IncludFEST 2020: Making it a (virtual) reality!

We have had to make lots of difficult decisions this year. One of those decisions was how to offer a digital version of IncludFEST and it wasn’t without its challenges! Here’s a personal blog sharing the difficulties we faced and how we adapted along the way.

We knew it wasn’t going to be straight forward organising a festival during a global pandemic, but we also knew the importance of providing joy through the arts to those who needed it most in these extremely difficult times. We were determined to find ways to adapt and we had successfully planned a COVID-Secure event but – with just days to go – the decision was made that IncludFEST could not go ahead with the new restrictions and risk in our county.
So, in those last few days leading up to what would have been our live festival, we were sent back to the drawing board to figure out how to bring the festival to viewers online – this became our first ever digital IncludFEST. Here’s a glimpse into what happened!


For the full programme and videos, click here to visit our IncludFEST page. 


Challenge 1: Increased coronavirus risk
With stricter measures and rising cases of coronavirus putting our festival on hold and people potentially at risk, we had to think once again about how to keep our performers and team safe when filming.

To enable us to come together and film safely, we provided our performers with an Easy Read guide on what to expect and how we would conduct the filming before they arrived. We also scheduled the filming to take place across the full day of Saturday 19th September, so that performers didn’t meet or interact – they filmed their section on their own and then left before the next act arrived (with the exception of Bell & Bullock who live together, so they were allowed to come along as a duo!). We utilised the original venue – Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels & Gardens, which was an outdoor courtyard – much safer than an indoor venue.

Challenge 2: No live audience!
We had carefully curated a show which at times really thrives on audience interaction and engagement! With time so limited to re-make the performances, we quickly got our heads together and collaborated with Ian Paine our film maker as well as our performers and BSL interpreter to re-imagine a filmed version of IncludFEST 2020. (Oh, and you might spot an appearance of the production team standing in for moments where we just couldn’t do without audience participation!).

Challenge 3: How to make an accessible film? What does this mean?
We haven’t filmed IncludFEST before because usually it is a live event with a whole afternoon of activities, performances and things to explore. We had everything in place for our inclusive festival – from BSL interpretation through to Mobiloo, we felt ready! When we had to move online, we had to re-think access for the film and it’s perhaps not as straight forward as you might imagine!
We thought carefully about who our audience could be. Our festival is aimed at children and their families and we wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the festival online. We know that many of our audience have different needs and so this is why we have created two films. One film has BSL interpretation and one film doesn’t, though both films have subtitles you can choose to switch on or off.


Some people have asked us why we have subtitles as well as BSL and our answer is that some people use both, so why not give the option? Others have wondered why not just have one film that everyone can access? We’ve found that some people who do not need BSL may actually find it distracting to the point where they no longer enjoy the film. So, rather than making Jenna (our BSL interpreter) smaller on the screen to try and find a ‘best fit’, we decided to have two versions – one without BSL at all and one with BSL very present and prominent so that Jenna can be seen and understood really clearly. [Photo by Ian Paine] 

Challenge 4: Not everyone can access digital content
For a whole number of reasons, not everyone will be able to access our film and it’s something we are very aware of.

We have set aside some of our budget to produce DVDs, just in case we receive any requests to send out a hardcopy of the IncludFEST film to those who would have otherwise loved to have come along in person. If you know anyone who would love to receive a DVD and cannot access the content online, please get in touch with TIN Arts and let us know!


Please note: requests must be received by Monday 9th November at 12pm. 

We really hope you enjoy the films we have created this year and thanks sincerely to all those who have made it possible. We will see you in 2021!

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