The cultural sector has been heavily hit by Covid-19 resulting in most cultural activities being cancelled. In the middle of this unprecedented crisis, Quim Crusellas, the director of the Asian Vic Summer Film Festival in Catalonia, Spain, took up the challenge of going ahead with the organisation of his annual film festival with live screenings last July.
The least we can say is that it has been a success with 4500 people attending the event. “Since May, cultural events have been allowed in our region as long as strict sanitary measures were implemented and the restriction on the number of attendees was respected. Our team had to follow a training to get familiar with the sanitary measures so we could organise the festival in a safe way. That included among other things the desinfection of movie theatres, the social distancing measures or the use of masks,” explained Quim.
The festival could count on the economic support of the local and regional authorities as well as on their advice. This new way of handling the event involved a lot more logistical work than usual. “This would not have been possible without the support and the patience of the audience. If they wanted to enjoy the festival, they knew they had to follow the measures,” added Quim.
With a festival shortened from 7 to 4 days and half of the usual audience allowed, Quim noted that there were indeed less people attending the festival due to the limited capacity in the movie theatres. There were also less exchanges as many of the usual side activities were not organised. “The general feeling was that we were in a parallel world. However, it seemed that the audience still enjoyed the culture which is a kind of vitamine bringing happiness to the people in these difficult times,” Quim said.
As for economic results, the festival has made less profits if compared to the previous editions, but Quim thinks it will be viable. He will only know the economic impact of Covid-19 on the festival a bit later when the festival has a better overview of the income after receiving the subsidies from the authorities.
The positive side of the crisis
On a more positive note, Quim noted that the programme of the festival was more attractive than the other years due to the special support of the film distributors who were enthusiastic to see a festival going ahead with live screenings and not virtually. That contributed to strengthening the ties with the distributors.
Another major improvement that came out of this crisis is the development of a more sustainable festival. “We have always tried to have a sustainable management of the festival and limit the waste generated by the events but this year, this reached a higher level,” Quim says. “For example, we have asked people to book their tickets beforehand for the free outdoor screenings and a more professional online ticket sales system was developed”, Quim added.
The festival also produced an organic dinner kit for their evening events which created less waste and allowed to recycle. In general, these measures have improved the way the festival is operated. Quim is thinking of keeping them in the coming years. It is also worth noting that the event provided work to all the suppliers who are inolved in the festival. Lastly, according to Quim, Covid-19 has made the festival more transparent and improved the coordination with all the parties involved.
The example of this festival is showing us that instead of cancelling cultural events, we should find alternative ways of organising them. By reducing the number of attendees and following sanitary measures, the festival could be organised in the same way as in previous years and according to the organiser, it did not generate new Covid-19 cases.
Despite the logistical work which was required and the financial impact, the situation brought some positive evolutions and Quim is convinced it was the right decision to keep the festival alive. “It is essential to support our festival and culture in general. Reading, listening to music, watching films are activities which are saving us. If we respect the sanitary measures, not only is it possible to organise cultural events with live presence but it is necessary and vital,” Quim insisted.
While this testimony is giving hope to the cultural sector, the determination of the organisers may not always be sufficient. Organising cultural events with Covid-19 restrictions may not be economically viable, depending on the scale and format of the event. It was doable for this festival thanks to the support of the public authorities and its format associating indoor and outdoor screening. Other cultural events may encounter greater difficulties in continuing their activities.