In 2020, you made the decision not to present any work online. What influenced this decision?
For Spraoi’s 2020 summer street arts and spectacle programme we opted to stay live because the show impacts would have been too limited on televisions or laptops. Eventually we did create an online mask-making workshop for St. Patrick’s Festival 2021 which was fun to do and because it was studio-based it seemed to work.
Given the restrictions that were in place in 2020 was there the opportunity to present to the public?
We deferred programming from early August to early September. We thought delaying would improve chances of presenting live. We had a chunky programme of street performances booked. Alas restriction-levels changed at short-notice and there we were all dressed-up with nowhere to go. Some installation style work and walk-about artists went ahead and engaged audiences as planned. Later in 2020 we promoted the first ever tour by an Irish street arts ensemble. We availed of a window in restrictions to safely tour ten artists to three towns. By experimenting and staging small works live we learned a lot for 2021.
How did 2020 influence your 2021 planning and programming decisions?
We learned we needed to tear-up our established presentation model and not just tinker with it. For instance Spraoi adapted from a three-day festival model to an event presented over four weeks. We staged work in county-wide urban and rural settings. We introduced ticketed shows and there was an array of other innovations many of which we’ll probably incorporate in future Spraoi Festivals.
Outdoor events regulations in 2021 offered scope to present live work. Spraoi reformatted by dispersing performances over more sites and longer timelines. For example rather than staging the festival over three days we presented live shows throughout August.
Yes, we were always going to operate COVID-19 health–guidelines and regulations. So we essentially created a new Spraoi Season with three sub-programmes. City Spraoi ran over four days at five Waterford City sites each offering four performances per day. Greenway Spraoi ran over four days at five Waterford Greenway sites each offering three performances per day. PRISM Spraoi ran over seven days at Waterford Courthouse with one daily performance. The combined Spraoi Season offered one hundred and forty seven performances over August 2021. Not bad!
Have social distancing limitations brought up any interesting learnings on audience engagement for you?
Since 1993 Spraoi Festival became a gathering-point for Waterford people; like people home from England and America to see their folks. This year it was really odd to see all that empty space. Spraoi artists entertain and bring people together. We may have to learn new ways of doing that.
Are there any newly introduced elements to your programming that you think will continue into 2022?
It’s more likely presentation set-ups will alter rather than changes to programming fundamentals. That said, Spraoi is re-thinking its entire 2022 festival model. Producers who think audiences will return at the flick of a switch are living in the dark.
What one thing you will be glad to see the back of and one thing you want to investigate or explore further?
We’re glad to see the back of Spraoi Studios being closed. It’s not what they were built for. We’re looking forward to re-visiting Spraoi’s 1993 instincts and adapting those values and creative impulses to turn-heads in a post-COVID world.
Please find more information about Spraoi here