Changing Times

Evolving Events with the Virus

Posted by Matt Heason on Sep 10, 2020
Matt Heason » Cycle To The Cinema

Some time around the middle of February some internal alarm bells began to ring in my head that ShAFF may feel the effects of this virus thingy that had reared its head in China and was making itself known in some parts of Europe. It seems an age ago now that we made what felt at the time like a heart-breaking decision to cancel the festival as the UK lockdown took effect. There was fallout, but there was also some real amazingness. We signed up some new patrons, sponsors stuck by us, a bunch of people made really kind donations, and the goodwill and supportive sentiment bombarded my inbox for weeks.  


Just as a virus evolves so have people and practices. Pre Covid pretty much 100% of my events took place indoors - we live in a country with unpredictable weather. As it has become increasingly clear that 'normal' may never be as it was, it's forced some big changes in the way we work and in the way events can be delivered.


Over the summer Ed Richardson and I invested in some fancy audio kit which allows us to legally transmit a soundtrack over radio frequencies to mobile receivers held by an audience. They in turn can plug into the receiver to listen to a film or to somebody speaking either through headphones, a car stereo or a portable speaker. The kit is astoundingly good. Feedback has been unanimously excellent. It's properly immersive with a decent pair of headphones. And it means we can run events in public areas without blasting sound at residents from a PA, as well as making it easier to ticket an event - without a receiver you can't hear what's going on so you need a ticket.


A bigger issue we thought would be the weather. But when storm Frances coincided with our drive-in screening of The Runaways at the end of August the only negative impact was the drop off in ticket sales for a few days before the event as people figured we'd cancel. The show went ahead and people watched through the rain. We are British and I think we underestimate our capacity for dealing with bad weather.


Braving 50mph winds and driving rain we found a way to go ahead, strapping the screen to the side of a truck! Invention is the mother of necessity.

The biggest issue though, is social distancing. I heard a phrase yesterday which resonated: physically distanced, but socially together. At each of the three events we've organised to date we've employed a rigorous regime of sterilising kit, mask-wearing, and siting people at a safe distance from one another for the screening. We've just put our next three events on sale - a drive-in screening of Danny Boyle's classic 127 Hours on Sep 29th, a Cycle To The Cinema screening of the amazing Vietnamese mountain biking epic Blood Road on Sep 30th, and with a massive departure from our usual fare, an immersive Woodland Cinema airing of adventure-themed cult caving horror film The Descent on Oct 1st


A scene from our last Cycle To The Cinema event - a great film, wood-fired pizza oven, log fires, a socially distanced audience and a rising moon through the trees

I'm writing this Blog in response to the governments latest confusing announcement about group sizes which says that from next Monday social gatherings of more than 6 people will be illegal. Most people I have spoken to since the announcement have understandably taken the headline at face value and assumed that this means no more events. But we're interpreting it differently. As restaurants, pubs and cafes are remaining open, along with cinemas, gyms and climbing walls and will clearly need more than 6 people at any given time to operate, it stands to reason that an outdoor or drive in screening can also take place, but that we will ensure that there are no groups of more than 6 within the event space. 


In a nutshell, if you've read this far then you are hopefully supportive of ShAFF, Cycle To The Cinema, The Buxton Adventure Festival and other stuff that I organise. If so then please consider supporting the events if not by actually coming along, then by sharing them and encouraging others to do so. We genuinely need your continued support - as long as you come in groups of 6 or less!


If you're not psyched about going - and I completely appreciate that plenty of folk still aren't - then I'm also starting a series of online talks. This is somewhere else I've been having to adapt. Lockdown encouraged a deluge of free online content so selling tickets to online talks has been tough going. This winter's series will be free, with the option to pay what you feel at the end of the talk. The series will kick off a week tomorrow at on Friday 18th Sep with author of the Boardman Tasker winning book The Bond, Simon McCartney. Then we have Charles Sherwood speaking about his quest to find the 7 best climbs on the 7 continents (October 21st) and Robert Mads Anderson on November 11th. Speaking to Gary Gibson, Beth Pascal and plenty of others so watch this space, and if you aren't already signed up to my newsletter then please feel free to do so. Anna writes great newsletters!

We will also be making an announcement about ShAFF imminently!

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