In our neighbourhood, a place called Chorlton, in Manchester, UK, we (a group of residents, chaired by me a community psychologist) organise a community arts festival every year. This year, after planning and scheduling over 200 artists to engage in creative activities across 60 community places, we had to cancel. Then a local resident came along and offered to curate a digital or virtual festival. This went ahead in October. We worked with 20 of the original artists to prepare virtual galleries, and virtual streets of Chorlton, learning as we went, and opening the festival to all.
Over a 3 day period, residents visited galleries, specially created ‘rooms (one about art-from-rubbish in a rubbish bin!), listened to virtuoso performances and bands on a large screen in a festival field where they could also chat with each other, played games in the virtual streets – and all of this virtual – and free! There were activities for all ages and embraced many different cultures.
Whilst the festival had no barriers to inclusion, of course digital capability was an issue – Like everything else in this COVID year, digital inclusion enabled participation but exclusion did the opposite. If people could not attend uring the 3 day festival, they could access the virtual worlds afterwards. As follow up activities the virtual festival field and local streets were transformed for Halloween. In recognition that not only was digital exclusion an issue, but navigating the virtual worlds was challenging for anyone over the age of 25, we have mounted some learning opportunities in collaboration with a local college.
Story and pictures shared by Carolyn Kagan, United Kingdom.