successful and sustainable events, taking under consideration the new formats of people interaction and space that are shaped in the post pandemic era.
Keywords: festivals & events|event spaces|COVID-19 pandemic|audience engagement|visitor experience