FESTIVALS WITHOUT BORDERS
WITH ROBERT BAIRD
IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL
THE FAT LADY SINGS
s usual in world cataclysmic events, there is a gamut of hope and despair and a plethora of information and misinformation. Trying to make sense out of all of this is a challenge for festivals and other performing arts sectors. When can we re-open? Can we survive until then? What new factors will we have to take into consideration even if and when we can re-start? Will our audiences return? Will our demographic have changed? Will we have to completely re-tool in order to meet the new challenges? The questions are many and the answers are sometimes many and often contradictory. The vaccination program now sweeping the country is extremely positive but, unfortunately, leads to more concerns. Will we have to require proof that an audience member or one of our staff members has been vaccinated? How will we handle those who are not vaccinated and refuse to be vaccinated: will they be barred from our events? What about the proposed vaccination passport: is this something we should support? Prudence dictates that in light of too many unknowns we should continue to support the COVID-19 precautions of the Centers for Disease Control and continue to wear masks, social distance and wash our hands frequently. We know that these measures may be relaxed but until the pandemic is truly disappearing, we need to remain cautious. The audiences who have gone through this pandemic will be different from the pre-pandemic audiences. They will be more cautious and uncertain about attending events indoors unless certain safety measures are in place. They will not be as comfortable sitting cheek-by-jowl with strangers and a cough by an audience member will instantly create tension and concern. We will need to respect these new realities and endeavor to demonstrate that we are taking every precaution to ensure audience safety. This might include enhanced disinfecting practices, increased provision of hand sanitizer stations, and a standard requirement that all staff be gloved and/or even masked. In short, we will need to make our audiences feel that we are respectful of their possible concerns and making every effort to allay those concerns. 28
IFEA’s ie: the business of international events
For the artists who will be performing at our events and the staff with whom they will interact, these same efforts will be required to ensure safe practices. Technical equipment such as microphones will need to be sanitized, social distancing a matter of policy, green rooms may not be able to be provided. Travel restrictions may affect our planning as well. A touring company passing through many states will be subject to different restrictions in each jurisdiction. Some states will require masks, some may require evidence of vaccination, and some may require a period of quarantine. International travel into the United States is still not allowed for foreign nationals from certain countries and travelers who can enter the United States need to have had a negative COVID test no later than three days prior to travel. The saving grace to all of this, is that we are at the stage where we can entertain a time when dealing with these issues means that we are indeed re-opening, that we are entertaining audiences again and that we are moving forward with optimism. One of the positive outcomes of this pandemic is that it has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate what we do and how we do it. There’s a proverbial saying in opera that “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings”, meaning that we shouldn’t presume to know how something will end when it’s still in progress. When something is nearing its conclusion, we simply don’t know what can or will happen and caution is advised. The post-pandemic world is on the horizon and our best course is to proceed slowly and carefully.
Robert Baird is President of BAM! Baird Artists Management Consulting in Toronto, Canada and an acknowledged expert in international touring including visas, withholding and taxation. He offers free advice to artists, agents, managers and venues and has an international clientele. He served for many years on the Executive Board of Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) and is a former Vice-President of that organization. He can be reached at: P: 1-800-867-3281 E: email@example.com or for more information go to: www.bairdartists.com